A few years back, my husband and I had the privilege to tour the country of Israel. The name of our tour was “Up to Jerusalem,” and if you’re anything like me, I didn’t realize Jerusalem is in fact UP from other areas across Israel. On our last full day, our guide took us to a private archaeological site in the Old City of Jerusalem.
There we sat on the ancient steps leading to the Huldah Gates that used to lead into the Temple court. The gate is no longer open, but the arches are still visible. In Bible times, those steps led travelers from all over Israel to the Temple to sacrifice during the feasts. Thousands of travelers would have walked in the area where we sat. Jewish families—old and young—traveled hundreds of miles up to Jerusalem to present their sacrifices in obedience to the Scriptures.
Our guide explained there was an entrance and an exit gate side by side; and if you were mourning or in need of mercy, you were required to enter through the exit gates so you could be comforted by those walking the opposite way. Looking up at those gates, imagining a hurting couple who had just lost their child, a wife who lost her husband, a child who had no parents, all being stopped and comforted by strangers as they walked in and out of the gates–it was all too much. I still tear up at the sweet picture in my mind.
If someone were to describe me, I don’t think merciful would be the first or maybe even the fifth or sixth characteristic mentioned. Yes, I lead a pro-life pregnancy center—a mercy ministry. But to be honest, I probably show mercy more easily to those I don’t know than to those I do. Don’t get me wrong, I can sympathy cry beside a friend on demand; but if you asked my family, they would probably describe me as a “suck it up, you’ll be fine” type of person. But I’m so thankful God doesn’t simply leave us in our natural personalities—aren’t you?
Pastor John MacArthur describes mercy as “genuine compassion with a pure, unselfish motive that reaches out to help.” I have seen how God has been molding mercy in me. The art of molding twists and presses the clay, so I wouldn’t say it’s been easy. Becoming a mother has helped. I never knew the healing power my kisses gave my toddler. How that scream in the middle of the night could jolt me out of bed and send me running to my son’s side. But showing mercy to that woman at church that rubs you the wrong way, reaching out to that sometimes needy friend that the Holy Spirit has been putting on your heart—those are the ones I avoid by trying to busy myself with other good things.
Yet right in the center of God’s character is mercy. Jesus commands in the beatitudes, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). We are here, in this place in our lives, because of His mercy. Titus teaches, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (3:5). If God has done this for us, shouldn’t our lives as women of the Word reflect our Heavenly Father?
All believers have the muscle of mercy; we simply must exercise it. It might mean that we are purposefully praying and reaching out to that friend who needs us. Or maybe it’s embracing and praying with the woman you find crying in the bathroom during the service. But it could be bigger, much bigger. It may mean opening your home to a single mother and her little one who needs a place to land for a few months. Whatever it might be, we must be actively praying and looking to give mercy to the mourning and hurting souls coming into our gates or through our doors at FBC Powell. What if we were known throughout our community and neighborhoods as the merciful church UP on the hill, showing true biblical mercy?
Father, may our homes, our relationships, our ministry, our church be our Huldah Gates. Help us be sensitive to Your Spirit’s leading as we strive to reflect the character of You, actively looking for those who are in need of mercy.