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        Imagine yourself seated comfortably in your favorite easy chair, fully absorbed in a magazine article.  Your interest increases as you read down the page.  Then, just as the story reaches a climax, your eyes come to the words, "To be continued."  How disappointing!  This is also the format of the television soap operas.  The show gets you all hyped up, then just leaves you hanging there!

        Sometimes, however, the words "to be continued" can bring great joy.  This is especially true as the Christian contemplates God's blessings.  Commenting on this idea, C. H. Spurgeon wrote, "What a comfort to remember that the Lord's mercy and lovingkindness are to be continued!  Much as we have experienced in the long years of our pilgrimage, we have by no means outlived eternal love.  Providential goodness is an endless chain, a stream which follows the pilgrim, a wheel perpetually revolving, a star forever shining and leading us to the place where He is who was once a babe in Bethlehem.  All the volumes which record the doings of divine grace are but part of a series `to be continued.'"

        Ephesians 2:7 says that in the ages to come God will be showing us the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.  That is what makes the Christian life so exciting--it's just getting started!  God's goodness to us is to be continued.  The blessings of redemption are to be continued.  Our relationship with the heavenly Father is to be continued.

        This is study number six in our series on the biblical doctrine of compassion.  We are presently studying the magnificent compassion of God.  Five messages ago we embarked on a long expedition through the uses of various Hebrew and Greek words translated "compassion," "compassions," and  "compassionate."  We have now surveyed all the Scriptures where the Hebrew word racham (raw-kham'), 7355, is translated "compassion," "compassions," or "compassionate," in relationship to God.

        After observation and interpretation, I drew from these Scriptures various propositional statements or principles.  The two principles that we have covered so far is:

Principle #1:  Jehovah God, as to His nature, is love.  He consistently demonstrates His love by being compassionate; and

Principle #2:  Jehovah God, as to His nature, is love.  He consistently demonstrates His love by being compassionate.  But God does have self-imposed limits and boundaries and hence, His compassion can run out.  These limits and boundaries have to do with sin in all its forms.  This running out of His compassion seems to be temporal, with respect to Israel, and not eternal.  He sets conditions for restoration to His temporal compassion, but seems to state that in the final analysis His immanent lovingkindness - which is demonstrated through His transitive compassion - will be eternally bestowed upon Israel.

        We are now ready to move on to the second most commonly used Hebrew word that is translated "compassion," "compassions," and "compassionate."  That word is racham (rakh'-am), 7356.  It is derived from the primary word racham (raw-kham'), 7355, which literally means to fondle, love or be compassionate.  This word racham (rakh'-am), 7356, means (originally brotherhood, brotherly feeling, of those born from the same womb, or motherly feeling)" (The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon).  This brings out two principles with respect to God's love.  Let's call them the Brother-principle and the Mother-principle of God.  Back in study number four, we got a glimpse of the Motherly nature of God when He contrasted His compassion with that of a nursing mother.  I teach Systematic Theology at Logos Bible Institute and one of our sections of study is entitled The Doctrine of God, The Father.  Certainly God depicts Himself repeatedly as The Father.  But did you realize that God also depicts Himself as a Mother a substantial number of times?  Therefore, we can call this Self-revelation of God the Mother-principle of God.

        Although we shall spend most of our time dealing with the Mother-principle of God that this word suggests in the Old Testament, when we get to the New Testament the Brother-principle of God is demonstrated in Jesus Christ our Elder Brother.   Nevertheless, let's concentrate on the Mother-principle of God for now.

        After reviewing the Scriptures where the word racham (rakh'-am), 7356, is used, I could see:

Principle #3:  Jehovah God, as to His nature is love, He demonstrates His love by consistently being compassionate.  In certain instances His compassion is depicted as a Motherly feeling towards His children.

(As we look at how each of these principles concerning God's compassion is represented in the Scripture, we have been making specific observations in each individual passage of Scripture.  Although these observations will, in many cases, include an observation, an interpretation and an application, for the sake of brevity we have been calling these statements "observations".  We have been numbering them with a double number.  The first number indicates the principle that is being applied and the second number indicates the particular observation with respect to that principle.  Let's begin the study of this new principle with the fact that:)

        This word is translated compassions one time in

Lamentations 3:22, "The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail."

Observation 3.1:  What a powerful statement concerning the loving nature of Jehovah God!  His lovingkindnesses never cease to His people.  The word "lovingkindnesses" is the Hebrew word hesed.  This word stands for the immanent, absolute covenant love, grace, mercy and kindness of God.  The fact that the word is plural refers to the individual acts which flow from the eternal nature of God.  His lovingkindness never stop.

        I am trying to help you mature in Christ by looking at the nature of God.  It takes a mature Christian to deduce from the acts of God His eternal nature.  God told Moses that He would show the Children of Israel His acts, but He would show Him His ways!!!  Immature Christians are often so preoccupied with the acts of God that they fail to understand the personality, characteristics, attributes and ways of God!

        In addition, the Scripture says that His compassions never fail!  His display of His Motherly feelings towards His people never stop!  The word also stands for the individual acts which flow from these never failing Motherly feelings.

        I praise God for this Scripture!  Why?  Because, in the words of the Negro Spiritual, "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child!"  I have been 'buked, scorned, talked about, mistreated and misunderstood.  I have wonderful parents, but sometimes they can't help me.  No wonder David said, "When my mother and my father forsake me, then the Lord will take me up."  Sometimes I need the never failing nurture of God, the Mother of the universe!!!

