Study information for the book: Draw Close to Jehovah
When Jehovah Withholds Compassion
17-19. (a) How does the Bible show that Jehovah’s compassion is not without limits? (b) What caused Jehovah’s compassion for his people to reach its limit?
17 Are we to imagine that Jehovah’s tender compassion is without limits? On the contrary, the Bible clearly shows that in the case of individuals who set themselves against his righteous ways, Jehovah rightly withholds compassion. (Hebrews 10:28) To see why he does so, recall the example of the nation of Israel.
par. 17 (Heb. 10:28) Anyone who has disregarded the Law of Moses dies without compassion on the testimony of two or three.
18 Although Jehovah repeatedly delivered the Israelites from their enemies, his compassion eventually reached its limit. This stubborn people practiced idolatry, even bringing their disgusting idols right into Jehovah’s temple! (Ezekiel 5:11; 8:17, 18) Further, we are told: “They were continually making jest at the messengers of the true God and despising his words and mocking at his prophets, until the rage of Jehovah came up against his people, until there was no healing.” (2 Chronicles 36:16) The Israelites reached a point where there was no longer any proper basis for compassion, and they provoked Jehovah to righteous anger. With what result?
par. 18 (Ezek. 5:11) “‘Therefore as surely as I am alive,’ declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘because it was my sanctuary that you defiled with all your disgusting idols and with all your detestable practices, I will also reject you; my eye will not feel sorry, and I will show no compassion.
par. 18 (Ezek. 8:17, 18) He said to me: “Son of man, do you see this? Is it a trivial thing for the house of Judah to do these detestable things, to fill the land with violence and keep offending me? Here they are thrusting out the branch to my nose. 18 So I will act in rage. My eye will not feel sorry; nor will I feel compassion. Even though they cry out loudly in my ears, I will not hear them.”
par. 18 (2 Chron. 36:16) But they kept ridiculing the messengers of the true God, and they despised his words and mocked his prophets, until the rage of Jehovah came up against his people, until they were beyond healing.
19 Jehovah could no longer feel compassion for his people. He proclaimed: “I shall show no compassion, nor feel any sorrow, and I shall not have the mercy to keep from bringing them to ruin.” (Jeremiah 13:14) Thus, Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and the Israelites were taken captive to Babylon. How tragic it is when sinful humans get so rebellious that they exhaust the limits of divine compassion!—Lamentations 2:21.
par. 19 (Jer. 13:14) And I will smash them against each other, fathers and sons alike,” declares Jehovah. “I will not show compassion or feel any sorrow or have any mercy on them; nothing will stop me from bringing them to ruin.”’
par. 19 (Lam. 2:21) Young boy and old man are lying dead on the ground in the streets. My virgins and my young men have fallen by the sword. You have killed in the day of your anger; you have slaughtered without compassion.
20, 21. (a) What will happen when divine compassion reaches its limit in our day? (b) What compassionate provision of Jehovah will be discussed in the next chapter?
20 What about today? Jehovah has not changed. Out of compassion, he has commissioned his Witnesses to preach the “good news of the kingdom” in all the inhabited earth. (Matthew 24:14) When righthearted peoplerespond, Jehovah helps them to grasp the Kingdom message. (Acts 16:14) But this work will not go on forever. It would hardly be compassionate for Jehovah to allow this wicked world, with all its misery and suffering, to continue indefinitely. When divine compassion has reached its limit, Jehovah will come to execute judgment on this system of things. Even then, he will be acting out of compassion—compassion for his “holy name” and for his devoted servants. (Ezekiel 36:20-23) Jehovah will clear away wickedness and usher in a righteous new world. Regarding the wicked, Jehovah declares: “My eye will not feel sorry, neither shall I show compassion. Their way I shall certainly bring upon their own head.”—Ezekiel 9:10.
par. 20 (Matt. 24:14) And this good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
par. 20 (Acts 16:14) And a woman named Lyd′i•a, a seller of purple from the city of Thy•a•ti′ra and a worshipper of God, was listening, and Jehovah opened her heart wide to pay attention to the things Paul was saying.
par. 20 (Ezek. 36:20-23) But when they came to those nations, people profaned my holy name by saying about them, ‘These are the people of Jehovah, but they had to leave his land.’ 21 So I will show concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they have gone.” 22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah says: “Not for your sakes am I acting, O house of Israel, but for my holy name, which you profaned among the nations where you have gone.”’ 23 ‘I will certainly sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the nations, which you profaned among them; and the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah,’ declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘when I am sanctified among you before their eyes.
par. 20 (Ezek. 9:10) But as for me, my eye will not feel sorry; nor will I show compassion. The consequences of their way I will bring down on their own head.”
