Merciful to Me

Luke 18 records the Lord Jesus teaching on the nature of justification by telling the story of the Pharisee and Tax Collector. Pharisees were the respected religious leaders of Jesus’ time. They lived outwardly moral and pious lives that many of us wouldn’t come close to matching. In fact, Jesus never condemned the righteousness of the Pharisees, he even told his disciples that “unless [their] righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, [they] would not enter heaven” (Matt 5:20). The problem with the Pharisees was their motive for obedience. In Luke 18 Jesus explained how the Pharisee exalted himself by focusing on his moral life. In stark contrast, however, Jesus praises the tax collector (a social outcast because of moral failures, perhaps think of a prostitute today) because instead of focusing on his works, he focuses on God’s mercy as he begs “God, be merciful to me.” This is the biblical “sinner’s prayer” and it expresses the terms that God requires people to come to him on in order to be saved. We must acknowledge that nothing we have or do can ever allow us to stand before a holy God. Only God’s mercy can save us from God’s justice, and these two intersect only at the cross.


Verse 1:
With broken heart and contrite sigh,
A trembling sinner, Lord, I cry;
Your pardoning grace is rich and free;
O God! be merciful to me.

Verse 2:
I beat upon my troubled breast,
With deep and conscious guilt oppressed:
Christ and His Cross my only plea;
O God! be merciful to me.

And when, redeemed from sin and hell,
With all the ransomed saints I dwell,
My raptured song will ever be,
God has been merciful to me.

Verse 3:
Far off I stand with tear-stained eyes,
I dare not lift them to the skies;
My deepest anguish You can see;
O God! be merciful to me.

Verse 4:
No pious deeds or things I own,
Can for a single sin atone;
To Calvary alone I flee;
O God! be merciful to me.


Words by Cornelius Elven (1797-1873) and David Ward. Music by David L. Ward.
© 2000,2006 Hymnicity
CCLI Song #4809151