Justice, Mercy and Compassion
The name Zechariah means “Yahweh Remembers”. It’s a powerful phrase that communicates a message of hope. The God of Israel will mercifully remember His people. Zechariah prophesied to the Israelites at a period of time when they should have been most grateful, but they had abandoned God’s work. King Cyrus of Persia had allowed the exiled Israelites to return to their homeland to rebuild the temple and start over with their lives. But the Israelites had lost their vision and spiritual purpose. When the people wondered where God was, Zechariah reminded them that their disobedience originally resulted in their captivity. And God implored His people, among other things, to remember those who did not have much, to treat them with justice, mercy and compassion. It would mean to reach out to others right here at home, so to speak.
Zechariah 7:8 Then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts:
‘Execute true justice,
Show mercy and compassion
Everyone to his brother.
10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless,
The alien or the poor.
Let none of you plan evil in his heart
Against his brother.’
11 “But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. 12 Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. 13 Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen,” says the Lord of hosts. 14 “But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate.”
I’m reading today from a message by Steven and Deb Koster*, who remind us that God calls us, as a matter of worship, to act justly in our day-to-day lives. We are to not be swayed by who has power and who does not. We honor God by showing not only impartial justice but also mercy and compassion. God himself clarifies that we are to seek justice for those who are not socially powerful—the single mother, foster children, immigrants, the poor. God declares, in effect, through Zechariah: “I don’t even want your worship if you are taking advantage of and not defending the weakest among you. You’re worshiping only to make yourselves feel better, not to honor me.”
Those are strong words. The suffering of people in another neighborhood—much less others around the globe—can be invisible. Enacting justice and showing mercy require us to care for our brothers and sisters. Ask God to show you ways to care for the marginalized. What acts of mercy are you doing for your family and community?
Today, ask God to help us to show mercy, and make us lovers of justice, so that we can make an impact in this world for Him.
*Devotional message compiled by Jim Huber, with some commentary from “Justice, Mercy, Compassion” by Steven & Deb Koster, in Today: Refresh, Refocus, Renew; www.thisistoday.com, April 23, 2013.