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God of Compassion
1 John 4:16
In Romans 9:15 the Apostle Paul quotes Exodus 33:19.
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
This verse would be well known to his readers. It emphasises the freedom of God’s mercy and overflowing active compassion which cannot be owned or controlled by mankind. He is sovereign and has purposed and chosen to have mercy on all people. (Romans 11:32). However, it is up to each one of us to choose how we respond to God’s love and mercy.
A general definition of the word ‘compassion’ is sympathy and concern for the suffering of others and through that concern to do all we can to improve the situation. The original Hebrew and Greek words translated as ‘compassion’ speak of having mercy or expressing empathy to those who are suffering. The word ‘compassion’ describes the very heart of God. In 1 John 4:16 we read:
“So we know and rely on the love God has for us. God Is love and whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in him.”
What remarkable words. When we are tempted to doubt God’s love we can remind ourselves of the promises in Scripture. God is compassionate, He is sympathetic and empathetic to the sufferings of His people. He sees our situation and takes pity on us, but the compassion of God is far greater than the human understanding of compassion. Rather, it is related to His mercy, kindness, patience, grace, forgiveness and love. In my own experience it has been the Father’s faithfulness in the hardest times of my life that has made me most aware of His heartfelt compassion. In Matthew 9:35-38 we read:
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
Jesus’ motivation for His own ministry was the compassion He felt for those who were lost and in great need and He taught His disciples how to begin their own ministry to the lost and helpless by first praying to His Father to send workers into the Harvest Field.
Our understanding of God’s compassion is made perfect through the last days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Having received an urgent message that His friend Lazarus was seriously ill, Jesus chose to delay His response in order that God would be glorified. I would encourage you to pause here and read the whole of John chapter 11 which records that “Jesus wept” when He saw the great sorrow of the mourners. His tears of compassion led to the raising of Lazarus from the dead, thus turning mourning into great joy and proving He holds the keys to life and death. However, it is worth remembering that Lazarus would die again at the end of his earthly life, to await an even greater resurrection into eternity with God which is promised to all believers.
The closing chapters of John’s Gospel contain some amazing teaching which leads us to the Passover supper, the agony of Gethsemane, the betrayal by Judas, the staged trial which led to the cruel flogging and stripes of a Roman whip, and finally hanging on a cross by nails that had been cruelly hammered through His hands and His feet. Yet even here, as He was dying in agony, He cried out “Father forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:33). Such is the immensity of the compassion and love of God.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, as I gaze upon Your compassion and love for lost humanity in sending Your precious Son to die that we might be forgiven, I can find no words adequate to even begin express the gratitude within my heart. Such immense love is beyond my human comprehension, yet I come and ask that You might make me a channel through which Your compassion can flow into the harvest field of this broken and hurting world around me. In the Name of Jesus and for the sake of Your Kingdom I pray, Amen.