When we think about God, a multitude of attributes and characteristics may come to mind–powerful, eternal, omniscient, sovereign, glorious, and too many to name. We think of Him often with the grandest distinctions, reasoning with the idea that He is not like us and rightfully so. But what about the aspects of God's nature that lead us to see Him as a God who draws near? A God who is approachable? It's likely, for many of us, that we look over this very important aspect of God's nature. For many of us, we easily see His majesty and glory, but we miss the comfort and refuge found in the midst of His extraordinary nature. He is a God who looks at His people, cares for His people, and moves in love toward His people. One attribute that encompasses this understanding of God is one we must readily remember–He is compassionate.
Now, as we look to the Scriptures to uncover the compassion of God, you may surge through the Old Testament, seeing God provoked to anger, making judgments, displaying His wrath, and wondering, "Where is His compassion?" But it is there and there in full. Isaiah 55 shines brightly with the compassion of God: "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call to him while he is near. Let the wicked one abandon his way and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, so he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will freely forgive" (Isaiah 55:6-7). There is a continual pattern of God, moved by compassion, to draw near to us. Woven into the pages of Hosea is a God who is heartbroken by the rebellion of His people, Israel. At length, He lists the ways they have turned from Him to indulge in all that is not lasting. He is angered, yes, but His anger ends. Moved by compassion, He concludes this book with a proclamation of His great love for His people as is stated in Hosea 14:3: "For the fatherless receive compassion in you." His compassion is evident time and time again in the forgiveness offered to His people amidst their rebellion.
God is compassionate in nature, and His compassion is not limited. It is endless and unfailing. He offers it like a river that never runs dry. Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV) reminds us that "because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail." His compassion, accompanied by love, is the story of the Bible. It is the story of a God who would stop at nothing to draw near to His people. We find the crescendo of this truth in that God sent the fullness of His compassion to us in the form of Jesus Christ. He drew near to us in our own form–He became like us to save us. The ministry of Jesus is an overflow of the compassionate nature of His Father. He touched the sick and diseased. He healed the physically impaired. He dined with the undesirables. He looked and noticed the poor in spirit, offering them true hope and healing. But His greatest display of compassion is that He gave His life in exchange for ours. He saw the broken and abandoned people of this world and, moved by compassion, did what had to be done to truly unite us with God forever. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds, you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24). From Genesis to Revelation, the compassion of God leads Him in love not to abandon us but to seek us out so that through salvation through His Son, He can reside nearest to us forever.
The compassion of God must not be missed within the pages of Scripture. It is an attribute we must continually come back to as we aim to know, love, and enjoy God forever and fulfill the mission He has entrusted to us. How can we meditate on God's compassion today? May His great and astounding attribute of compassion move us and shape us in love toward Him and toward others. As Thomas Chisholm expresses in the Hymn, "O To Be Like Thee":
O to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender, and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find!
O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art!
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart."