“And there shall cleave nothing of the cursed thing to your hand: that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of His anger, and show you mercy, and have compassion upon you, and multiply you, as He has sworn unto your fathers; when you shall hearken to the voice of the LORD your God to keep all His commandments which I command you this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 13:17,18
What is true compassion? I ask that because I can’t stop thinking about the love of God and how it is demonstrated through Him and how He demonstrates it through us as believers. I think it’s important to understand what real compassion is according to Your standard, Lord, because sometimes we aren’t trying to live by Your standard, but by our own standard. And that always falls short. So today I am digging into this treasure of compassion in Your Word and by the power of Your Holy Spirit to teach and give understanding.
It’s interesting. Because the first reference I came to was a word for compassion. I see the daughter of Pharaoh coming to the river to wash herself. She sees a basket floating among the river grass and sends her maidens to fetch it to her. Exodus 2:6 tells us, “…when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children.'” And it’s wonderful that she had compassion on him, on baby Moses, because it compelled her to rescue him and raise him. But that is not the depths of God’s compassion and the compassion You, Lord, desire from us, the compassion that You, Lord, place in us. That’s maybe a beginning, maybe what naturally flows from man when we let it, but that’s not the depth of the compassion that flows from Your heart.
I’m wondering if that’s the compassion that says, “I wish I had a child. Here is one who needs a mother. I can be his mother. I will raise him as my own. Here is a child who will love me as I love him. I will care for him so that he can be mine. I will do the things that are good for him because he is mine.” That is a compassion that does good for another, but God’s compassion is deeper and stronger and more complete and has nothing to do with selfish desires. The compassion of Pharaoh’s daughter is the compassion I would normally exhibit. But it’s not the compassion of the God who loves me, who loves you. What does His compassion look like?
There is another Hebrew word used for compassion. This is the compassion that God shows to His children. It’s the word racham. In Deuteronomy 13:17,18 we see it surrounded by strong words. “And there shall CLEAVE NOT ONE THING of the cursed thing to your hand: that the LORD may turn from THE FIERCENESS OF HIS ANGER, and show you MERCY, and have COMPASSION upon you, and MULTIPLY you, AS HE HAS SWORN unto your fathers: when you shall HEARKEN to the VOICE OF THE LORD your God, to keep ALL His commandments which I command you this day, to DO THAT WHICH IS RIGHT IN THE EYES OF THE LORD YOUR GOD.” What looks right to me doesn’t matter unless it looks right in the eyes of You, Lord.
I think of those words and I think of how strongly You cleave to us. You could have let Adam and Eve and all of sinful mankind go. You could have let us fall from Your hands. You could have cast every one of us away. You have the right. But You didn’t. You chose to cling to us and to make a way for us to become Your own through Christ. And then You clove to us so strongly that nothing can snatch us from Your hand. You don’t just hold us in Your palm. You engraved us within Your hands deep within the nail piercings. That’s true compassion. That is so much more than Pharaoh’s daughter did.
You could have been fiercely angry with us. That’s not just slightly angry. We deserve death and eternal punishment. We deliberately defied and defy our very own creator whom we owe our whole existence to. We’re not just talking about being mad here. This is “charon,” burning anger, sore displeasure, fierce wrath and fury. This is what You can rightfully feel for me and each of us. This is what I deserve. Jonathan Edwards wasn’t wrong when he said that it was a disaster “to fall into the hands of an angry God.” I must always remember that sin brings wrath. Wrath brings destruction. Without judgment, wrath is coming. But even in judgment, there is no way for me to be declared innocent on my own! God did not leave His character behind when New Testament times approached. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So I ought to cry out, “Woe is me! I am undone! Where is my hope?”
My hope is in God, who made me and the way for me to be returned to Him and His ways. There is another side of wrath. On the other side of this deep and fierce wrath is where we find just as deep and fierce a love. This love is evidenced in the measure of Your compassion and mercy, Lord. It’s the only thing that prevents our destruction and witholds Your wrath. This is that kind of compassion, that kind of mercy, that kind of love. And it’s not because I deserve it or because it will make You more complete to accept me or because I fulfill some longing in You. You are complete and whole and satisfied completely without me. It’s unexplainable in human terms or thinking. It’s solely because of Your character, of who You really are and Your absolute authority. You rule. That’s it. You rule.
I can argue and fuss and fight all I want, but You rule. You rule either with wrath or with compassion and mercy. And if I’m wise, I’ll see You like Jeremiah did. I’ll desire You to correct me with Your judgment based on Your mercy and compassion and not with your judgment based on wrath.
And when I learn to basque in Your compassion and mercy, I am guaranteed by the depth of Your promises that You will multiply me. That means that You will strengthen, encourage, duplicate Yourself in me, lift me up, do everything that Your character needs to in me to make me Your own and contiually fill me with Your endless compassion so that I become a vessel of the same. The unloveable becomes the most beloved simply by the nature of the One who loves! And I am taught to love others like that. This is unnatural. This is gloriously supernatural!
What You have sworn to do is eternally binding. Man’s promises may break, but never will Your promises be broken. If ever there was a true guarantee, You are it. Your Word and Your ways are always true and dependable. There is nothing stronger. Your love never ceases. It never fails. It never falls off. It’s not just You doing a good thing. You suffer for us though You don’t have to, nor do You deserve to. You are kind though we don’t deserve it. Though You are a jealous God and have a right to be utterly jealous and angry over us, You respond without jealousy. You have every right to be too proud to rescue us but You humbled Yourself and became as one of us in Christ and humbled Yourself unto death. You could have inflated Yourself over us but instead You esteemed us as more valuable than Your own Son. You have never behaved Yourself outside of Your character no matter how angry we made You.
Here’s a difficult one. You didn’t seek Your own. Though You are worthy of all our worship and deserve all our worship, somehow, beyond explanation, it remained an act of worship to redeem a broken and fallen people. And though it is all about You, by the focus being on Your love and compassion for us, on the safety from Your wrath, You retain the absolute right to be worshipped while focussing on the care of those You created. I’m not sure if I can explain that but the One Who is to be worshipped and retains that worship, has a focus to delight in and care for those who worship Him. And while it always remains in Your will, yet it remains from Your doing to be for the benefit of those You rescue by Your compassion and truly for their good.
And if anyone has ever been provoked time and time again, surely it’s You. Yet You are not affected by our provoking. Your ways are above our provocation. You are the truth and Your focus remains in You despite every lie that abounds. You continually bear so much for us and because of us. But Your expectations for us never cease. And nothing, absolutely nothing can stop Your love. Why? Because You are God and it is who You are.
Well, this is the kind of love and compassion that You have shown me. This is the kind of love and compassion that I want to bestow on others by Your grace and mercy and power in me. I don’t want to love others because of their benefit to me. I want to love and be compassionate like You, for their benefit because it’s who I am in You. I want to love like that because it’s the love and compassion I have experienced from You. And I want them to experience that. But unless I’ve experience that love and compassion first hand myself, I can’t share it. Lord, I just want to be so filled with Your love and compassion that it overflows no matter the difficulty of the situation I’m in, no matter my own feelings. I want to be constantly reminded of how Your compassion continually flows out and into me though I am so flawed. Never let me forget. And let me always be utterly dependent upon Your compassion and utterly enthralled by it’s grasp as I ever cleave more tightly to Your love and follow Your ways among the people around me.