Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
– Psalm 118:1 (NKJV)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
– Psalm 118:1 (NLT)
I look at these passages and see little difference. By translation, the New King James Version (NKJV) utilizes mercy and the New Living Translation (NLT) uses love. Neither is synonymous with the other according to our English dictionary and thesaurus. However, Our interpretation of the Scriptures must look beyond the surface for our true inspiration and insight.
compassion for the miserable. Its object is misery. By the atoning sacrifice of Christ a way is open for the exercise of mercy towards the sons of men, in harmony with the demands of truth and righteousness (Gen. 19:19; Ex. 20:6; 34:6, 7; Ps. 85:10; 86:15, 16). In Christ mercy and truth meet together. Mercy is also a Christian grace (Matt. 5:7; 18:33-35).
This word seems to require explanation only in the case of its use by our Lord in his interview with “Simon, the son of Jonas,” after his resurrection (John 21:16, 17). When our Lord says, “Lovest thou me?” he uses the Greek word _agapas_; and when Simon answers, he uses the Greek word _philo_, i.e., “I love.” This is the usage in the first and second questions put by our Lord; but in the third our Lord uses Simon’s word. The distinction between these two Greek words is thus fitly described by Trench:, “_Agapan_ has more of judgment and deliberate choice; _philein_ has more of attachment and peculiar personal affection. Thus the ‘Lovest thou’ (Gr. agapas) on the lips of the Lord seems to Peter at this moment too cold a word, as though his Lord were keeping him at a distance, or at least not inviting him to draw near, as in the passionate yearning of his heart he desired now to do. Therefore he puts by the word and substitutes his own stronger ‘I love’ (Gr. philo) in its room. A second time he does the same. And now he has conquered; for when the Lord demands a third time whether he loves him, he does it in the word which alone will satisfy Peter (‘Lovest thou,’ Gr. phileis), which alone claims from him that personal attachment and affection with which indeed he knows that his heart is full.”
Mercy is for our misery, it says. Love is an expression of our relationship more so than a feeling or emotion. Action springs from love, i.e. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. . .For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17, NIV). The love sparks an action on God’s part for the benefit of those in misery (that would be us- “the world.”)
Can I justify substituting mercy for love, or vice versa?
I probably couldn’t muster enough searching of the Scriptures and the mysteries of God revealed within them to satisfy the hunger and thirst that many brothers and sisters would have for the answer to this. After all, it is not my answer. Ultimately, it is God’s answer.
Yet, let who He is satisfy your quest for such knowledge. Look at His names.
Jehovah Jireh means that He is our Provider.
Jehovah Shalom means that He is our Peace.
Jehovah Elohim means that He is the Creator, the Trinity or the Three-in-One plural name of God revealed to us in Genesis.
He is full of love, mercy, peace, creation and all that we need Him to be to us.
Just based upon who He is to us, He can provide both mercy and love that endure forever.