October 24, 1998
Obviously, this will be edited greatly to present 10/25/98 to our folks. However, it is pretty much as it will appear in an upcoming Examiner, Lord willing.
Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
We are living in a day of confused meanings and ideas. Words have a way of devolving -- that is, they mean less today than they did many years ago. A major advantage of the KJV is that it has provided a stable language.
EXAMPLE: The sound Biblical word believe has lost its Bible meaning in modern usage. Though Biblically it means trust, reliance, it has devolved to simply mean believing something to be true. There are uncounted millions of people basing their salvation on simply believing the historical fact of Christ and what he did on the cross.
A word that seems to be quite misunderstood today is the word compassion. I heard mentioned that a TV news anchor was running TV spots promoting himself as a man of compassion. We are hearing a lot about compassion, but what does it mean?
The 1828 Webster equates compassion with "a sensation of sorrow excited by distress or misfortunes of another." Webster gives Ps 78 and Luke 15 as examples. The overwhelming opinion is that compassion is deep emotion, an emotion that might result in weeping and maybe even overlooking sin. How true is this according to Scripture?
As Christians who profess to hold God's word as the final authority, we must consider all things in terms of that word. We are not allowed to give our own definition to words and actions, for God has already defined all things. All emotions, thoughts, words and actions must be subdued to the Word of God, Christ; the battle against "wrong" areas will be as difficult as overthrowing a strong city. (2 Cor. 10:9, 10.) But we are more than conquerors through him that loved us, and the city will fall to the faithful. (Rom. 8:37. See also, Philip. 4:13.)
Please sit still, take notes, and look these verses up. I do not want to rush through this. It will take at least two messages, one from the Old and one from the New Testaments. It will be clear that the meaning of compassion does not change between the two, and we will see its proper and true application in the actions of the Lord Jesus.
I believe you will be as surprised at the meaning of the word as I was.
I would like to start with Christ, but we must start at the beginning. What the Lord means by the word (the doctrine of) compassion is established in the Old Testament, and carried through to the New. In examining Christian compassion, we need to lay the foundation first.
The number of Old Testament verses describing this word is overwhelming. Though the word is only used 19 times in the Old Testament, there are many other words from the 4 root words translated compassion : the four words are also translated merciful, spare, love, bowles, womb, damsel, tender love & pity (primarily used negatively where David had no pity, or compassion, on his neighbour when he took his neighbour's wife, 2 Sam. 12:4, 6).
These words all have the same basic meaning, which will be obvious as we look at a very few samples of the word usage. I am not a Hebrew nor a Greek scholar, nor is the average Christian. But God has made available to the average Christian an abundance of inexpensive research material -- that is, a Strong's Concordance and various word study books. There is no excuse today for the average Christian not to be well versed in the word of God, and being blown about by every whim of human thought. The Online Bible CD greatly simplifies this study, for it will search out and separate the words by their numbers, and makes the context of the words readily available.
Because I do not have Hebrew and Greek expertise, I will have to make the four distinctions according to Strong's numbers.
This word is used 40 times in the Old Testament. Its overwhelming usage is in a negative sense. Let me give you a sample of its three basic usages:
First is a positive use:
Exodus 2:6 And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion  on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children. 7 Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?
We know the story of how Pharaoh's daughter's compassion upon baby Moses resulted in her taking and raising the baby as her own. Out of the 40 usages of this word, it is only used seven times in a positive sense -- that is, in the sense of doing good for someone.
However, the Old Testament opens and closes with its positive use:
Malachi 3:17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare  them, as a man spareth  his own son that serveth him. 18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
His compassion promises to spare a group of people despite their undeserving nature. This promise is of the Gospel of Christ. The promise says that the day was soon to come when the Spirit of God would move in the hearts of sinners and give them a desire to serve the Lord their God. The promise is based upon the compassion (mercy) of God, not upon the goodness of man.
The other 33 of the 40 usages of the word are all negative. By "negative" we mean that rather than compassion having positive results of God's blessings, it has negative results of God's hand against some action.
1 Samuel 15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare  them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. 1 Samuel 15:9 But Saul and the people spared  Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
We know the story: Saul was commanded to have no compassion upon the enemies of God's people; however, he had compassion upon them, and he acted toward them contrary to the word of God --- he spared people and things contrary to God's word. His misused compassion cost him the kingdom.
1 Samuel 23:1, Saul said the Ziphites had compassion on him when they told him where David was, so Saul could kill him.
Clearly, there is a human compassion that has God's curse against it. That compassion permits or condones things clearly contrary to God's word. Example: God's word is clear against Sodomy. If we in any way hint at condoning it in any way because we have a good emotional feeling towards someone involved in the sin, we have exhibited the wrong kind of compassion.
