God Remembers Mercy

God Remembers Mercy

God Remembers Mercy.

“God has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as He said to our fathers.” (Luke 1:54-55).

No, God didn’t forget to show mercy. God doesn’t forget anything, so neither does He remember anything. God has no need for memory. Everything in the universe, past, present and future, is on the top of His mind at all times. God is always mindful of everything. There is no limit to what God’s mind can contain, what He is able to think about at the same time. The biblical concept of “remembering” implies action, preparing for action. So in this case, God remembers in the sense that He is focusing on something big, the Big Event, on the pregnancy and birth and life of His very Son. God is preparing for His eternal Son to take on flesh and enter the world and transform it and save it.

In her beautiful song often called the “Magnificat,” Mary is able to weave together over 20 passages and allusions from the Hebrew Bible to form a coherent and unforgettable song of praise. At the end here, Mary is probably quoting Psalm 98:3, “The Lord has remembered His mercy and his faithfulness to the house of Israel.” She concludes her canticle with an exclamation of how God has focused on continuing His mercy to her people by bringing the Messiah into the world. Mary knows that God is always mindful of His mercies, that mercy is His instinct, His reflexive response. God “remembered” His mercy because it is always at the top of his mind and in the center of His essential character. As various translations of Luke 1:54 put, “He can never forget to show mercy.” “God remembered mercy.” “So as to remember His mercy.” “mindful of His faithful love.” “He remembered to be merciful.” “He remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.” God’s remembrance involved intervention, participation, action. He’ll never forget His mercies, ever.

There are three Hebrew words for mercy. Just one word is not nearly enough to describe the chief attribute of God. And too, one word is inadequate to describe what is intended to be mankind’s chief quality. God is full of mercy, and so His people are to reflect that and be full of mercy as well. Mercy is a diamond of love, and here are three facets:

(1.) chanan = mercy in terms of gracious, generous, joyfully compassionate, quick to forgive and quick to show favor, especially to someone who is in need. Verses with “chanan” in it are Exodus 34:6, Ps. 86:15, Ps. 103;8, and 2 Chronicles 30:9.

(2.) rachem = a feminine noun for mercy rooted in the womb, a tender compassion that is warm and affectionate, a strong desire to relieve suffering and cherish the sufferer. It has been said that this word for God’s mercy implies a tender, protected place where life springs forth, and that living in God’s mercy is to live in the womb of God’s love. Passages with “rachem” include Isaiah 14:1, 30:18, 49:15 and 60:10; Jeremiah 12:15 and 3:20; and Lamentations 3:32; Ps. 106:46.

(3.) hesed = a masculine noun for mercy that is often translated as lovingkindness, indicating a steadfast love, a compassionate faithfulness and loyalty to covenant love. It is used 26 times in the classic Psalm 136 in order to focus on God’s continued and unwavering forbearance and patience because of His faithful lovingkindness, His remaining true to his promises out of sheer love. “Hesed” is used over 120 times in the book of Psalms alone, but here are a few passages: Ps. 107:1 and 43; Ps. 108:4; Ps. 98:3.

Mercy: Eager love-in-action; steadfast kindness; loyal compassion; faithful favor; generous grace; the ardent desire to do good to someone; the deep love reserved for someone in an intimate relationship, and if there is no prior relationship, the strong desire to treat someone as if that relationship existed.


“Without the word ‘mercy,’ the Bible is a dead book in which there is no revelation of God at all.” (Rex Andrews).

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy (hesed). You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”  (Micah 7:18-19)

2. “The root of all of God’s activity in this world, beginning even with the world’s creation, is Mercy.”  (Patrick Henry Reardon).

“The Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world… For a child has been born to us, and authority has settled on his shoulders. He has been named ‘The Mighty God is Planning Grace; The Eternal Father, a Peaceable Ruler.’ O LORD, You are my God; I will extol you, I will praise Your Name. For You planned graciousness of old, counsels of steadfast faithfulness.” (Rev. 13:8; Isaiah 9:6 and 25:1; Tanakh version)

3. “Mercy is the cause and reason of all that God does. God does nothing, absolutely nothing, except as an expression of His Mercy.”  (P. H. Reardon).

“I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion (rachem) on whom I will show compassion… I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my Name… ‘The LORD! The LORD! A God compassionate and gracious (chanan), slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness (hesed) and faithfulness, extending lovingkindness (hesed) to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.” (Exodus 33:19, 34:6-7)

4. “His Mercy stretches out to both extremes of infinity. All we will ever discover of God will be the deepening levels of His great, abundant, overflowing, rich, endless Mercy.”  (P. H. Reardon).

“I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your lovingkindness (hesed), higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.” (Psalm 108:3-5)

5. “When we deal with God, everything is Mercy. Everything else that can be said of God is but an aspect of His Mercy.”  (P. H. Reardon).

“Therefore Yahweh longs to be gracious (chanan) to you, He waits on high to have mercy (rachem) on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18).

6. “‘For His Mercy endures forever’ lies under each line of Holy Scripture, and is the eternal song of the saints.”  (P. H. Reardon).

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and call upon His Name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness (hesed) is everlasting; His faithfulness endures from age to age.” (Psalm 100:3-4)

7. “It is better to limit belief in God’s power than to dampen faith in God’s mercy. Between mercy and power, mercy takes precedence – and to the mercy of Heaven there is no limit.”  (Abrham Joshua Heschel).

“The Lord’s mercies (hesed) never cease, His compassions never fail. They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, He is all I have, therefore I have hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

8. “Mercy is the defining explanation of everything that God has revealed of Himself. Mercy is the explanation of every single thought that God has with respect to us.”  (P. H. Reardon).

“‘I beseech you, Lord,’ he prayed, ‘is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? This is why I fled at first to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious (chanan) and compassionate God, slow to anger, rich in lovingkindness (hesed), loathe to punish.” (Jonah 4:2)

9. “Mercy rather than justice is regarded as the outstanding attribute of God.” (A.J. Heschel)

“Rend your hearts rather than your garments, and turn back to the Lord your God. For He is gracious (chanan) and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness (hesed), and renouncing punishment.” (Joel 2:13)

10. “Beyond all mystery is the mercy of God. It is a love, a mercy that transcends the world, its value and merit. To live by such a love, to reflect it, however humbly, is the test of religious existence.” (A. J. Heschel).

“Truly, Ephraim (Israel) is my dear, dear son, my favored child in whom I take great pleasure! Though I often spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still. Therefore my womb murmurs within me, my innermost parts yearn for him. I will surely have mercy (rachem) on him, and receive him back in love, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 3:20).

11. “The encounter with God’s Mercy, a celebration of God’s sustained and abundant Mercy, is the root of all Christian worship.”  (P. H. Reardon).

“The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: ‘He is good; His mercy (hesed) endures forever!’ Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” (2 Chron. 5:13-14; see also 2 Chron.7:3, and Ezra 3:11)

 Bold Italics: #1 is Brother Rex Andrews from his book What the Bible Teaches About Mercy; #7 (Heavenly Torah), and #9 (A Passion for Truth), and #10 (God in Search of Man) are from Abraham Joshua Heschel; all the remaining quotes are from Rev. Patrick Henry Reardon’s book Christ in the Psalms.

Italics: Verses from Holy Scripture, various translations.

*Compiled by Steve Larson.

Final Thought: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great Mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:3-4)