God’s Glorious Attributes
By Rayola Kelley
There are many attributes of God that we can overlook. The reason is because they are often attached to other characteristics, causing them to operate in the shadows of our understanding. It is only when they are brought to the light and highlighted, do we begin to realize how much we have benefitted from them.
It is easy to swing from the attributes that we hear the most about such as His love, grace, and mercy, and yet there are these other characteristics that touch our lives in special ways that may be eluded to but never really identified. At the time we may even sense that the Lord has touched our life in a certain way, but unless we put it in perspective, we cannot rightly discern the real work of God.
It is important to discern the work of God because God works according to patterns. For example, He wants to show His grace and as a result He becomes longsuffering towards us so that He can show His mercy when we truly repent. Since God is refraining from judgment, mercy reveals itself as a form of grace. It is for this reason we are told we need to first seek mercy and in doing so we will obtain grace (Hebrews 4:16). His commitment to save us becomes more evident as He contends with us by warning us, pleading with us, and then admonishing us before He sends judgment where we start paying the consequences. Judgment is all about separation and those who make the right decisions will be separated out of His wrath while the rest are separated to it.
If you follow what is happening to this country, we as a nation are beginning to pay the consequences for our immorality, indifference, rebellion, and disobedience. This begs the question: did we have warnings, pleadings, and admonishments before this all started? The answer is yes. We have God’s Word that is very clear about His attitudes towards a nation that is sliding into immorality, wickedness, and decadence, and there were watchmen who warned us of the dangers before us if we failed to change our ways such as A.W. Tozer and David Wilkerson, but did we take heed? We had 911 but the generation that is coming up sees it as an insignificant event and not a wake-up call. Sadly, for many the shock, the mourning, vows, and religious show inspired by 911 lasted for about two weeks.
The warnings are becoming clearer and are we listening? Granted, we may feel bad about what is happening in our country, but personally I am vexed over it. My spirit will not be consoled because I know what will follow if people fail to repent. My soul is frustrated and agitated because it seems many people who call themselves Christians have taken on the politically correct philosophy of the world. Their attitude is we must refrain from talking about God’s holiness that will convict people, calling sinners to repentance that will insult them, taking clear stands for righteousness because some may get mad, and be absolute about Scriptural truth because others will mock us.
As someone once said, “If you fail to stand for something, you will end up falling for everything.” Inaction is action and indecision is a decision, and it is usually because the action and decision required would prove to be contrary to comfort zones of the flesh and the acceptable philosophies and practices of the world. It is important to point out that the truths of God bring people to one place, the valley of decision (Joel 3:14). Everyone must decide what they will do with Jesus, whether they will embrace His truths as being so, or reject them and go their own way down the broad path of personal comfort and convenience, while justifying each compromise, selling pieces of character and aspects of the soul along the way.
It is hard to believe that people would reject Jesus. After all, He first loved us and you would think that the natural response back would be of love. He shows us longsuffering to give us time to agree with Him about our sin, but many continue to put Him to a foolish test. He wants to forgive, but how many truly seek it in repentance? His great desire is to save but how many humble themselves and receive His salvation? He offers eternal and abundant life, but how many prefer the ways of death because they love the darkness of their deeds (John 3:16-21; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 4:19)?
Hebrews 2:3 puts it best, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” The truth is there will be no excuse for rejecting the Gospel message of Jesus’ salvation. People will not fall into hell because of wicked deeds, rather, they will trip over Jesus into hell, just like the rich man tripped over Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.
We know according to Scripture it did not bring pleasure to God to have witnessed the sacrifice of innocent animals to make atonement for man, nor does He take pleasure in the wicked dying in their sins because they refuse to return from their ways back to God so they can live (Ezekiel 18:23; Hebrews 10:8).
It is God’s heart to show love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace and not judgment and wrath. It is His desire to comfort the broken hearted, heal the wounded, find the lost who are crying out for help, and deliver those in bondage. It is His desire to show compassion in every situation and at every turn.
In Deuteronomy 13:17 the Lord has just finished commanding the people of Israel to come out and be separated from any cursed thing, and then He goes on to say, “that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers.” Notice how compassion is presented. The Lord wants to show His mercy which means He wants to refrain from judging so that He can have compassion on the people. Compassion is an active response of mercy.
Psalm 86:15 and 145:8 makes it clear that the Lord is full of compassion. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us His compassions are new every morning. Clearly, compassions are new in order to meet the challenges of each day. They are not stagnant because they are simply leftovers or obsolete because they were in relationship to the matters of the past. God will not run out of the means to have compassion, and as a result His compassion will never fail to effectively meet us in our plight.
When you break the word, “compassion” down you have the word, “compel” to do something because there is some type of “passion” attached to it. There are some interesting words associated with compassion. There is the word, “miserable” attached to it. The reality is God can’t show compassion unless someone is in a state that would require it. The truth is people do not need nor will they desire or receive compassion unless they are in a state of misery, crying out to God.
Deuteronomy 30:3 states, “That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.” For the people of Israel, God could not show them compassion until they turned back to Him in true repentance. Clearly, at this point of captivity His people would have been in a miserable state because of sin and rebellion. They would had tasted the consequences of their actions through some type of judgment such as severe chastisement brought forth by enemy nations.
