God’s Heartfelt MercyDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
"Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
After his son, John, was born, Zechariah "was filled with the Holy Spirit" uttered a "prophecy" (1:67). His prophecy is often called the Benedictus because of how it begins in Latin: benedictus Deus Israhel ('Blessed be the God of Israel"). Zechariah praised God for sending a Savior, whose way would be prepared by John. Finally, God would fulfill his promises through the ancient prophets (1:70).
Zechariah's prophecy concludes by celebrating what God is about to do through the birth of Jesus: "Because of God's tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us in the path of peace" (1:78-79). The light of God would overcome the darkness of the human condition, even breaking the power of the shadow of death. Through God's light, new life would be born and the opportunity to live in God's peace.
Notice what motivates God to send forth his saving light: his "tender mercy." The Greek original of this phrase uses two words, eleos and splanchna. Eleos is the standard Greek term for mercy. It suggests showing exceptional kindness to someone in need. Splanchna refers literally to the inner organs of the body. But Greek speakers used this word much as we would use the English word "heart." Splanchna was the location of strong feelings of compassion and care. Thus, Zechariah intensifies and tenderizes God's mercy. God will reveal his saving light because of his heartfelt mercy. He senses our desperate need. He knows we are lost without his help, and feels for us much as a parent for a beloved and hurting child.
The Benedictus encourages us not only with the good news of God's salvation through Christ, but also with the staggering truth that God feels deeply for us. His compassion for you and for me is passionate, profound, and permanent.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever think of God having tender, heartfelt mercy for you? How does the good news of God's "tender mercy" impact the way you think and feel? How might it impact that way you live each day? How might it shape your relationships with others?
PRAYER: Praise be to you, Lord, God of Israel, because you have visited and redeemed us. You have sent a Savior to deliver us. You have shown us, not just mercy, but heartfelt mercy. You have shined your light upon us, illuminate our darkness and chasing away the shadow of death.
May I live in the reality of your tender mercy. May your compassion for me move me to love you more, to honor you with every part of my life. As your mercy animates me, may I show heartfelt mercy to others.
All praise, glory, and honor be to you, might and merciful God. Amen.