21 Until then, Jehovah feels compassion for people, even those who face destruction. Sinful humans who are sincerely repentant can benefit from one of Jehovah’s most compassionate provisions—forgiveness. In the next chapter, we will discuss some of the beautiful word pictures in the Bible that convey the completeness of Jehovah’s forgiveness.
Questions for Meditation
Jeremiah 31:20 What tender feelings does Jehovah have for his people, and how does this make you feel toward him?
(Jer. 31:20) “Is E′phra•im not a precious son to me, a beloved child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. That is why my emotions are stirred for him. And I will surely have pity on him,” declares Jehovah.
Joel 2:12-14, 17-19 What did Jehovah’s people need to do in order to be shown compassion, and what do we learn from this?
(Joel 2:12-14) “Yet even now,” declares Jehovah, “return to me with all your hearts, With fasting and weeping and wailing. 13 Rip apart your hearts, and not your garments, And return to Jehovah your God, For he is compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loyal love, And he will reconsider the calamity. 14 Who knows whether he will turn back and reconsider And leave behind a blessing, A grain offering and a drink offering for Jehovah your God?
(Joel 2:17-19) Between the porch and the altar Let the priests, the ministers of Jehovah, weep and say: ‘Do feel pity, O Jehovah, for your people; Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, Letting the nations rule over them. Why should the peoples say, “Where is their God?”’ 18 Then Jehovah will be zealous for his land And show compassion on his people. 19 Jehovah will answer his people: ‘Here I am sending to you grain and new wine and oil, And you will be fully satisfied; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.
Jonah 4:1-11 How did Jehovah teach Jonah a lesson about the importance of compassion?
(Jonah 4:1-11) But this was highly displeasing to Jo′nah, and he became hot with anger.2 So he prayed to Jehovah: “Ah, now, Jehovah, was this not my concern when I was in my own land? That is why I tried to flee to Tar′shish in the first place; for I knew that you are a compassionate and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loyal love, one who feels grieved over calamity. 3 Now, O Jehovah, please take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 Jehovah asked: “Is it right for you to be so angry?” 5 Jo′nah then went out of the city and sat down east of the city. He made a shelter for himself there and sat in its shade to see what would happen to the city. 6 Jehovah God then provided a bottle-gourd plant to grow up over Jo′nah, to give him shade for his head and to relieve his misery. And Jo′nah was very pleased with the bottle-gourd plant. 7 But the true God sent a worm at the break of dawn on the next day, and it attacked the bottle-gourd plant, and it withered. 8 When the sun began to shine, God also sent a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jo′nah’s head, and he grew faint. He kept asking to die, and he kept saying, “It is better for me to die than to live.”9 God asked Jo′nah: “Is it right for you to be so angry over the bottle-gourd plant?” At that he said: “I have a right to be angry, so angry that I want to die.” 10 But Jehovah said: “You felt sorry for the bottle-gourd plant, which you did not work for, nor did you make it grow; it grew in one night and perished in one night. 11 Should I not also feel sorry for Nin′e•veh the great city, in which there are more than 120,000 men who do not even know right from wrong, as well as their many animals?”
Hebrews 10:26-31 Why can we not presume on Jehovah’s mercy, or compassion?
(Heb. 10:26-31) For if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, 27 but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a burning indignation that is going to consume those in opposition. 28 Anyone who has disregarded the Law of Moses dies without compassion on the testimony of two or three. 29 How much greater punishment do you think a person will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God and who has regarded as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt? 30 For we know the One who said: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again: “Jehovah will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
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