It is important to point out that people do not ask for compassion; rather they ask for mercy. Consider what 1 Kings 8:50 says, “And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give the compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them.” The reason mercy must come first is that before mercy can be shown there must be true repentance present. It is when a person is in a repentant state that God can adhere to his or her prayers and be compassionate in a situation.
As you study compassion in Scripture, you will find it was attached to His covenant (2 Kings 13:23). The Lord did not show His people wrath because of His covenant, but spared them of destruction, showing compassion. Think about that for a moment. The fact that we do not receive what we deserve as far as judgment is an act of compassion on God’s part.
We know that compassion is also attached to warnings. Consider what 2 Chronicles 36:15 says, “And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending: because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place.” The fact that America and the church have been warned about what is coming down the line is an example of God’s compassion, but whether we receive His compassion to personally experience it in our lives will be determined by how we respond to the warnings.
Psalm 78:37-39 shows that compassion is often the opposite response of anger. In the case of the people of Israel at different times, God’s anger was present and His wrath on the horizon, but because He was full of compassion, He chose to forgive them instead of destroying them. He sympathized with their plight because He understood their frame. “Sympathy” is a word associated with compassion. However, sympathy is something you show when people are unprepared to respond.
Many times, God wanted to have compassion on His people in numerous situations, but all He could do was sympathize with them at best in order to discipline His actions. This is an important point. Compassion is active and is best described by our word, “empathy.” Empathy is the ability to enter in with someone to identify with them so burdens can be lifted and ministry can be properly carried out.
In most cases, people hinder God from having compassion on them because they are not open to Him to enter into their plight. The reason is clear, they do not want to repent and give up their form of darkness. The father in the parable of the Prodigal Son could not show his son compassion until he returned home after squandering all of his inheritance and finding himself competing for food with the unclean swine. The Lord is longsuffering, and His people may be demanding judgment with their actions and attitudes, but it is not His heart to bring about such judgment; therefore, He remembers their frame and sympathizes with them, but sadly in many cases, He is prevented from entering in with them to bring healing, reconciliation, and restoration.
This is one of the problems with Christianity today. Many in the religious realm talk about, and hide behind God’s love, but how many are prepared to let go of this world and turn to God, allowing Him to meet them in their plight so they can receive His forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, and restoration? Micah 7:18-19 gives this glorious insight and promise, “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities and thou will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
One of the great displays of compassion or empathy is Jesus taking on human form and dying on the cross for us. Like the “Good Samaritan” in Luke 10:30-35, Jesus was considered a despicable Samaritan by some of the Jewish leaders (John 8:48). However, He became identified to each of us as He came by way of wounded humanity. He didn’t ignore those struggling like the religious have a tendency to do, nor did He count any of us unworthy of consideration like the self-righteous. He was willing to become identified with each of us, by taking personal responsibility for our welfare and paying the necessary price of redemption for each us. After His ascension, the Holy Spirit was sent to ensure all of our needs would be met by serving as our seal until the fulness of redemption.
What a powerful picture of empathy Jesus presented to us on that cross. This great show of God came by way of divine compassion. He closed the gap between man and Himself, which required Him to become identified with us. He displayed love that manifested itself in the greatest act of compassion, and as believers we are called into ministries of consolation and reconciliation (2 Corinthians 1:3-6; 5:19).
The challenge for Christians is to not stop short by sympathizing with people in their struggles or plights. In sympathy, feeling sorry or bad for someone can prove to simply morph into a passing emotion that has no substance. Real godly love shows its graciousness by compassion that identifies with a person to a point where he or she actually enters in with the individual’s plight.
The Apostle John makes reference to this in 1 John 3:16-18, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
We see the example of compassion in Jesus’ three-year mission on earth. The graciousness of God’s love was clearly being extended through His compassionate, sacrificial act on the cross but we see throughout His ministry many compassionate acts. In Matthew 14:14, we are told, “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” We know it is by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).
In Matthew 15:32, Jesus made this statement, “Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. Jesus had compassion on those who were lacking in physical needs. The people had followed Him for a long distance and were not prepared to walk back to their homes without fainting from lack of food. Jesus could have ignored it but compassion required a response from Him. In fact, compassion is unending and when it is present, it reaches far and wide and it will embrace the whole matter before it. Jesus ended up feeding the hungry masses.
In Matthew 20:34 it tells us, “So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.” Healing the physically blind was truly an act of compassion on Jesus’ part, but those who have spiritual eyes to now see, need to remember if their eyesight is a type of healing as well. Remember, Jesus came to give sight to the blind and we can’t forget the words in the song, “Amazing Grace,” “I once was blind, but now I see.”
Forgiveness is another act of compassion. You can’t truly forgive unless you are compelled by compassion in the heart to do so. Jesus made mention of this in Matthew 18:27. Every touch of God upon our life, every point of forgiveness and liberty, and every intervention is an act of compassion that reveals the graciousness of the Lord.
I have taken the Lord’s compassion for granted. I sometimes forget that I experience God’s love every day of my life, not because I deserve it, but because the Lord is full of compassion, a compassion that will never leave me forgotten, abandoned, or left to my own vain devices and way.
The beauty of understanding what is God’s compassion is that you begin to realize that ultimately it will rub off on you as well. You begin to recognize that the right things you do for others is simply an act of compassion that is being extended from heaven through you.
God’s compassion will make a difference, whether coming directly from Him or through His people. I will leave you with the words of Jude 21 and 22, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference.”