Psalm 123. Ascending Song: Step #4.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Excerpts from Psalm 123. (MsgB)

A Pilgrim Song.

I look to You, heaven-dwelling God, look up to You for help.
Like servants, alert to their master’s commands, like a maiden attending her lady,
We’re watching and waiting, holding our breath, awaiting Your word of mercy.
Mercy, God, mercy!


One of the richest of words found in our Bibles. Right up there with that other amazing word…


At times, many of us blend these two unique words into one, thinking that they basically mean the same thing. But quite honestly, they don’t.

MERCY is an English word that comes from Anglo-French (merci) and Latin (merced, merces). The meaning is ‘price paid’, or ‘wages paid’. Our English word ‘merchandise’ has its roots in this unique Latin word. MERCY is associated with acts of benevolence or forgiveness, a work of rich generosity shown to a person or persons not deserving of that action. In other words, MERCY is when someone in authority pays for the accumulated debt of another person, thus removing the threat of punishment that is associated to that unresolved debt. GRACE, on the other hand, is a blessing given freely to someone who, quite honestly, does not deserve it.

Let me explain it this way.

Let’s imagine that I went to my local grocery store over a one-year period, buying food for my family using a credit card. At the end of that year, I’d get a bill in the mail for thousands of dollars. The law states that I am responsible for that debt, and until that bill is paid, I will owe not only for the cost of the groceries, but also the accumulating interest associated with that debt!

MERCY is when the grocery store manager calls me and rather than threatening to take me to court, suing me for all I have, he states, in no uncertain terms, that he has seen my inability to pay for the food and has personally paid off my past-due bill, including interest, in full!  Yikes! Now that’s MERCY!

GRACE, on the other hand, is that same grocery store manager calling me a week later, inviting me to come back to his store every week this next year and he will personally help me pick out all the food I need to feed my family at no charge! AMAZING GRACE…how sweet the sound!

As I see it, there are few places in this world today where both true MERCY and GRACE actually co-exist. That’s why we should become so appreciative of the High God of Heaven we find in our Bibles. Both the Old and New Testaments spell out the fact that only God has in His nature the ability to offer both MERCY and GRACE to us poor, unworthy earth-dwellers. Back in Psalm 103, God is called both Merciful and Gracious. Merciful because of His powerful ability to deliver His people from evil and hardships. Gracious because of His amazing way of extending kindness to the unworthy. Over in Psalm 117, the psalmist calls upon all the nations to praise the Lord because of His Merciful Kindness.

The Apostle Paul picks up on these ancient themes of MERCY and GRACE in Ephesians 2: 4-5, when he states…

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in MERCY, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by GRACE you have been saved.

In truth, it’s only in God’s Kingdom economy where both MERCY and GRACE go hand in hand. Forever friends in the compassionate heart of our Heavenly Father! The author of Hebrews states it this way…

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive MERCY and find GRACE to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4: 16)

As I see it, Psalm 123 has it right when it says that God in heaven is, quite honestly, the only place to look for that kind of love.

To that, I say AMEN and AMEN.

My prayer: Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. Grace. Grace. Grace. Father, thank You for these two amazing words and how only You can offer them so freely to me, a sinner who deserves none of it. By the work of Christ on the Cross, I receive MERCY, forgiveness of my sins on Your dime. By the work of the Spirit, I receive GRACE, unmerited favor for my life both now and forevermore. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So how might I better distinguish the major differences between these two powerful God-words? MERCY. GRACE. Have I fully embraced the significance of each word? Have I received the full application of both in my heart, mind, and soul? Finally, how might I better reflect the power of these two words in relationship with others? With God’s help, am I a person of both MERCY and GRACE to people around me? 

So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Psalms?

Over a 50-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Psalms: God’s Songbook of Prayers. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Psalms home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

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