14-2 A Feeling God
Insofar as we realize that God is not passive, but has feelings toward us far more deep and passionate than we can ever know, so far we will realize that life with Him is a daily, passionate experience. It cannot be ‘the same old scene’. Consider the passion of God: “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant” (Is. 42). “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart is changed within me; All my compassion is aroused” (Hosea). The prophets are full of such passionate intensity. The prophets are not just predictions of the future. They reveal the passion of God’s feelings for His people. At the very time when He condemns them for their adultery against Him, their ingratitude, their worthlessness, He cries out His belief in the blessedness He will one day grace them with.
Can one person on a speck of a planet in a speck of a solar system in a mediocre clump of a galaxy really make a difference to the creator of that universe? Just one of the estimated 77 billion who have lived on this planet since Adam? As David looked to the heavens, he felt what surely we all have: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him…?”. Reflect how Almighty God created a bush to give Jonah shade from the sun; and created a tiny worm to take it away, to teach Jonah something. We matter to God. Our lives and experiences and the things in our lives are important to Him, down to the micro level [a worm, in Jonah’s case]. And we should reflect this in the way we treat others- all men. God reminded Jonah that He had laboured and ‘made to grow’ the people of Nineveh, just as He had consciously expended energy on the growth of the gourd (Jonah 4:10). People should matter to us; their lives, their feelings, their eternal destiny. I am not preaching some kind of humanism. Rather, appealing for us to reflect the same senseless, illogical, caring and saving spirit of our Lord and our Creator. He rent the heavens to come down (to come down so far)…and save us. And the extent of that rending and coming down was in the death by torture of His only, beloved Son. We can push pass people in a line, or on transport, ignore the old lady who slipped on the ice, the child lost in the bus station or taxi park; the driver needing a tow…because we are just too busy. Because, even, we are busy on the Lord’s business. So we tell ourselves. The reality is, we just don’t care, or, we don’t care very deeply. And we can remain untouched by the tragedy of all those who have not known, as we see them streaming before us on a city street, as we look out over the thousands of lights on a city night. From Nairobi to Moscow to Mumbai…all the way back home. It should concern us, worry us, that we have what they so desperately need. To say ‘they’re not interested’ is, for me, just an excuse. Of course they’re not (nobody is)…until they meet you or me, until we have gotten them to see, to listen, in whatever form, to the Truth we have. The Angels in Heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents. A solitary act on this speck of a planet reverberates throughout the cosmos. One solitary life…thrills Almighty God. Just because He doesn’t show His feelings to us doesn’t mean this isn’t so. The prophets especially, and the parables of Jesus, help us to see beyond the mask of His silence, the mask of a sky above us that rarely reflects the Creator’s feelings. The life of the Father was manifested unto us in the Son (1 Jn. 1:2), and He has shared that life with us. God’s life is essentially activity; it is hardly the same old scene, even though to the unspiritual observer it may seem He acts repetitively.
“He was moved with compassion”
One of the repeated features of the Lord’s witness was His compassion towards humanity: “When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. [Mk. 6:34 adds at this point that He therefore, as a result of that compassion, started to “teach them many things”]. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest…” (Mt. 9:36-38). It was their spiritual as well as their material and human need which evoked His compassion. I have to say that this spirit of urgent compassion is not as strong in our community as it should be. There seem few if any tears shed for the tragedy of humanity. The world’s desperation seems written off as ‘they’re not interested’ rather than felt as a tragedy that should evoke our emotional and practical response. When Jesus saw the leper who wanted to be “clean”- not just ‘cured’ or eased of his discomfort- He made an emotional response. He put forth His hand, touched him, and made him clean- because He was “moved with compassion” (Mk. 1:40,41). Mt. 14:14; 15:32; 20:34; Mk. 5:19 and Lk. 7:13 all record other times when the sheer humanity of the situation evoked the Lord’s compassion: e.g. the woman in the funeral procession of her dear son, or the hungry crowds, unfed for 3 days…
Yet the Lord’s compassion is clearly intended to be ours, who are to live and move and feel “in Him”. The Lord of the servant “was moved with compassion and forgave him”- the very words used about the Lord being “moved with compassion” for the spiritual and human needs of the Galilean Jews He lived amongst in His life. But the point of the parable was: “..shouldest not thou also have had compassion…?” (Mt. 18:27,33). If we have seen and known His compassion, ought we not also to show that compassion in the same way as He did and does? His compassion must be ours. The Samaritan of Lk. 10:33 was clearly intended to be interpreted as the Lord Jesus. He “had compassion” on the dying man of humanity, not counting the personal cost and risk; and then the Lord bids us each to go and do likewise. Our ‘doing likewise’ will issue in us too sensing the tragedy of those who have not heard, of those without a shepherd, of those who have fallen out of the way. We will be like the Father who was likewise moved with compassion for his wayward son (Lk. 15:20). The crowds of unknowing people who stream before us each day, the sad fact that we are so outnumbered in this world, that those you live and work with are dying in ignorance of the wonderful eternity that could be for them…that they live their lives in the darkness of selfishness, as existence rather than real life, without the light of the knowledge of the glory of God as it is in the face of Jesus Christ…all these things will powerfully move us to witness after the pattern of our Lord.