Some questions are heavy. Soul stirring. They speak to the depth of who we are and our place in the world. The first time I remember feeling this was as a small child. I had just recently learned to read. The book in my hand seemed innocent enough. I had no idea it held one of these “soul questions.”
The main character was a baby bird and that bird was asking everyone she met an important question-
I have learned to ask many more of these soul questions since, such as:
“Why do the nations rage?” (Psalm 2:1)
“How long, Oh Lord, How Long?” (Psalm 6:3)
“Has God forgotten to be merciful?” (Psalm 77:9)
Ahh…God’s mercy. There is a subject for questioning…
What does it really mean when scripture proclaims God to be merciful? How does He express His mercy? What does that mercy mean to me?
One day recently, I came across a reference to God’s mercy and all of these questions bubbled up to the surface again. As I was wondering about them, I remembered the time I attended synagogue with my friend Gabriel Barkay. He turned to me during the reading of the Torah and spoke softly.
“I wish you could read this in the Hebrew,” he said. “It is so beautiful. The English so often fails to capture the full intent of the Hebrew…”
So, I picked up my reference and looked up this word, mercy, in the original language. There is more than one Hebrew word used for God’s mercy in the Old Testament. This word is often translated in the plural as “tender mercies”. To get the full meaning of this particular usage of the word, I had to go back a bit to a corresponding word. When I read the definition, I was overwhelmed:
Compassion as the womb cherishes the fetus. Immediately, I was reminded of the three miracles I cherished in my own womb, the soft flutters that grew into kicks, the wonder of my little one growing safely in the dark, my heartbeat his lullaby…
Tender. Cherished. Safe.
And that is what God’s mercy is like for me…for you.