JEHOVAH GOD IS MOVED WITH PITY OVER OUR PLIGHT
THE GOSPEL IN MINIATURE
Someone has called John 3:16 "the heart of the Bible--the gospel in miniature." It expresses the reason Jesus came into this world. Consider these simple, powerful words:
God.........................the greatest Lover
So loved...................the greatest degree
The world..................the greatest number
That He gave..................the greatest act
His only begotten Son........the greatest Gift
That whoever...........the greatest invitation
Believes...............the greatest simplicity
In Him.....................the greatest Person
Should not perish.....the greatest deliverance
But...................the greatest difference
Have....................the greatest certainty
Everlasting life.......the greatest possession
While reading John 3 to her little daughter, a mother paused after the 16th verse and exclaimed, "Don't you think that's wonderful, dear?" The child looked up in surprise and said, "No!" Thinking she might have misunderstood, the mother repeated the question. Again the girl shook her head, saying, "Mommy, it would be wonderful if it were anyone else, but really, it's just like God!"
It is just like God to be loving and compassionate!!!
This is study twelve in our series on the biblical doctrine of compassion. We are presently studying the magnificent compassion of God. Eleven 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 most common Hebrew word, racham (raw-kham'), 7355, and the second most common Hebrew word, racham (rakh'-am), 7356, are translated "compassion," "compassions," or "compassionate."
In our last message, we began making observations on the Scriptures where the third most common Hebrew word, rachuwm (rakh-oom'), 7349, is used. We are presently completing our observations on those eleven occurrences.
God reveals Himself to humanity through general and special revelation. General revelation is the God revealing Himself through nature. The heavens declare the handiwork of the Lord. Special revelation is God revealing Himself to us through the Scriptures. The Scriptures, the Bible, or the Word of God is a progressive revelation of God. It is not progressive from falsehood to truth, but progressive in revealing, clarifying and unfolding more of the truth. We have already learned a great deal in our study of the doctrine of compassion, but each week we pick up additional information and a fuller understanding of the doctrine. The information in this week's study led me to formulate, through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, another principle.
Principle #4: Jehovah God as to His nature is love. He consistently demonstrates His love by being compassionate. In certain instances, His compassion is depicted as pity. He has sympathetic, heartfelt sorrow for our suffering. He pities us!
(As we look at how each of these principles concerning God's compassion is developed and 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 continue our study with:)
Jonah 4:2, "And he prayed to the Lord and said, "Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity."
Observation 4.1: The primary truth of this verse of Scripture has been covered in several other observations, i.e. because the Lord is compassionate, He relents, forgives, yields or acts with compassion with respect to planned judgment or chastening when people repent. But what led to this new observation is the new word that is introduced to our study. The word is "relent."
This word and its cognates, "relented," "relenting," and "relents," are used only in the Old Testament of the NASB and they occur 14 times. Thirteen times the Hebrew word is nacham (naw-kham') 5162. This word literally means "to sigh." Did you hear that? God is so emotionally moved over our plight that He sighs in heaven!
I think I know a little bit of how God feels. When I get emotionally stressed out, as I have been lately, I sit around and sigh. Sighing is often an involuntary way of expressing emotions or feelings. Webster says to sigh is "to let out slowly and audibly a deeply drawn breath especially as the involuntary expression of weariness, dejection, grief, regret, longing, yearning, relief." I sigh a lot, so I express a lot of emotional pain. Most people can't get in touch with my pain, because they don't understand and are not compassionate towards sighing.
(Let's go back to the word "relent.")
The Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Lexicons says that the word means to
"1. be sorry, moved to pity, have compassion" (The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon).
This is the first time that the words "sorrow" and "pity" have come up in a definition of the Hebrew words translated, "compassion," "compassions," or "compassionate." We shall not survey all of these Scriptures at this point, as that would be outside of the scope of this series of messages and because nacham is also translated "compassion" in two other Scriptures which we shall study in our next sermon. So let me make three notations at this time:
1. The word "relent" and its cognates highlight the emotional element of sorrow. In Genesis 6:6, as well as a few other places, the word is translated "sorry." God was "sorry" that He made man. This is a much better translation than the KJV "repent." The word "repent" denotes a change in mind. God does not decide to do something, then change His mind; then change His mind back. But God was moved with sorrow over the condition of man. This is one definition of the Hebrew word nacham (naw-kham') 5162. God is a compassionate God who is moved with sorrow concerning the plight of His children and becomes less severe, harsh or strict according to His plan. Another way of saying this is, "Because of His sorrow, with respect to the plight of His children, God is gracious towards His children!
That generates joy in my soul! I am glad to know that God is emotionally impacted with my plight! I am glad that God sighs over my plight. Because He is emotionally impacted, He is inclined to deliver me from that plight.
2. The word "relent" and its cognates also highlight the emotional element of "pity." Webster says that pity is
pity "2 a (1) sympathetic heartfelt sorrow for one that is suffering physically or mentally or is otherwise distressed or unhappy (as through misfortune, difficulties) : compassion, commiseration (2) : the capacity to feel such sorrow."
