Day 10: Saturday, 16 March
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 the Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbour his anger for ever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children –
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
Some of our readings will be longer than others. Try not to fall into the entangling web where you attempt to rush through the text in order to finish ‘in time’, thus losing the meaning and drowning in words rather than soaking in them.
Verse 8 is used in worship services as an introduction to confession. A compassionate person not only senses how others are feeling but can also experience the feeling. Compassion places you alongside another person as you feel what they feel. Jesus saw the crowds when he stepped off the boat and had compassion on them. Not only did he feel what they were feeling, mentally and physically, but he also burned with desire to do something about it. That day he healed many people of their various diseases and conditions.
Grace is what God gives to us when we don’t deserve it – it’s a free get out of jail card. Grace comes from God’s love for us, love that, as with grace, we do not deserve. Verses 11 and 12 tell of God’s amazing love and mercy and his readiness to forgive. Commit these two verses to memory.
God has every right to be angry when we disobey, walk away, dishonour him, reject him in favour of what we want to do. God cannot help but be angry when he sees us breaking his commands or carving out our own tablets of stone with text to match our personal agenda. He is God, he is not human and he does not conform to our wishful thinking about his nature. He does not turn his anger off, but he delays the full action so that we might turn back to him before he vents that anger. He said the same to Moses – anger is in his name, but so is mercy.
We may hear the words of the second section above at funeral or commemoration services. The emphasis there may be upon the frailty of human life, but the words actually say something far more powerful about God’s compassion, love and righteousness and our obedience to him. To paraphrase: God knows what we’re like. Humanity is feeble and perishable, but God has compassion and love like a father to his child on those who fear (honour, respect) him, and his love extends to infinite time.
Can my compassion grow to be like that of Jesus?
How easy is it to adopt a cold heart in order to be free of compassionate commitment to those God places before us?
Have you set boundaries to God’s grace?
Father God, I have no idea how far the east lies from the west in the unchartable cosmos, but you have placed my sins that far away from me and you choose not to remember them. Break the coldness in my heart with the warmth of your love and grace, and renew a right spirit in me. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.