Everyone needs compassion. Our gracious God, the ultimate source of love and mercy, readily extends compassion to us when we face the great challenges in our life. But it doesn’t stop there. God is not “deservingly” showing compassion to us because we have made sacrifices for his namesake. He overwhelms us with compassion when we deserve it the least. When our ears have been deaf to his calling, when our back has been turned, when our eyes are glistening with selfish pride, that is when he is most compassionate. It is pretty simple: life is best lived in and by the design of God. Anything else is to be pitied. But we do not serve a God of overwhelming pity. He doesn’t stop at, “man, that stinks, wish you would have made some better choices there, bud.” He picks us up in our filth, gives us the full concentration of his blessings, and turns our feet back on the path that leads to him. Over and over again. Undeservedly. In today’s reading, we get a quick lesson in the history of compassion of Israel from Abraham to Nehemiah. Draw some (rather easy) parallels to your own life as your study this account of the rich mercies of God.
“But they, our ancestors, were arrogant; bullheaded, they wouldn’t obey your commands. They turned a deaf ear, they refused to remember the miracles you had done for them;…And you, a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, Incredibly patient, with tons of love – you didn’t dump them.” – Nehemiah 9:16 MSG
- God still has compassion for you, even after you have been arrogant. You can attempt to go it alone. God doesn’t give up that easily. When the miracles no longer come, when the blessing subside, and you decide to turn back, he doesn’t merely say, “told you so.” He says “turn around, I’m still here.”
“Yes, even when they cast a sculpted calf and said, “This is your god Who brought you out of Egypt,” and continued from bad to worse, You in your amazing compassion didn’t walk off and leave them in the desert.” – Nehemiah 9:18 MSG
- God still has compassion for you, even when you don’t give him credit. Oh, how we like to take credit. How scorned are we when we don’t get the little credit due to us? And we haven’t really done anything. It would be simple enough to say, “Good luck in the desert by yourself,” yet God hears the cries of his people and comes rushing in to, again, fight the battles.
But then they mutinied, rebelled against you, threw out your laws and killed your prophets, the very prophets who tried to get them back on your side— and then things went from bad to worse. And in keeping with your bottomless compassion you gave them saviors: saviors who saved them from the cruel abuse of their enemies. – Nehemiah 9:27
- God still has compassion for you, even when you stab him in the back. That’s right, literal stabbing of prophets delivering the word of God. Maybe you are not guilty of such a crime, but openly denying the word of God delivered to you in your life is an equal abuse of the Word of God. That’s pretty much what sin is. But guess what? Those who openly and defiantly deny the gospel, receive sanctification and redemption through Jesus Christ if they make him the Lord and Savior of their life. Your confession is never rejected, if done so from the heart.
But as soon as they had it easy again they were right back at it—more evil. So you turned away and left them again to their fate, to the enemies who came right back. They cried out to you again; in your great compassion you heard and helped them again.
This went on over and over and over. They turned their backs on you and didn’t listen. – Nehemiah 9: 28, 29 MSG
- God still has compassion for you when you return right back to your sin. That’s right, we are almost cartoonish in our behavior sometimes. Do the sin. Ask for forgiveness. <5 min later> Do the sin. Ask forgiveness. Thankfully, we have a God of infinite mercies, BUT as Paul says our goal is not to exhaust the grace of God. If you haven’t figured it out, somewhere in our sinful nature is the habit to turn back to sin, but we must try to actively stop or flee from it. God is unfatigued with extending his compassions if we truly seek him through repentance.
You put up with them year after year and warned them by your spirit through your prophets; But when they refused to listen you abandoned them to foreigners. Still, because of your great compassion, you didn’t make a total end to them. You didn’t walk out and leave them for good; yes, you are a God of grace and compassion. – Nehemiah 9:30,31 MSG
- If you’re reading this, God still has compassion for you. You are not abandoned. It may feel foreign because you have pitched a tent outside the wall, but there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Maybe you’re seemingly satisfied to be out there for now. Man, that’s awful. You will not receive even the pity of men if this is where you stand. But God looks compassionately upon you, and leaves the gate open, giving every opportunity to be a part of his grace, love, forgiveness and hope. There is a time limit though, an end game. Once you stop breathing, it’s over. There are no guarantees when this will be. An even more compelling argument than “no guarantees” is every moment you are not living in the presence of God, you walk around heavily burdened with sin, guilt, doubt, and shame because you don’t know His compassion. He will take it all from you and cast it as far as the east is from the west. Stop. Turn. Cry. Listen. Let go. It is time to let His compassion overwhelm you.