Proverbs 21:21

He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honor.
– Proverbs 21:21

The word for righteousness means rightness, or justice. The word for mercy means goodness, kindness, and faithfulness. The word has a range of meaning that includes pity, but also loyalty, or fidelity. Sometimes it is translated as kindness or lovingkindness. The word is used to describe God’s remembering to show kindness to Naomi (Ruth 2:20), and Boaz doing the same for Ruth (Ruth 3:10). The two together describe a life in the way of wisdom and the proverb speaks directly to those pursuing that way. Pursuing and keeping to the upright way of wisdom enriches the life of the wise (Proverbs 3:16; 22:4).

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Proverbs 21:10

The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his neighbor findeth no favor in his eyes.
– Proverbs 21:10

Desire can be a wish, want, longing, hunger, ambition, and so on. The phrase soul desireth speaks of appetite. The picture is sinfulness, not in terms of a misstep or mistake, but rather a strong desire to do evil, or calamitous harm (Proverbs 3:29; 12:12). The word for favor means to bend, and so, pity or mercy. Wisdom properly infers it is better to avoid such a person bent on evil.

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Proverbs 20:28

Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.
– Proverbs 20:28

The word for mercy is the Hebrew word, hesed. The word appears well over 200 times in the Old Testament and has a range of meaning difficult to capture in a single English word. The KJV follows the Septuagint in most often rendering it as mercy, but also sometimes as kindness, lovingkindness, and goodness. Vine’s Dictionary notes three basic meanings inherent in the word: strength, steadfastness, and love. Mounce defined it as, “unfailing love, loyal love, devotion, kindness, often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship.” The word begins and ends the proverb.

The word for truth means stability, certainty, and also conveys an idea of trustworthy, or faithful. Both are spoken of God in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 25:10) as exemplar, and urged upon kings in their derivative authority. The king is to be a righteous and merciful upholder of justice and by these his throne is established (Proverbs 16:12; 21:7; 29:14). Mercy and truth secure the kingdom and establish the conditions for human flourishing by mirroring the righteous reign of Yahweh (Proverbs 29:2).

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Proverbs 14:31

He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoreth him hath mercy on the poor.
– Proverbs 14:31

The word for oppresseth means to extort or defraud. To oppress is to take advantage, even with violence (Proverbs 17:5; 28:8). The word for reproacheth means to blaspheme or rail against. To oppress the poor is to mock and insult God, who will avenge them (Proverbs 22:2, 16, 22-23). The contrast is to honor God and to have mercy on the poor. To have pity on the poor is to understand the providence of God and one’s place in the creation (Proverbs 14:21; 19:17). It is to bear the image of our maker and to love like him (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

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Proverbs 14:22

Do they not err that devise evil? But mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.
– Proverbs 14:22

The word for err means to go astray and to devise is to plot or plan. The first phrase refers to the outcome of their plans. They go astray because they plan evil. These are not accidentally or carelessly getting into the wrong way, but are plotting and contriving wickedness (Proverbs 3:29; 6:14). The phrase, mercy and truth, speaks of God’s favor and blessing (Psalm 25:10; 61:7). Here it is the outcome or reward that comes to those who devise good.

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Proverbs 14:21

He that despiseth his neighbor sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
– Proverbs 14:21

The word for despiseth means to treat with contempt or view as worthless. The word used is common in the Old Testament for sin. It means to miss the mark or the way. We infer from the parallel the neighbor is in some way needy, so to ignore or despise him is to miss the way of wisdom and righteous (Proverbs 11:12). It is a direct affront to our Creator (Proverbs 17:5) and a mark of the wicked (Proverbs 18:3). The contrast is to show mercy, which is to bend down in pity to one beneath you. To show mercy is the way of wisdom and righteousness to acknowledge that both alike are created by God (Proverbs 22:2). The merciful thereby honor God (Proverbs 14:31). The merciful will also receive mercy and be happy, or blessed (Proverbs 19:17; 28:27).

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Proverbs 11:17

The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.
– Proverbs 11:17

The word for merciful means kindness and also carries the thought of faithfulness. The word for cruel means merciless. The two are contrasted as well as their effects. The point of the proverb is the effect attitudes and actions have on the person more than on others (Proverbs 15:27). By mercy, a man does good to his own soul. Cruelty stirs up and disturbs a man’s own body.

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Proverbs 3:3

Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
– Proverbs 3:3

Mercy and truth are often paired together and expressed of God’s faithfulness to his promises. In a sense the terms have to do with relation to man. Here they stand for uprightness in relation to our fellow man. Mercy is a selfless love and faithfulness. It is sometimes translated as steadfast love. Truth is opposed to falsehood and hypocrisy. It is for what is right. These are expressive of the integrity brought to one’s life by wisdom.

Solomon exhorts to not let them forsake or fail. In order to this, he commands them bound about your neck and written upon the table of your heart. The intent is not a literal writing or binding of the words on one’s body, but that they become a part of you through wisdom. Let them enter through wisdom and ever be a part of your character.

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Psalm 119:41

Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD,
even thy salvation,
according to thy word.

~ Psalm 119:41

Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD

A prayer for mercy is an acknowledgement of need. It is not the prayer of the proud or self-sufficient. He acknowledges that God’s mercies must come to him because he cannot go to them. It is a prayer for preservation for by God’s mercies we are not consumed and daily there is a fresh supply (Lamentations 3:22-23). He seeks it like his daily bread.

even thy salvation, according to thy word.

Salvation is the chief of God’s mercies. It is a rescue, a deliverance. It refers to these in both temporary, physical ways and in the ultimate, spiritual way. It is a prayer to be delivered from temptation and every evil snare.

He prays best who lays hold of God’s word to pray. Prayer is mighty effectual when we plead God’s own writ promises before His throne. Let us never forget that throne is a throne of grace where we obtain mercy and find grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

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