Proverbs 16:6

By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.

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The best way to live is when mercy and truth combine to purify your life. These two aspects of godliness come together to make men perfect. And the motivation to seek and practice both of them is the fear of the LORD, which compels men to forsake their sins.

You must start with the fear of God. It is the very beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Pr 1:7; 9:10; Job 28:28; Ps 111:10); it is the foundation for living a godly life (Pr 15:16; 20:28; 23:17; 28:14); it is the whole duty of man (Deut 10:12; Eccl 5:7; 8:12; 12:13-14; Micah 6:7-8). It brings riches, honor, and life to surpass other men (Pr 22:4; Eccl 7:18).

The fear of God drives men to seek His approval in every part of life. It drives them to hate and turn from sin (Pr 8:13; 14:16; Ps 97:10; 101:3; Amos 5:15; II Cor 7:1). It drives men to learn godliness that will perfect them before Him (Col 1:28; 4:12; Heb 13:21). It is the whole duty of man and will fulfill your life before God and men (Eccl 12:13-14).

Mercy and truth are two jewels of perfect godliness. Mercy is compassion, forgiveness, or kindness you show to others when they are in your power or debt and have no right or claim to them. Truth is perfect fidelity to what is right as revealed in the word of God, and pure dealings in true sincerity without deceit or pretence. Consider these jewels well.

Mercy and truth are unknown to Satan and wicked men. Satan was a liar and murderer from the beginning (John 8:44), which are opposites of truth and mercy. When he seduced Eve in Eden, he questioned and reversed what God had said and profaned His motives: he lied against the truth. Rather than show merciful kindness to Abel, who was righteous in his worship, he moved Cain to kill him for nothing but envy (I John 3:12).

Wicked fools and religious Pharisees lie by word or deed when it serves their purpose, and they will judge without mercy when someone is in their power. They lied to Pilate in their rage to crucify the Truth, and they had no mercy on a Man in Whom he found no fault. They were hypocrites and murderers. They twisted Scripture to justify personal revenge, and they only showed mercy to their friends (Matt 5:38-48; Luke 6:27-36). They hide their own sins under whitewashed exteriors, but they want to expose all others.

They would pull an ass out of a pit on the Sabbath day, but they condemned Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1-6). They had no mercy! They condemned the disciples for picking corn on the Sabbath, in spite of David eating the shewbread (Matt 12:1-7). They had no truth or mercy! They refused to answer His legitimate question about John the Baptist due to their wicked rebellion (Matt 21:23-27). They had no truth!

Mercy and truth appear to be opposites – mercy seeks to compromise judgment for the benefit of another, and truth demands that you do right at all times. But in a wise and good man they meet together and modify each other enough to create beautiful gems. They purge iniquity and sin from lives, for most sins are violations of one or the other.

Which is more important, mercy or truth? Wisdom carefully assesses circumstances. Pure motives are more important than peace; you only compromise judgment or truth very carefully to show mercy (Jas 3:17; 2:13). Preaching contrary to Scripture is cursed (Gal 1:8-9). You should hate every false way (Ps 119:128), and justifying the wicked brings God’s judgment (Pr 17:15; I Sam 3:13; I Cor 5:2). Do justly and love mercy (Mic 6:8).

But mercy is more important than the letter of the law (Matt 12:7; Mark 2:27), if it keeps the spirit of the law (John 7:23-24). And minor personal offences demand mercy over judgment (Pr 19:11; Matt 5:7,38-42; 6:15; 7:1-2; James 2:13). Bowels of mercies are part of Christian character (Col 3:12-14), which teaches men to eliminate any fleshly revenge.

A wise man will defend God’s truth absolutely, but he will understand when that truth allows for mercy. He will show mercy whenever he can. He will always deal truthfully with others, but he will show mercy toward those who do not deal truthfully with him.

When Scripture states that God’s ways are not our ways, it describes His great mercy in forgiving (Is 55:6-9). It is important you understand the value of this oft-quoted passage in its precious context. God forgives and pardons freely and fully, unlike natural men.

Dear reader, can you balance great zeal for truth with cheerful use of mercy? Would you preach the truth unvarnished to your enemies, then pray for their forgiveness as they stoned you, as did Stephen (Acts 6:8 – 7:60)? Would you blast slothful servants, yet beg for mercy toward a repentant, runaway slave, as did Paul (II Thess 3:8-12; Philemon)?

Do mercy and truth kiss together in your life? Are you vigilant for the truth, but sensitive to the needs of others around you? Do you train your children in the right way, but show them mercy and pity when they fail and repent for foolishness? Do you maintain the godly submission of your wife, yet show honor to her as the weaker vessel?

Do you do the best in faithfully performing your job, but show mercy to the careless waitress who spills a drink in your lap? Do you always pay your bills on time, yet show mercy to those who are tardy in paying you? Do you tell both friend and foe the truth no matter what, but pray for your enemies when they turn against you for it?

Mercy and truth are met together perfectly in the Lord Jesus Christ; righteousness and peace have kissed each other in Him (Ps 85:10). He forgave the soldiers dividing His garments and provided mercy for his mother while hanging on the cross (Luke 23:34; John 19:26-27), and He held firm speaking of truth on trial before a governor who did not understand truth (John 18:37). He could crush the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes with His infallible use of truth, but He could also pity and forgive harlots seeking His mercy.

The greatest goal for your life is to turn away from sin to turn perfectly to God, for He will not accept or bless the wicked (Ex 34:7; Nah 1:3). You should beg God for more mercy and truth and His fear in your life, and you should study them thoroughly in the Bible. Gaining in these precious virtues will make you great in the sight of the LORD and in the sight of good men and women. May God bless you in this godly and noble pursuit.