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Mercy and Truth

Mercy and Truth

Brian D. Dykstra (Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI)

*This article was originally written as a devotional for his fellow teachers at Hope CS. It is posted here because of its broader value for our website readers.

Proverbs 3:3-4: “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about they neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding the sight of God and man.”

In Proverbs 3, Solomon continues giving instruction to his son. The son is instructed in various duties in a godly life. Here Solomon is concerned with mercy and truth, two attributes of God which can be reflected by man.

Mercy is God’s will that His people are blessed by Him so they experience His covenant fellowship. Mercy is shown to those who do not deserve it. Think of a miserable prisoner who deserves a terrible punishment for a crime, who knows the judge would be totally just in executing a terrible punishment upon him, but who finds himself to be spared for no other reason than that it is the judge’s will. Mercy is also shown by those who stand in authority. It is the judge who shows mercy toward the condemned, not the condemned who shows mercy toward the judge.

Truth is what is right. Reality is accurately and completely stated with no desire to bend or twist the facts for one’s advantage. A truthful man will not use words in a way to deceive or deny the meaning of words. Getting an accurate answer from a truthful man will not require a careful definition of the word “is.”

Mercy and truth go together. A judge who disregards the fact of the committing of a crime, who pays no attention to the established laws and the punishments due to be given to those who break them, or who pays no attention to the facts or evidence in a case so he can allow the prisoner to go free, will not be called merciful. He will be thought of as negligent of his duties. A judge who pays strict attention to law, stridently executes punishment upon the guilty and passes out the maximum penalty at every opportunity, will be known as truthful but also as being hard as flint.

God is a different kind of judge. When God sets the guilty free, He can do so without being negligent. The Lord’s justice has not been violated or ignored. Jehovah has provided His Son who is able to suffer the most terrible punishment on our behalf. God can show His mercy without disregarding the truth of our guilt.

We are not to allow mercy and truth to forsake us. We cannot let them leave, just as Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord and would not let him go until the Angel blessed him. As members of God’s church, we can only experience the blessing of fellowship within the bounds of mercy and truth. What would church life be without them?

Far from letting mercy and truth forsake us, we are told to bind them about our neck. This is a tight binding too. It is the type of binding you would use on a man who was a conspirator and you have captured him. He is a valuable prisoner because if he would escape, the safety of the king is in peril. A conspirator is bound or imprisoned in such a way as to make his getting away impossible. That is the value of mercy and truth to us.

We are to bind them about our neck. Some neck bindings are symbols of servitude. A slave has his chains of bondage, a prisoner has his chains of punishment and a dog has a collar as a symbol of being owned. Mercy and truth are a beautiful ornament, an expensive and valuable necklace. Those who wear such an ornament are seen to possess something of beauty and great value. An ornament of mercy and truth makes us attractive.

To have mercy and truth as an ornament on the outside, as mere decoration, is not enough. We are to write them upon the table of the heart. When we write things on paper, we have the purpose of giving them permanence. Quality paper can last for a long time. However, we are not to write mercy and truth on paper, permanent as it is. We must write them on tables, as of stone. The inscription on a properly maintained stone marker will last for a long time. This is the table of the heart. Mercy and truth must have a permanent impression on our hearts. Our lives, pictured by the heart, must be recognized as reflecting God’s mercy and truth.

When we live our lives this way, we will have favour and good understanding (success) in the sight of God and man. Even in the courts of the ungodly, Joseph, David and Daniel found favour in the eyes of men. When, at the age of twelve, Jesus was found in the temple, He had favour with those who spoke with Him. What can we say about favour in the sight of God? There is nothing better than to experience the blessing of His fellowship.

May God be pleased to use this school and the instruction of covenant parents to write His mercy and truth on the hearts of His children here.

Last modified on 17 April 2014
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