Divine compassion will reach out
And touch the lonely bier
And bring to life the widow’s son
And wipe away her tears;
Will grasp the young girl by the hand
And say, 'Little lamb, arise! ’
And the child leaps up from her bed
To her parents' great surprise.
Divine love will embrace
Little children in its arms,
As a hen covers her chicks
Under feathers soft and warm;
In those nail-pierced hands
Laid on a poor bent-up woman
Made her stand
Erect and at ease,
And praise the God of mercy
For her miraculous release.
© Tom Prato/Pratonix
What is Divine Compassion?
The word ‘compassion’ is always used of God. He is the ‘Father of mercies’ and the God of compassion. The Jewish rabbis referred to God as 'The Compassionate One' and the 'Father of Compassion'. God has a heart full of tender love towards His people and towards His creation. The Hebrew word ‘racham’ (compassion) is also related to the Hebrew word (rehem) for ‘womb’ - God loves from deep within His being. The old KJV expression ‘bowels of mercy’ (‘bowels’ in the Old English speaks of ‘great depth’) comes close to the idea conveyed by divine compassion.
So we have a God ‘full of compassion’ (Psalms 78:38, 86:15, 145:8, KJV). The character of the Lord is described thus: ‘You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, gracious, long-suffering (slow to anger), and abundant in mercy and truth.’ Ps 86:15. ‘Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.’ Ps 103:13. (In the KJV, the word used in Ps 103:13 is 'pity', which is rather misleading, because the correct word is 'compassion', which carries the thought of a soft, loving paternal heart.)
In the Book of Isaiah we get a glimpse of the tender maternal heart of God. In Isa 49:15, 16, the Lord says: ‘Can a woman forget her suckling child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands...” Is there not a reference to the Cross in those last words? And what can be more poignant than these words: ‘For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you.’ Isa 54:7. It is the Crucified and Risen Saviour who is speaking. And we sense the depths of Calvary love in the words from Isaiah.
Jeremiah in that famous passage beginning with Lam 3:22 says, ‘The Lord’s loving-kindnesses never cease, for His compassions never fail.’ And again, ‘Though the Lord cause grief, yet He will have compassion according to His abundant loving-kindness (or ‘the multitude of His mercies’)’. Lam 3:32. We read of the Lord ‘crowning us with loving-kindness and compassion’, Ps 103:4. The word ‘loving-kindness’ (Heb. hesed) coupled with the word ‘compassion’ (racham) reveal the depth and breadth of the warm and benevolent love of God. 'Wide, wide as the ocean; high as the heavens above; Deep, deep as the deepest sea - is my Saviour's love...' is the Sunday School chorus we sang as little kids.
We have been talking about divine compassion, with examples from the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we find the equivalent Greek word splagchnizomai which means: ‘to be moved as to one’s bowels (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity); to be moved with compassion.’
We have references to our Lord’s compassion.‘When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad. as sheep having no shepherd. Matt 9:36
Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched the leper, and said to him, ‘I will; be thou clean.’ Mark 1:41
Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes (of the two blind men of Jericho): and immediately they regained their sight and followed him. Matt 20:34
When the Lord saw her (the widow of Nain), He felt compassion for her, and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ And He came up and touched the coffin…and said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise! And the dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:13-15. (This has been referred to in the poem.)
We have references to the Lord’s compassion in the story of the Good Samaritan. ‘But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon the wounded Jew; and when he saw him, he felt compassion…’ Luke 10:33.
And the compassion of our Heavenly Father is seen in Luke 15:20. ‘So he got up and came to his father. But while he was till a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.’
What a merciful, loving, kind and compassionate God and Father we have, whose heart is so full of warm and tender affection towards His children, whom He has redeemed through the precious Blood of the Lamb!
As children of the Heavenly Father, 'full of compassion', we, as the 'chosen of God, holy and beloved' are enjoined to 'put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness' - in the words of Paul in Colossians 3:12. The likeness of God our Father, and the testimony of Jesus our Lord, is to be exhibited in the compassion, kindness and love that we display towards others in our Christian lives.
- COMPASSION in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE (Bible History Online)
I had no space to use this article, written by W.L. Walker for the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; but I found that it is very good. And it needs to be read separately by itself.
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