The Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, talks a lot about God’s compassion. God’s “compassion is over all that he has made” (Ps 145:9). God’s “compassion grows warm and tender” (Hos 11:8). God “will have compassion on his suffering ones” (Is 49:13). The Hebrew word, translated compassion, speaks of a deep love and a tender affection. This, says our Bible, is what God is like – a deep lover with feelings of tenderness.
It’s hard to imagine that our God is really tender. After all, our world can be a pretty hard place. I believe the philosopher Anonymous once said, “God made man in his image and man has been returning the favor ever since.” I think Anonymous was right. We see a world that is tough and stern. And we project that sternness onto God. In other words, we look around and see hard hearts. We just assume (usually subconsciously) that God is the same.
The Old Testament isn’t at all unclear on the matter – God is compassionate. But if we missed the message, we see in Jesus the embodiment of God’s compassion. On numerous occasions, Jesus encounters a horrible form of human brokenness and is “moved with compassion” (Matt 20:34). But our English word “compassion” doesn’t capture the full weight of the word splagchnizomai (pronounced just like its spelled), a Greek word which means “bowel-shaking.” In antiquity, the bowels were thought to be the seat of love, pity, and affection. In the face of human sin and suffering, Jesus’ bowels would shake violently – so deep was Jesus’ love, so tender was his affection, for those whom were hurting.
And so our God is a God of bowel-shaking compassion. God has a soft, soft heart. I’m not trying to say that God is like a senile benevolent grandfather whose primary concern is that we get enough ice cream. No, God is still holy. God is love. And the nature of God’s holiness, and the nature of God’s love, is different than anything we might imagine. But God isn’t hard hearted. No, God has a deep love, and a tender affection, for His people. His bowels shake when confronted with human misery.
FOR TODAY: God is a deep lover with feelings of tenderness. We should strive to be the same in this world. Like Paul says, “clothe yourselves with compassion” (