God’s Forever Mercy
Mary said, “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” Luke 1:50
Mercy. Generation after generation. God first promised it to Abraham in Genesis 12:3. God repeated it on Mount Sinai when He gave the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:6), and again when His glory passed before Moses in Exodus 34:6-7. Moses repeated the promise to the Israelites in his final series of sermons, recorded in Deuteronomy (5:10, 7:9). David mentioned God’s forever mercy often in the psalms he wrote, including Psalm 103:17, which Mary may have been quoting in Luke 1:50.
Extending mercy “generation to generation” is foundational to the covenant God established with Israel. No doubt every Israelite clung to that promise: God will be merciful. Forever. In fact, the phrase “His mercy endures forever” appears in over 40 Old Testament verses.*
In Hebrew, the word for mercy, checed, means more than providing relief from distress or acting in kindness. It refers to God’s steadfast, unconditional love that motivates Him to act in compassion even though His people continually disobey and disappoint Him. We receive His mercy because of who He is, not because of anything we have or have not done. In Greek, mercy is eleos. It refers to the general undeserved kindness God extends to all people as well as the specific gift of salvation through Jesus, the Messiah.**
Mary knew that she, along with every other Jew, had failed to keep God’s law. Yet God promised to be merciful—generation after generation. The promise of a Messiah was not dependent on any individual’s faithfulness, but on God’s. So Mary responded with gratitude and reverent awe toward the God who so loved His people that He sent them a Messiah. And she rejoiced.
I too am a recipient of God’s forever mercy. God is merciful to me because of the promise He made in John 3:16—if I accept the gift of salvation that He has offered me through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, I will have eternal life. Generations of Christians have passed that message to their children and grandchildren. My grandparents and parents passed it to me. God’s mercy extends from generation to generation. Hallelujah!
Am I passing that promise to the generations that will follow me?
Read Psalm 103. Notice what David says about God’s mercy (checed is translated love in the NIV) in verses 8, 11, and 17. Who do you know that needs to be reminded of God’s forever mercy today?
Read Psalm 71:18, 78:4-6, Psalm 145:4-7. What are we supposed to pass on to the generations that follow us? Mary’s family certainly passed God’s Word to her. Are you passing these truths to others?
Read Psalm 136. This is called an antiphonal psalm because after a priest said the first part of each verse, the congregation responded with the phrase “for his mercy endures forever.” What examples of God’s mercy does the psalmist give? What evidence of God’s everlasting mercy have you experienced?
Denise K. Loock
Note: This devotion is part of a Christmas series: The Magnificat Series
*”NKJV Search Results for “mercy” AND “endures” AND “forever”.” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 23 Nov, 2014. http://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=mercy+endures+forever&t=NKJV#s=s_primary_0_1