The most common usage of this first root word is negative, and the Lord's lack of compassion:
Ezekiel 5:11 Wherefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD; Surely, because thou hast defiled my sanctuary with all thy detestable things, and with all thine abominations, therefore will I also diminish thee; neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have any pity . Ezekiel 7:4 And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity : but I will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. Ezekiel 7:9 And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity : I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee; and ye shall know that I am the LORD that smiteth. Ezekiel 8:18 Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity : and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them. Ezekiel 9:5 And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity : Ezekiel 9:10 And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity , but I will recompense their way upon their head.
At least 19 of the 40 times the word is used, it says that the Lord will not have pity, or compassion, towards sinners who refuse to turn from their sins. You might say, "How does the Lord's lack of compassion here in the Old Testament fit into the Lord Jesus' compassion in the New Testament?" Though we will address this question more in detail when we get there, here is an answer: Only two times do we have a record of Christ weeping.
First, at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus wept, John 11:35. His weeping showed the depths of his love towards his friend --- the people said, "Behold how he loved him."
[I will throw this in here: Though I have very little public display of compassionate "weeping," I have had some funerals where I was so emotional I could hardly get through them. Charley Smith and Phill Apple are two local ones I can think of off hand. I preached one in Tipton where I had the same display.]
Second, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, Luke 19:11. His wept because of the judgment he saw coming against the nation because of its hardness to the truth concerning himself. However, his deep emotional movement that caused him to weep did not cause him to overlook evil and spare the city. He went on down into the city and threw out the money changers. I do not have time to pursue the fact, but Christ returned to destroy the city in the most horrible manner in 70AD. As he promised, it was the most horrible event in the history of the world, from beginning to end.
Though the Lord is quite strong in refusing compassion towards those who hardened their hearts against his word, he does say this at the end of Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 36:21 But I had pity  for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. 22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. 23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. 24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
The Lord's pity, compassion, is towards his holy name. For his name's sake, he promised to pardon sins and gather his people to himself. I do not have time to go into the subject, but the promise here looks forward to the Gospel Church, and the pity, compassion, he has toward sinners for his Son's sake. It is the pity that we Christians are partakers in.
Here is an interesting passage:
2 Chronicles 36:14 Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. 15 And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion  on his people, and on his dwelling place: 16 But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy. 17 Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion  upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand.
It was in the Lord's compassion that sent his messengers to the people to warn them of their allowance of worldly ways to creep into their lives. The people refused to listen to the messengers, so the Lord sent an enemy against his people who had no compassion.
(Usage: Ex. 2:6, Deut. 13:8, 1 Sam. 15:3, 15:9, 15, 23:21, 2 Sam. 12:4, 6, 21:7, 2 Chron. 36:15, 36:17, Job 6:10, 16:13, 20:13, 27:22, Pr. 6:34, Is. 9:19, 30:14, Jer. 13:14, 15:5, 21:7, 50:14, 51:3, Lam. 2:2, 2:17, 2:21, 3:43, Ezk. 5:11, 7:4, 7:9, 8:18, 9:5, 9:10, 16:5, 36:21, Joel 2:18, Hab. 1:17, Zec. 11:5, 6, Mal. 3:17.)
II) The second word is 7349
This word is used 13 times in the Old Testament; 12 times it describes God's mercy toward undeserved sinners. I wish I had enough time to look up all 12 verses, but I do not:
Nehemiah 9:17 And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful , slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.
However, mercy is conditioned upon God's people turning from their sins:
2 Chronicles 30:9 the For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful , and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.
The only time this word is not used to describe God's mercy toward undeserved sinners is,
Psalms 112:4, 5, Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion , and righteous. 5 A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.
The compassion here is evenly balanced with righteousness in the actions of God's people, and compassion results in showing favour, lending, and in prudent, discreet, wise actions in ones personal affairs.
(Usages: Exo. 34:6, Deut. 4:31, 2 Chron. 30:9, Neh. 9:17, 9:31, Ps. 78:38, 86:15, 103:8, 111:4, 112:4, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2. I would suggest you look up all these passages. In them you will see that compassion is slowness to anger. Compassion is not responding to situations as the flesh wants to respond, or as we feel is demanded by a situation. Compassion is simply keeping the spirit under control and being kind when we want to do otherwise. I found it one of the best usages in the Old Testament, for it means that the Lord is slow to anger towards my hardness of heart, and he gives me the chance to repent. This compassion of God is used in Rom. 2:1-10.)
III) The third word is 7355
It is used 43 times in the Old Testament, and is translated mercy 32 times, compassion 8 times, pity 3 times, love once and merciful once. It basically means to show mercy despite one's feelings toward another.
It includes the prophesied undeserved mercy of God towards the elect in Christ:
Isaiah 14:1 For the LORD will have mercy  on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.
Titus 3:4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
It includes the mercy of God towards those who confess and forsake their sins:
Proverbs 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy .
