In my last blog I wrote about grace: “Grace is one of the most wonderful things, if not THE most in my opinion. Throughout my years with God I have learned what it means and I am still learning, and still I do not fully comprehend. I probably never will during this lifetime. What I do know, is that His grace is enough for me.”
Grace and mercy
The term ‘grace’ is often confused with ‘mercy’. Their meanings are quite similar, but not the same. Grace (ḥen חֵ֖ן in Hebrew, χάρις ḥaris in Greek) means ‘favor’, or the undeserved and unexpected gift of love and forgiveness. God is loving and kind to people who do not deserve it. Mercy, raḥamim רַחֲמִים or raḥum רַחוּם in the Hebrew Bible and often translated to eleos ἔλεος in Greek, means compassion.
the LORD God, merciful and gracious
God’s proper name, the name of the covenant, is יהוה Yhvh (in English translated as LORD), which can be rendered as “I AM”, “I am here”, “I am with you” or “I will be”. When God revealed His glory to Moses on the mountain Sinai He called out His name: “And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed: The LORD, the LORD God, merciful (raḥum) and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty;” (Exodus 34:6-7) So the name of God implies that He is there and that He ís full of grace and mercy. Both mercy and grace are named as elements of God’s character.
Let’s take a look at what ‘mercy’ tells us about God’s character. Raḥamim is actually a plural form, like many Hebrew words that are tranlated singular (for example Elohim meaning God). The root of raḥamim is similar to the root of reḥem, which means womb. In the Bible God is portrayed as a Father. He is the Father of Jesus and He is also our Father when we believe in Him. But God is like a mother too. He is compassionate like a mother has compassion for her child, the ‘fruit of her womb’. Even when the child is disobedient. “Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.’ (Jeremiah 31:20). When Jesus saw the people of Israël coming to Him, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep without shepherd. It was so heartfelt, His intestines got upset.
God is a Mother
God is deeply moved when He sees us in our misery, our sinfulness. He wants to be merciful, He wants to save us. When no one cares, He does. (Ezekiel 16:5-8). When we turn to Him and confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.
Maybe you have a troubled relationship with your father. Maybe he has hurt you, maybe he is never there. Then know that God is the perfect Father, who is always there. But He is also a Mother, who would give anything for her child. An earthly mother can neglect her child, but God never will (Isaiah 49:15). He protects as a Father and nourishes* as a Mother.
Read also: Lost and found
* Another name of God is El Shadday, often translated as God Almighty, but it is highly thinkable that the root of shadday is related to שד shad meaning ‘breast’.
Note: If you are having a troubled realtionship with your parent(s) or struggling with becoming one yourself, please feel free to contact us.