GOD, THE MOTHER, HEARS THE CRIES OF HIS CHILDREN
"JUST ASK FOR IT!"
During the Spanish-American War, Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross, was working in Cuba. One day Colonel Theodore Roosevelt came to her and offered to buy food for some of his sick and wounded Rough Riders. But she refused to sell him what he wanted. Roosevelt could not understand. He cared about his men, and he was going to pay for the supplies out of his own funds. So he went to the surgeon in charge, who said to him, "Colonel, just ask for it!" A smile broke over Roosevelt's face. Now he understood-the provisions were not for sale. "I will ask for it," he said, and when he did, he got the food at once.
Sometimes we view God like we do other people, i.e. we think He wants us to pay for His provisions. But God is a God of compassion Who daily loads us with benefits, if we simply ask Him!
This is study number seven in our series on the biblical doctrine of compassion. We are presently studying the magnificent compassion of God. Six messages ago we embarked on a long expedition through the uses of various Hebrew and Greek words translated "compassion," "compassions," and "compassionate." We have surveyed all the Scriptures where the Hebrew word racham (raw-kham'), 7355, is translated "compassion," "compassions," or "compassionate," in relationship to God.
We are now working on the second most commonly used Hebrew word that is translated "compassion," "compassions," and "compassionate." That word is racham (rakh'-am), 7356. 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.
We have already observed four Scriptures where the word racham (rakh'-am), 7356, was used. Let's continue this study surveying the remaining usages of the word racham (rakh'-am), 7356, when it is translated compassion.)
This particular word is used and translated "compassion" 27 more times in the Old Testament. All of these usages have to do with God.
(Let's get started on our journey throuth these Scriptures.)
Genesis 43:14, "And may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, that he may release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved."
Observation 3.5: Jacob sent Benjamin, with His brothers, to Egypt to get bread from Joseph whom they had not yet recognized. Jacob calls upon the grace of God to grant them compassion in the sight of Joseph. He could do this based upon God's covenant with Abraham, but not on the basis of any merit on His part! We observed that back in
Observation 1.2: No man can lay any just claim to the grace and compassion of Jehovah God. His grace and compassion are unconditional and they originate with Himself. His grace and compassion are unconditional in the sense that there were no conditions stated whereby the Israelites first obtained this compassion. There are conditions which must be met to keep this compassion or to restore it in time, but the ultimate salvation of Israel is based upon God's lovingkindness and compassion.
It seems that we can ask for God's compassion, based upon His covenant of grace through Jesus Christ, which includes us as Christ's body, but we must remember that God dispenses His grace by His own sovereign choice, not on the basis of request or merit.
John 1:12-13, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
On the basis of this understanding, we really don't need to pray for or ask for God's compassion from His perspective, because it is automatically forthcoming because of who we are in Christ Jesus! On the other hand, we do need to pray for His compassion, not because of its impact upon God, but because of its impact upon us. Prayer, in this instance does not change God, but changes us!!! So go ahead! Pray for God's compassion in your marriage, finances, job situation, relationships, ministry, etc. We used to say, "Prayer changes things," but in actuality prayer changes people. Coming from this perspective: we need a lot of prayer.
(Let's move on to the next Scripture.)
1 Kings 8:50, "And forgive Thy people who have sinned against Thee and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against Thee, and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them."
Observation 3.6: This is the record of the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple. He prays concerning the various possible, future situations of the Israelites.
In the eighth chapter, he prays about their future sins, consequences and repentance.
He prays for foreigners who would become a part of the kingdom in the future.
He prays about future battles that they would encounter.
He prays about the future anger of God against the sin of Israel.
He prays about their captivity on account of the anger of God.
And finally, he prays about God making them objects of compassion before those who control their captivity.
Who else can render a person or a nation as objects of compassion, but the God of compassion? Once again I remind you that Solomon, The king of Israel, is praying in the light and awareness of the covenant of God with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So, he is not praying on the basis of merit or deservedness, but on the basis of God's covenant with Israel.
If you are going to need compassion before some person or persons and you are inclined to pray about it, you will need to pray to God, because He is the only one who can render anyone compassionate! And I would pray on the basis of His covenant of grace with us. I would pray for compassion that His name may be glorified. That is His ultimate purpose for the church, i.e. to save us, sanctify us and present us spotless before His throne that we may glorify Him. Our prayers to God are often based on other motives and are therefore, not answered!
James 4:3, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spent it on your pleasures."
If you want to get your prayers answered, your motives must be biblical and theological, not anthropological. Your motives must be to glorify God, not to indulge yourself!
(Let's move on to the next Scripture.)
2 Chronicles 30:9, "For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your sons will find compassion before those who led them captive, and will return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him."
Observation 3.7: These are the words of King Hezekiah. King Hezekiah invited all of Israel to the celebration of the Passover. The Passover had not been celebrated at the proper time because a sufficient number of priests had not consecrated themselves, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem. In the letter, Hezekiah warns these Israelites against being stiff-necked like their fathers who were carried away into Assyria. Then he reminds them of the conditions of restoration of their brother and sons to the compassion of God. The condition is the same as in the other places that we have studied: repentance.
