Old Testament Teachings About Mercy

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:8

Mercy to Enemies
Exodus 23:4 If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.
Proverbs 24:17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth.
Proverbs 25:21 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.

Mercy to Strangers, Fatherless and Widows
Exodus 23:9 Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 27:19a Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow.
Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Mercy to Neighbors and Brethren
Deuteronomy 15:7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:
Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Mercy to the Poor
Psalm 41:1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.
Proverbs 14:31 He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

Mercy to Animals
Proverbs 12:10 A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.


MEMORY VERSE: And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought. —Isaiah 58:10-11a


CENTRAL THOUGHT: Because they had been shown so much mercy, God’s people were to be a people of mercy. His promise of blessing was always given to the compassionate and merciful, while judgment was pronounced upon the harsh and cruel.



Proverbs 25:22 “Thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head”: A Jewish figure of speech. “In the Bible lands almost everything is carried on the head—water jars, baskets of fruit, vegetables, fish or any other article. Those carrying the burden rarely touch it with the hands, and they walk through crowded streets and lanes with perfect ease. In many homes the only fire they have is kept in a brazier, which they use for simple cooking as well as for warmth. They plan to always keep it burning. If it should go out, some member of the family will take the brazier to a neighbor’s house to borrow fire. Then she will lift the brazier to her head and start for home. If her neighbor is a generous woman, she will heap the brazier full of coals. To feed an enemy and give him drink was like heaping the empty brazier with live coals—which meant food, warmth and almost life itself to the person or home needing it, and was the symbol of finest generosity. – B.M. Bowen, Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind.

Exodus 23:9 “Stranger”: foreigner; sojourner; alien.



A recurring theme, mercy, runs throughout the Law of Moses. We have listed a few verses in our lesson today, but there are many more. There were commands for how they were to reap their grain fields and vineyards; there were laws about borrowing and lending—and again the theme of mercy runs throughout, God making sure His people never took advantage of one another. There were other laws having to do with merciful treatment of parents, spouses, children, the elderly and the handicapped. Our lesson lists those to whom mercy is to be shown: to enemies, neighbors and brethren, the poor, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Mercy was even to be shown to animals.

In the Psalms, Proverbs and the books of the prophets, we again see principles of mercy laid out. We also see God’s judgments poured out upon the Israelites, not only for their idolatry, but for forsaking these commands of mercy. Even the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar was warned to cut off his sins by shewing mercy to the poor. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t heed this warning, and seven years of judgment came upon him.

We can see how important this quality of mercy is to the heart of God and how generations have reaped either good or evil because of the practice or abuse of it in their lives.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck



1. Finding someone at a disadvantage: What should rule our thoughts and behavior when we have the opportunity in our control?

2. Remembering: What should always be in our mind when we meet someone different; someone unused to our ways of doing things; someone new?

3. Awareness: Who are the fatherless and widows in our society? How might we show them mercy?




Do justly, love mercy. We have studied justice, righteous behavior and fairness to all. I believe at the heart of these ethics is this quality of loving mercy. We should embrace it, pursue it, and value it. Mercy goes a step beyond doing what is just. If I’m doing right—jaw firmly set, doing it ‘cause I’ve got to—only because it is right, I have the motive all wrong and I am missing the point. But when the love of mercy is in my heart—I’m seeking to love you, to take care of you, to make it as easy as I can for you, to see you prosper and grow and better your situation—my whole outlook changes. I become aware of your needs. I think about them. I want for you the comfort and the consideration I desire for myself.

Knowing how to apply mercy in every situation will take thought and prayer. Again, we are going to have to comprehend and appreciate God’s mercy and learn to treat others as He has treated us.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck



In the book of Luke, Jesus recounts the story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. While in this life, the rich man had plenty of this world’s goods as well as plenty of food to eat. Lazarus, the beggar, was desirous of the crumbs from the rich man’s table and was afflicted with sores on his body that the dogs came and licked. Jesus does not describe the rich man as being mean or evil-minded, but this man’s lack of concern for the needs at his very door cost him something. There is graphic detail given of the end of these two men: Lazarus was found in the bosom of Abraham enjoying the blessings of paradise while the rich man lifted up his eyes in the torments of a flame.

We all have a responsibility for the concern and well-being of others who touch our lives. While it is impossible for one person to solve world hunger and poverty, are we concerned with the needs at our door? We most certainly cannot tend to all of the fatherless; but, what about those in our neighborhood or in our congregations? Do we concern ourselves with those around us who are lonely or grieving? Are we willing to put effort into nurturing those who are without? It is easy to fall into the same complacency of the rich man. But beware, it will cost us in the end.

Who is the Lazarus at your door?

—Sis. LaDawna Adams