Compassion

The Lord is merciful and compassionate, 
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. 
The Lord is good to everyone. 
He showers compassion on all His creation.
‭Psalms‬ ‭145:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Why is God ultimately so merciful and compassionate? We look around us at our world and wonder why He doesn’t remove all evil and, in particular, evil people. After all they get in His way. They frustrate His will and purposes. But as we muse about how wonderful it would be if God removed the wicked, we get a light bulb moment – He would remove us as well. As Paul said in Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” So it’s just as well God is merciful and compassionate. He gives us time. Time to repent of our sins. Time to align our lives to His. Thankfully He is “slow to get angry” with us. 

But that is not to say that God’s mercy will always be there. There will come a time when He can be merciful and compassionate no longer. There is a time of judgement coming. You see, our loving Heavenly Father is also a righteous Heavenly Father. He can tolerate nothing that is evil, and when we pass the Great Divide into a new life, anything that is evil will not be allowed in His presence. And so God has created a place apart from Him where evil will be allowed and confined. We can be assured that all the injustices, all the evil, all the wickedness, all the crime, all the bad things we experience in this life – none of it is going unnoticed by God. It is all being noted down in Heavenly life-logs. And one day God will open the data vaults and will publicly replay the videos before casting judgement. Thankfully there is a remedy for us – read on!

Today, in this life, we enjoy being showered with compassion. All of us, good or bad, live in a time of incredible blessing, a time of God’s patience and goodness, a time of God’s grace. As we take our faltering steps along the roads of life, His compassion helps us. His goodness is with us. His love is unfailing. His grace without limit. But God is not a passive parent. His mercy and compassion is active. He sent His Son, Jesus, to show us the way to a right relationship with Him. When Jesus takes on all our sins, we take on Jesus’ righteousness. If that isn’t the ultimate demonstration of compassion, of love, then I don’t know what is. And covered in Jesus’ righteousness, we today receive a “not-guilty’ verdict from the Righteous Judge. The Lord is surely good to everyone. Even me.

Eternal and Infinite

For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to His children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.
For He knows how weak we are;
    He remembers we are only dust.
Psalm 103:11-14 NLT

David is back writing at the Psalmist’s desk. Scratching away with his God-thoughts, recording eternal words through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And once again his thoughts turn to how much God loves His children. In describing the relationship we have with God, he uses the word “fear” but that can have negative connotations. In our world and culture, perhaps a better word would be “respect”, though with a depth far beyond a man-limited meaning. In the Lord’s Prayer, we “hallow” His name. Another good word. And David points out that God’s love for His hallowers is so great that it is unmeasurable. The heavens extend a distance above us, a distance measured in eternal units, with a hint of infinity creeping in. In other words, God’s love is so great that it is unlimited and eternal, unmeasurable and unquantifiable. We must never think that there is insufficient to go around. 

And David then moves his thoughts away from God’s love to our sins. The reality is that once we have confessed and repented of our sins, God removes them. In fact, He puts them a place that is as far away from us as the East is from the West. A wonderful analogy, because we don’t know the start and finish of either place. No sooner then we define a place as being “East” then we know there is another place further “East”. The circular nature of our world, rather than the flat representation on a school room wall, drives the compass points. But what is the implication of all that? God forgets our confessed and repented of sins. They don’t exist anymore. That have been erased from the Heavenly record books. Have we ever been in a situation where we have repented of a past sin again, perhaps from many years ago, just in case we forgot? Well, God takes out His record books and can’t find any mention of it. So He comes back to us and tells us so. He is the perfect Father, divinely tender and compassionate. 

In all the world religions there is only one, Christianity, in which the worshipped god came down to earth as a human being. Jesus, God’s Son, therefore knows what it is like to be human, and he shared our weaknesses when He walked around the Palestinian countryside. He got tired and hungry as we do. He was tempted as we are. And when He returned to Heaven, we read in Romans 8 that He is sitting at God’s right hand, interceding for us. Our loving Lord is the only “god” who knows “how weak we are”.

Today, we have been granted another opportunity from our allotted time span on earth to come before our tender and compassionate Heavenly Father, resting in His presence, feeling His heartbeat of forgiveness, and assured of His love. Let’s not waste the moment.

The Sins of our Ancestors

“O Lord, how long will You be angry with us? Forever?
How long will Your jealousy burn like fire? 
Do not hold us guilty for the sins of our ancestors! 
Let Your compassion quickly meet our needs, 
     for we are on the brink of despair.”
Psalms‬ ‭79:5, 8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is not a comfortable Psalm to read, with its references to blood shed and misery, death and destruction. The Psalmist equates the reason for the devastation to God’s extreme displeasure with the Jewish nation, accusing God of acting in anger and jealousy against His people. But in the middle of his lament, is an appeal to God, for His compassion to displace the judgement. Asaph, the Psalmist, obviously believes that God is acting now because of the misbehaviour, the rebellion, the unfaithfulness, of previous generations. And he perhaps questions the fairness of such action. But God was quite clear – in Exodus 34 God said through Moses, “I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected— even children in the third and fourth generations.” Eventually God will act in judgement against guilty people, people who stack up their individual and national sins until He can stand it no more. But nevertheless, Asaph pleads with God to have mercy, to show compassion, on his people in a time of a national disaster, a time of despair. Perhaps the chink of light in this verse of warning is the reference to the guilty. Thankfully God is a God of compassion and love, as well as One of judgement, of anger and jealousy. And Asaph appeals to Him to show compassion, in the process forgiving the people for the sins of their ancestors. And to quickly come and mitigate their guilt and despair, to provide what they need.

So the inevitable question. How relevant is this Psalm in 21st Century societies? It’s a warning to us all. God is “slow to anger, quick to bless”, thankfully. Otherwise the rebellion and sins of our nations would have led to our destruction long ago. I probably wouldn’t even be here, writing this blog. And that is the key – God allows mankind to exist, even when acting sinfully, because of His grace and mercy. He gives everyone an opportunity for repentance, for embracing Him while there is still time, during our lives here on earth.