It includes the Lord not rewarding us after our actions:
Psalms 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide : neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. 13 Like as a father pitieth  his children, so the LORD pitieth  them that fear him. 14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
It includes God's actions toward a particular people not because of who or what they are, but because of his promise:
2 Kings 13:23 And the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion  on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet.
We can go boldly into the presence of God the Father only because of the covenant made through Christ.
It includes the Lord's promise not to have mercy on those hardened in their sins -- they cannot avoid the results of their hardness:
Isaiah 9:17 Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy  on their fatherless and widows: for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
Though God's compassion shows no mercy toward the hypocrite and evildoer, those hardened in their sins, his compassion continually offers ready forgiveness and pardon if the sinner will only turn to him.
Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy  upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Here God's compassion, mercy, is equated with the recipient doing something. When the sinner turns from his sin and to Christ, he avoids the eternal results of his sin, HELL. Also, God no longer rewards him according to his sin because he is no longer controlled by that sin. Throughout scripture, this turning that results in God's mercy is a result of God's Spirit working in the heart of the individual. (Ex. 33:19-Rom. 9:6-23.) The Old Testament promise of this turning is given many times over.
(Usages: Ex. 33:19, Deut. 13:17, 30:3, 1 Kgs. 8:50, 2 Kgs. 13:23, Ps. 18:1, 102:13, 103:13, 116:5, Pro. 28:13, Isa. 9:17, 13:18, 14:1, 27:11, 30:18, 49:10, 13, 15, 54:8, 54:10, 55:7, 60:10, Jer. 6:23, 12:15, 13:14, 21:7, 30:18, 31:20, 33:26, 42:12, 50:42, Lam. 3:32, Ezk. 39:25, Hosea 1:6, 7, 2:1, 4, 23, 14:3, Mic. 7:19, Hab. 3:2, Zec. 1:12.)
IV) The fourth word is 7356
This word is used 44 times in the Old Testament. It is translated -- mercy 30, compassion 4, womb 4, bowels 2, pity 2, damsel 1, tender love 1. This verb evidently refers to the feeling of mercy men have for one another, in the sense of a common ground: we are all human beings, and face common temptations. This compassion helps someone simply because they are in need, i.e., the Good Samaritan, -- But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. (Lk. 10:33.)
Bowles and womb implies the natural compassion we should have towards family members:
Genesis 43:30 And Joseph made haste; for his bowels  did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.
However, we see in Deuteronomy 21:19, that the natural compassion of parents toward their children does not permit them to violate what is required by the word, e.g., they still had to bring the rebellious son to the elders of the city. They still had to turn him over to the proper authority. Moreover, natural compassion toward the murderer did not permit him to go free, no matter how much the avenger of blood might like him. (Dt. 19:12.)
Damsel speaks of the lack of compassion by a conquering army against the women of the conquered people.
The primary thought here is of God acting toward his people better than they act toward him.
Psalms 79:8 O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies  speedily prevent us: for we are brought very low. Isaiah 63:7 I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies , and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. Lamentations 3:22 It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions  fail not. Daniel 9:18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies .
(Usage: Gen. 43:14, 30, 49:25, Deut. 13:17, Jud. 5:30, 2 Sam. 24:14, 1 Kgs. 3:26, 8:50, 1 Chron. 21:13, 2 Chron. Neh. 1:11, 9:19, 27, 28, 9:31, Ps. 25:6, 40:11, 51:1, 69:16, 77:9, 79:8, 103:4, 119:77, 156, 145:9, Pr. 12:10, 30:16, Is. 46:3, 47:6, Zech. 7:9.)
Without exception, Biblical compassion is action. You will notice that there are no references to emotional expressions, except in one case: Joseph and his brothers. In fact, genuine compassion runs at times contrary to emotions, e.g., the Good Samaritan could have recognized the injured man as a man he just had a fight with the day before, or a neighbour he never could get along with.
Biblical compassion is always action.
How can Linden Baptist Church be known as a compassionate church? When someone in the community has a need, we are to rush to help with that need.
When we see someone moving in the community, we should stop and see if we can help unload the truck, or load it. Women should stop by and see if they can help with the unpacking or cleaning.
All new moveins in Linden, New Richmond, Romney should be met with something special (homemade bread, &c., and some kind of a nice printed introduction to the church). Women can do a lot of this maybe during the day or even on Saturday.
When we hear of someone in genuine need, we should be the first there with groceries or some money to help pay some bills.
When we hear of any need, we should be there to offer our help.
We have a room that could easily be used as a "teen" center. The kids would, no doubt, flock to it.
We can become known as a church that cares for the community, but it will take work on all our parts.
Biblical compassion is action, regardless of feelings. You will notice throughout Scripture, compassion is never equated with feelings; it is always equated with the actions one takes, and those actions must be in accord with God's word.
Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
This will be confirmed in the
NT in Christ.
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