        Praise God that He verifies this love and compassion in the New Testament.

Romans 8:35, 38-39, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, distress, or persecution, or famine, nakedness, or peril, or sword?  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

This word is translated "compassion" 30 times.

Three of those times the word is not used in reference to God, but it is still used in relationship to God.

Zechariah 7:9, "Thus has the Lord of hosts said, `Dispense true justice, and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother.'"

Observation 3.2:  Although this Scripture is not directly concerned with the compassion of God, it is indirectly.  Zechariah prophesies the words of the Lord, therefore it is Jehovah God that calls Israel to practice kindness and compassion towards their brothers.  They were to have a brotherly or motherly feeling for their Israelite brothers.  This proceeds from and is consistent with the loving, compassionate nature of Jehovah God.

        We have similar exhortations in the New Testament.  In Peter's second epistle, he exhorts his readers to grow in their faith.  In that exhortation, he outlines various levels of growth in faith.  He states in

2 Peter 1:5-7, "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness..."

Here we are exhorted to treat our brother with a specific kindness.  The phrase "brotherly kindness" is really one word in the Greek, philadelphia.  This word is a compound word.  It is composed of phileo, "to be fond of," and adelphos, "brother."  The word is literally "brotherly love."  Phileo is the love of personal affection and liking.  From this kind of love flows a brotherly kindness or compassion.  This is almost identical to the word we are studying, which means to have a brotherly feeling for.  While we tend to center on the many admonitions to love (agape) our brother, and well we should, there are also specific admonitions and exhortations to extend tender compassion towards our Christian family.  One such exhortation is seen in

Ephesians 4:32, "And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

The compound word "tender-hearted" is translated "compassionate" in the New International Version of the Bible.  It is the Greek word eusplaghnos 2155.  It is literally eu, which means well and splagchnon, which means intestine, spleen or bowels.  So the word is literally "well-intestined" or "strong bowels."

"The bowels were regarded by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, especially kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence equivalent to our heart, [tender mercies, affections, etc.]."[1]

Therefore, we are exhorted, even commanded, to be compassionate towards our brothers and sisters in the Lord!!!

(Let's move on to the second Scripture where racham (rakh'-am), 7356, is related to God.)

Amos 1:11, "Thus says the Lord, `For three transgressions of Edom and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because he pursued his brother with the sword, While he stifled his compassion; his anger also tore continually, And he maintained his fury forever.

Observation 3.3:  This particular passage of Scripture is about Israel's enemy, Edom.  This animosity runs all the way back to Esau and Jacob, because the Edomites are the descendants of Esau and the Israelites are the descendants of Jacob.  Edom was continually against Israel.  One time Edom attacked the stragglers of Israel as they wandered through the wilderness.  God evidently had been compassionate towards Edom up to this time, but because of four transgressions against His people He would no longer hold back their punishment.

        It is interesting that Edom's own compassion was stifled with respect to its dealing with the nation of Israel.  It was stifled, evidently, because of anger.  Esau was angry with Jacob, because He stole His birthright and His blessing.  Perhaps this anger affected His offspring.  The sins of the parents are passed on to the third and fourth generations of those who hate God.

        Whatever the case, the anger of human beings, like God whose image we bare, short-circuits or restrains our compassion.  And God stifles His own compassion towards those who stifle their compassion towards His chosen people.

        We should see then that anger inhibits and in some cases prohibits compassion.  I am trying to be very specific in our extensive study of compassion.  To inhibit means to partially block or retard.  To prohibit means to block all together.  We can see then that anger and compassion are mutually exclusive or well close to it!  Particularly the kind of anger that Edom had.  Edom's anger was long term anger.  Long term anger turns into bitterness and bitterness certainly prohibits compassion.  From our survey of the Scriptures, we can see that it had the same effect on the compassion of God.

        This is why husbands and wives can't show compassion towards their mates.  They are bitter against them and bitterness will not allow them to forgive their mates.  This short-circuits and prohibits their compassion!

        We are warned in the New Testament about the devastating impact of anger in

Hebrews 12:15, "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many are defiled."

James 1:19-20, "This you know, my beloved brethren.  But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."

How do you deal with destructive anger?  Recognize it!  Confess it!  Repent of it!  Try to relate to the subject of your anger as a fellow human being!

        Secondly, we should see that when we are not compassionate towards God's children, He will not be compassionate towards us.

Matthew 18:6, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea."

Matthew 25:40, "And the King will answer and say to them, `Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'"

Matthew 25:45, "Then He will answer them saying, `Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'"

(Let's move on to the Scripture where the third occurrence of racham (rakh'-am), 7356, is related to God.)

Proverbs 12:10, "A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, But the compassion of the wicked is cruel."

Observation 3.4:  The wicked man has no compassion.  The compassion that the wicked think they are displaying is cruel.  If God is the father of mercies, God of all comfort and source of all compassion, then it stands to reason that the wicked would have no compassion.

        Based upon this standard of measure are you wicked or righteous.  The righteous are compassionate.  The wicked have no compassion and are even cruel when trying to display compassion.

        It is good to know that we serve a God who has tender, Motherly feelings for His children.  That should put a whole different light on our relationship with Him and our relationship with one another!

(Now is the day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nineteenth Zondervan Printing 1978, pp. 584-585.

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