Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103: 8-14
Have you ever pondered how great the divide is between your own ability to show compassion to others in relation to how God is compassionate towards even those who revile Him and live lives in complete opposition to His sovereign reign over all His creation. I have many times, I think mostly because I know thinking, feeling, and acting compassionate towards others is something I have to think about in order to show it in my life, it is not what I would call a natural trait of mine.
But fortunately, we know that God does not have greater or lesser traits like we do as humans and therefore His compassion, or mercy, as we are studying this attribute of God in our continued reading of The Attributes of God by AW Tozer, is another full-embodied part of Him that works in tandem with all of His other attributes. Maybe you have never thought of the disconnect we humans have with the concept of mercy, which Tozer uses interchangeably with the word compassion, but here is my quote today from Him that may get you thinking along those lines:
“A great many people are very merciful in their beds, in their lovely living rooms, in their new cars. They have compassion (a noun), by they never 'compassionate' (a verb). They read some thing in the newspaper about somebody suffering and say, 'Aw, isn't that terrible! That poor family was burned out and they're out on the street with no place to go,' and then they turn the radio on and listen to some other program. They're very compassionate – for a minute and a half – but they don't 'compassionate'; that is , they don't do anything about it. But God's compassion leads Him to actively 'compassionate'.” AW Tozer
One of my favorite stories that shows the compassion of Jesus is from Mark 6. In my bible I have the words '...was moved with compassion for them...” highlighted, starred, and noted because when I find myself looking onto a crowd of needy people, the last thing I usually have going through my mind is compassion on their needs and a desire to prayerfully seek how I can meet their needs through my Father in heaven. But, Jesus did, and I often read this verse in awe of the way He could look at theses people with such compassion while He Himself was still in so much pain. (He had just learned in the previous text that John the Baptist had just been beheaded.)
“...Jesus...saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things. [Then later He told His disciples]...'You give them something to eat.'...[but only an excuse came out of the mouths of the disciples.]...And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled.” Mark 6:34, 37, 41-42
The most profound contrast in this story that gives me hope is that just like I lack natural compassion towards others, so too did the men who walked closest with Jesus. It seems to be a story that gives us all hope in the degrees we fall short of being a reflection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot be good, we cannot be just, we cannot be merciful...and the list goes on and on, because we are not God. But there is hope for us to be like Him if we will but only allow Him to be those things in us as these next two verses highlight.
I guess the point I am coming to as I end this devotional today is that we can look at all of the attributes of God that we have been studying and find ourselves coming up more and more short. But God in His mercy does not want us to see ourselves that way, because He does not see us in that manner. We are His sheep and we need Him as our Shepherd. He is wanting to be 'compassionate' towards us, but we must be willing to sit on the grass and let Him feed us and teach us in order to receive His compassion which He so willingly wants to give to us as an extension of who we are in Him.