The Compassion We Cannot Live Without

10 September 2023 AM – Text: Psalm 78:35-39 – Topic: Compassion
Introduction: If God’s compassion toward you was just like your compassion toward others, how would you fair? According to Webster, compassion is “a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another; sympathy; or pity.”
            Each day, I read one of the Psalms. Tuesday, I read Psalm 78. In this Psalm, the psalmist reviews some of Israel’s spiritual history and urges them in verses 1-8 to tell it to the generation to come. We ought to be doing the same. Have you taken the time to share the details of your salvation testimony with your children? If not, you need to. The psalmist recalled times of stubborn rebellion when their hearts were not right. The people forgot the works, wonders and marvellous things He did in Egypt. After leaving Egypt, God divided the Red Sea for them. He shaded them with a cloud by day and gave them a light of fire at night. God caused water to gush from rocks to quench their thirst (v.15-16). After drinking of that miracle water, they questioned God’s ability to provide their food (v.20). God provided them with manna (angels’ food) (v.25) and flesh of birds. When God plagued them, they sought Him (v.34). This jarred their memories. Even then, they were not truthful with God and their hearts were not right with God (v.36-37).
            But God, being full of compassion, forgave them (read v.38-39). In the rest of the Psalm, we read more of the same. As we read these things, it is tempting to think, “Why were they so hard-headed?” It is then that we must look in the mirror and see that often we are just as hard-headed. God has answered prayers for us, and yet we worry when the next trial comes.
Though God was addressing Israel in the Psalm, His character qualities are the same yesterday, today and forever. The principles in this Psalm are still applicable today.
Transition: Because God is compassionate, we are greatly benefited, just as Israel was.
1.     He forgives our sins.
a.      God’s forgiveness is an atoning reconciliation.
1)         To my regret, I can recall scores of times I have needed God’s forgiveness. Can you relate?
2)         I am so grateful that Psalm 86:5 states, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
3)         When God forgives, He does not just forget our sin, He purges it. He atoned for it. He propitiated it. In the OT, that was anticipated in Christ. Now, it is available in Christ.
4)         It is a blessing that John was able to say of Christ, (1 John 2:2) “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
5)         Paul adds, (Ephesians 1:7) “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
6)         Forgiveness is a glorious benefit of God’s compassion.
b.      He forgives, even though we do not deserve it.
1)         God forgives our iniquities. This word speaks of perversity, depravity, or guilt. When we sin, we are guilty. We deserve punishment, yet God forgives us.
2)         In Luke 15:20, the father of the prodigal son depicts God. “And he [the prodigal son] arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
3)         Forgiveness is truly a wonderful benefit of God’s compassion.
c.       He also withholds destruction we deserve.
1)         Like Israel, we have sinned many times.
2)         We may chide Israel for being so foolish and repeating their sins again and again, yet are we any better?
3)         We know that our sin displeases God. We may truly long to get victory over that sin, but then we fail again.
4)         When we sin, we are guilty before God.
5)         God has every right to punish our sin. We have broken His holy commands.
6)         Our guilt has earned separation from God and eternal damnation. Yet, in His great compassion, God often withholds the punishment that we truly deserve. Praise God!
2.     He turns away His anger.
a.      God’s anger is not like our anger.
1)         God’s anger and wrath are His perfect and just judgment on sin. God’s wrath is not wild explosions of unkind cruelty. It is His dealing out deserved justice.
a)         I think we need to ponder this for a bit. When you read verses like (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;“, what goes through your mind? God is not a cruel, fire-breathing dragon who BBQs anyone He does not like. God in His perfect wisdom and holiness knows that hell fire is the just punishment for those who reject the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
b)         Our problem is that we severely underestimate the wickedness of sin. There are NO little sins. Every sin violates God’s perfection. Yet, because of God’s great love and provision of salvation through the blood of Christ, the only damning sin is the sin of unbelief.
2)         Our anger is totally different. It is selfish, unjust, reactions of one sinner against another sinner.
3)         Righteous anger defends God’s righteousness, but leaves all the judgment to God. This is difficult, if not impossible.
b.      It is solely God’s compassion that turns His anger.
1)         It is not our qualities that turn away God’s anger. We deserve God’s anger and judgment.
2)         What if God suddenly stopped turning away His anger? How long would you survive? I fear that I would be burnt toast before the end of the week, if not sooner.
3)         Whenever we have sinned and God turns away His anger, He deserves our gratitude and praise.
3.     He remembers that we are but flesh.
a.      God remembers that we are not like Him.
1)         We are mortals with sin natures and human weaknesses. When God created Adam and Eve, He created them innocent. Since they would have lived forever, they must have been immortal. However, when they sinned, they became mortal and subject to spiritual and physical death. Our flesh is weak. Jesus acknowledges this in (Matthew 26:41). “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
2)         God, on the other hand, is immortal and sinless.
b.      In compassion, God remembers that we are flesh.
1)         We are here today and gone tomorrow. We are but dust (Ps 103:14).
2)         Being but flesh does not excuse our sins, but it does stir God’s compassion.
3)         Since God has compassion on us when He remembers that we are but flesh, when others wrong us, we also ought to have compassion on them since they share our fleshly weaknesses. We ought to follow God’s example.
Conclusion: God’s compassion toward us ought to motivate us to take action. (1) We ought to receive His forgiveness gratefully and offer full forgiveness to those who hurt us. We must pattern our forgiveness after God’s forgiveness. A couple married for 15 years began having more than usual disagreements. They wanted to make their marriage work and agreed on an idea the wife had. For one month, they planned to drop a slip in a “Fault” box. The box would provide a place to let the other know about daily irritations. The wife was diligent in her efforts and approach: “leaving the jam top off the jar,” “wet towels on the shower floor,” “dirty socks not in the hamper,” on and on until the end of the month. After dinner, at the end of the month, they exchanged boxes. The husband reflected on what he had done wrong. Then the wife opened her box and began reading. They were all the same, the message on each slip was, “I love you!” Unknown. (2) We owe God gratitude and praise for withholding our destruction and turning away His anger. If He gave us what we deserve, we would all burn in hell eternally. (3) We must not forget that those who hurt us are flesh like us. We have the same sin nature that they have. Since we are not perfect, we cannot expect perfection from others.
Song: More Like the Master – 325