Let's deal with the converse of this statement first. If it is true that God will not turn His face away from those who return to Him in repentance, then the converse of that statement is also true: He will turn His face away from those who do not return to Him in repentance. The face is very important in relationships. The Greek in John 1:1 suggests that God and Jesus had a face-to-face fellowship in eternity past. This face-to-face fellowship speaks of great intimacy. Only those who are extremely close can look into each others eyes for extended periods of time.
LOOK AT THAT FACE!
An exhibit at the 1964 New York World's Fair displayed a unique kind of telephone that finally seems to be coming of age. The American Telephone and Telegraph Company introduced the picturephone, which enables a caller not only to talk to the person on the other end of the line but also to see him. Since then, AT&T has spent $17.5 million to develop the device, but so far it has turned out to be too expensive for widespread use. However, it may become practical for large companies to use in making conference calls. Instead of spending time and money traveling, people in business would be able to see as well as hear their clients in other cities by using a picturephone. AT&T's investment shows that they believe the face is essential in maintaining relationships.
This will help us refine our understanding of the relationship between sin and compassion. God's face speaks of intimate fellowship. The turning away of His face speaks of a serious break in fellowship. When we sin, it always affects our fellowship with God. But every sin does not result in the withdrawal of His compassion. Sin always affects our fellowship with God, but it is not sin per se that short-circuits the compassion of God. He has provided a means to deal with our sins and to deal with us when we have sinned: the blood of Jesus Christ. If we repent and confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness. So it is not simple sin that short circuits the compassion of God, but certain kinds of sin such as high-handed sin and sin that is unrepented of.
A loving mother would not turn her face away from her children for small offenses. But high-handed, presumptuous, serious sins and sins that were not repented of would affect even the love of a compassionate mother!!!
God's turning His face away from the Israelites is also a manifestation of His anger and His disappointment. When we are angry or extremely disappointed with someone, we do not want to deal with that person. Metaphorically, it means that God would not deal with the Israelites in compassion and, as we have studied, would turn them over to the full consequences of their sin..
Therefore, God's turning His face away, is another manifestation of God's short-circuited compassion. This confirms our earlier conclusions that God's compassion is inhibibted and sometimes prohibited by high-handed sin and sin that is not repented of. Keep in mind that the word "compassion" here means a motherly feeling.
(But the Scripture is addressing what happens when the Israelites did repent.)
In this passage of Scripture we pick up additional information about God's character which should give us an assurance. Because God is gracious and compassionate, He will not turn His face away from the Israelites if they return to Him or repent. What a picture of God!!! He acts like a loving mother! If His children will just repent, He cannot help but respond to them. This is seen repeatedly in the history of God's people, particularly during the book of Numbers and during the time of the judges. The children of Israel rebelled against God at least 10 times during the book of Numbers, and the Lord responded to their repentance each time.
This can also be seen in the book of Judges. The book of Judges, is the book of cycles. The people fall into sin; God disciplines them with foreign oppression; the people cry out in repentance; God raises up a deliverer; peace is restored. This five-step cycle - sin, servitude, supplication, salvation, silence - is repeated a total of seven times in the Judges. But God, ever faithful to His covenant people, extends His grace and compassion to them again and again.
Likewise, Jesus Christ is gracious and compassionate towards His children when they cry to them: no matter what their plight may be. Jesus demonstrates this in His life and ministry over and over again. He was compassionate towards and saved some of the most undeserving people, from a human perspective. As a matter of fact, the disciples were a sorry lot of men outside of the grace and compassion of Jesus Christ. And His compassion towards Saul of Tarsus, by saving him and using him so mightily, is truly remarkable.
His readiness to turn and face us in full fellowship when we repent can be seen in:
1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
(Let's move on to the final Scripture.)
Nehemiah 1:11 "O Lord, I beseech Thee, may Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant and the prayer of Thy servants who delight to revere Thy name, and make Thy servant successful today, and grant him compassion before this man." Now I was the cupbearer to the king.
Observation 3.8: Nehemiah prays to Jehovah God that He would grant him compassion before the king, Artaxerxes I. Jehovah God is rich in mercy, the Father of mercy and the God of all comfort. He is also, obviously, the God of all compassion. Therefore, Nehemiah prays to God for His compassion upon the only legitimate basis at His disposal: grace!!!
If you are going to ask God for His compassion, or anything else for that matter, the only legitimate basis for your request is grace. Although many of us have a demanding attitude, i.e. an attitude of entitlement, it is true that we deserve nothing from God but hell. I am not saying this in a negative way. I am not saying this in a self-denegrating way. I am not saying this in a pitiful way. I am saying this in a true, thankful, knowledgeable way. Until you cultivate the attitude of thankfulness in the place of entitlement, you will not experience the full blessings of God!!!
We have nothing that we could offer to God in and of ourselves. But because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross; because we placed our faith in Him and died in Him and rose from the dead in Him; because our inheritance is in Him, all of our rights and privileges are in Him! So, if we want to request anything from God, we must do it on the basis of His grace which has been extended to us because of Jesus Christ!!!
Let us praise our God, for He is a gracious God!!! He has a motherly feeling for His children, and will not turn His face away from us when we repent. He has chosen us in His grace, saved us by grace, keeps us by grace, will glorify us because of His grace and will display His grace toward us through the unending ages to come!
(Now is the day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, now!)
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