In our day an age we reject pity, because it can suggest a superior looking down on an inferior. And that kind of pity is inappropriate to demonstrate towards one another.
But I am so glad that I serve a God who has sympathetic heartfelt sorrow for my suffering and misfortune, because He is The Superior being bending down to feel and relieve the pain of inferiors, i.e. us. In the Bible this is called grace!!!
It is also important that we understand sympathy. Again Webster says that sympathy is
sympathy "4 a : the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another : the character or fact of being sensitive to or affected by another's emotions, experiences, or especially sorrows b : the feeling or mental state brought about by such sensitivity : the expression or demonstration of this feeling."
Not only is God moved with sorrow concerning my plight, He shares all my feelings and interests concerning my suffering!
Hebrews 4:15, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."
Did you get that? God enters into and shares my feelings and interests with respect to suffering. God is sensitive to and affected by my emotions, experiences and sorrows! What a loving, caring God we serve! We shall study in future messages, the fact that God went beyond sympathy for us to empathy with us in the form of His Son Jesus Christ. He came down and died on a rugged cross on our behalf!!!
Sympathy is tenderly illustrated in this little story:
ONE WHO FEELS AND UNDERSTANDS
Someone put up a sign: "Puppies For Sale." Among those who came to inquire was a young boy. "Please, Mister," he said, "I'd like to buy one if they don't cost too much." "Well, son, they're $25." The boy looked crushed. "I've only got two dollars and five cents. Could I see them anyway?" "Of course. Maybe we can work something out." The lad's eyes danced at the sight of those five little balls of fur. "I heard that one has a bad leg," he said. "Yes, I'm afraid she's cripple for life." "Well, that's the puppy I want. Could I pay for her a little at a time?" The man responded, "But she'll always have a limp." Smiling bravely, the boy pulled up one pant leg, revealing a brace. "I don't walk good either." Then, looking at the puppy sympathetically, he continued, "I guess she'll need a lot of love and help. I sure did. It's not so easy being crippled." "Here, take her," said the man. "I know you'll give her a good home. And just forget the money." The boy's own experience had given him feeling for the puppy.
(That brings us to the third notation I want to make concerning the word "relent.")
3. The words "pity," "sorry" or "sorrow" and "compassion" are used as synonyms in defining the word "relent." This can be seen most clearly in
Jeremiah 13:14, "`And I will dash them against each other, both the fathers and the sons together,' declares the Lord. `I will not show pity nor be sorry nor have compassion that I should not destroy them.'"
Even though all of these words can be used interchangeably, there may be a cause and effect relationship when considered more strictly:
1) Sorrow and/or pity are the cause, whereas compassion is the effect.
2) Sorrow and/or pity is the motivation, whereas compassion is the practical demonstration.
3) Sorrow and/or pity is the intellectual/emotional element, whereas compassion is the intellectual/emotional/volitional element. Remember, I believe that these three aspects of man's heart are built one upon another.
The word "relent" has only one other usage not categorized thus far. That usage is in:
Ezekiel 24:14, "`I, the Lord, have spoken; it is coming and I shall act. I shall not relent, and I shall not pity, and I shall not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I shall judge you,' declares the Lord God."
The Hebrew word there is para (paw-rah') 6544a. It means to "let alone" or in this particular verse to "refrain." Jehovah God's lovingkindness and compassion causes Him to "relent" or "refrain" from pouring out deserved justice. There comes a point when God will not refrain from bringing judgment and chastening. We already studied the fact that His temporal compassion can run out in principle #2.
Although it is important to understand that fact that God's compassion can run out, it is far more important to understand that our God is a compassionate God who is inclined to relent concerning pouring out justice upon His children!.
(Let's go on to the final Scripture where rachuwm (rakh-oom') 7349 is translated "compassionate.")
Joel 2:12-13, "`Yet even now,' declares the Lord, `Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.' Now return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, And relenting of evil."
Observation 1:24: We have already pointed out, repeatedly, that these Scriptures about returning to the Lord have to do with repentance. Once again, we can see a list of the important elements of repentance:
(1) Return with all your heart;
(2) Return with fasting;
(3) Return with weeping;
(4) Return with mourning;
(5) Return by rending your heart.
Once again we see that repentance is a heart transaction. It is a transaction of the whole inner man. It is a transaction of the whole intellect, emotion and will with the emotion being dominant in this case.
We also see five reasons why the children of Israel should return to the Lord. These five reasons are found in the five characteristics of God's loving nature:
(1) He is gracious;
(2) He is compassionate;
(3) He is slow to anger;
(4) He is abounding in lovingkindness; and
(5) He is relenting of evil.
I praise God that we serve a gracious, compassionate God; One who is slow to anger (long-suffering), is abundant in lovingkindness, who relents concerning calamity, i.e. He is moved with sorrow, pity and sympathy with respect to our deserved distress and justice. I am glad that we serve a God who is compassionate towards our repentance; One who is moved with the feelings of our infirmity and relents concerning the deserved destruction that He had planned. Surely our God, Jehovah God, is a compassionate God!!!
(Now is the day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, now!)
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