Study information for the book: Draw Close to Jehovah
“THE TENDER COMPASSION OF OUR GOD”
1, 2. (a) How does a mother naturally respond to the crying of her baby? (b) What feeling is even stronger than a mother’s compassion?IN THE middle of the night, a baby cries. Immediately, the mother wakes up. She does not sleep as soundly as she used to—not since her baby was born. She has learned to distinguish her infant’s different types of crying. Hence, she can often tell whether her newborn needs to be fed, cuddled, or otherwise tended to. But regardless of the reason for the baby’s crying, the mother responds. Her heart cannot let her ignore the needs of her child.
2 The compassion that a mother feels for the child of her womb is among the most tender feelings known to humans. There is, however, a feeling that is infinitely stronger—the tender compassion of our God, Jehovah. A consideration of this endearing quality can help us draw closer to Jehovah. Let us, then, discuss what compassion is and how our God manifests it.
What Is Compassion?
3. What is the meaning of the Hebrew verb rendered “show mercy” or “have pity”?3 In the Bible, there is a close relationship between compassion and mercy. A number of Hebrew and Greek words convey the sense of tender compassion. Consider, for example, the Hebrew verb ra•cham′, which is often rendered “show mercy” or “have pity.” One reference work explains that the verb ra•cham′ “expresses a deep and tender feeling of compassion, such as is aroused by the sight of weakness or suffering in those that are dear to us or need our help.” This Hebrew term, which Jehovah applies to himself, is related to the word for “womb” and can be described as “motherly compassion.”*—Exodus 33:19; Jeremiah 33:26.
par. 3 (Ex. 33:19) But he said: “I will make all my goodness pass before your face, and I will declare before you the name of Jehovah; and I will favor the one whom I favor, and I will show mercy to the one to whom I show mercy.”
par. 3 (Jer. 33:26) so I will never reject the offspring of Jacob and of my servant David, so as not to take from his offspring rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will gather back their captives and have pity on them.’”
par. 3 Interestingly, though, at Psalm 103:13, the Hebrew verb ra•cham′ connotes the mercy, or compassion, that a father shows to his children.
(Ps. 103:13) As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those who fear him.
“Can a woman forget . . . the son of her womb?”
4, 5. How does the Bible use the feelings that a mother has for her baby to teach us about Jehovah’s compassion?4 The Bible uses the feelings that a mother has for her baby to teach us about the meaning of Jehovah’s compassion. At Isaiah 49:15, we read: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion [ra•cham′] on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (The Amplified Bible) That touching description underscores the depth of Jehovah’s compassion for his people. How so?
par. 4 (Isa. 49:15) Can a woman forget her nursing child Or have no compassion for the son of her womb? Even if these women forget, I would never forget you.
5 It is difficult to imagine that a mother would forget to nourish and care for her nursing child. After all, an infant is helpless; night and day a baby needs its mother’s attention and affection. Sad to say, however, maternal neglect is not unheard of, especially in these “critical times” characterized by a lack of “natural affection.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 3) “Yet,” Jehovah declares, “I will not forget you.” The tender compassion that Jehovah has for his servants is unfailing. It is immeasurably stronger than the most tender natural feeling that we can imagine—the compassion that a mother normally feels for her infant child. Little wonder that one commentator said of Isaiah 49:15: “This is one of the strongest, if not the strongest expression of God’s love in the Old Testament.”
par. 5 (2 Tim. 3:1) But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.
par. 5 (2 Tim. 3:3) having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness,
par. 5 (Isa. 49:15) Can a woman forget her nursing child Or have no compassion for the son of her womb? Even if these women forget, I would never forget you.
6. Many imperfect humans have viewed tender compassion in what way, but of what does Jehovah assure us?6 Is tender compassion a sign of weakness? Many imperfect humans have held that view. For instance, the Romanphilosopher Seneca, who was a contemporary of Jesus and a leading intellectual figure in Rome, taught that “pity is a weakness of the mind.” Seneca was an advocate of Stoicism, a philosophy stressing calmness that is devoid of feeling. A wise person may help those in distress, said Seneca, but he must not allow himself to feel pity, for such a feeling would deprive him of serenity. That self-centered view of life allowed no room for heartfelt compassion. But that is not at all what Jehovah is like! In his Word, Jehovah assures us that he “is very tender in affection and compassionate.” (James 5:11, footnote) As we will see, compassion is not a weakness but a strong, vital quality. Let us examine how Jehovah, like a loving parent, manifests it.
par. 6 (Jas. 5:11) Look! We consider happy those who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.
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