Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy (Matthew 5:7).
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,” God said through the prophet, Isaiah (55:8). Who can deny that? Who can fathom God’s reach? Who can imagine the thoughts of the all-knowing?
Significantly, the preceding verse reads, “Let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (v. 7). More than God’s power, God’s mercy renders us speechless, swept away by mystery.
A previous post examined the prophetic portrait of God’s anger springing from wounded love, and here I want to underscore that the wound also bleeds compassion. The prophet Hosea offers a touching image of compassion spilling from God’s broken heart. God speaks as a loving mother:
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them (Hosea 11:1-4).
Wounded by her ungrateful child, God’s anger rises:
They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. The sword rages in their cities…and devours because of their schemes. My people are bent on turning away from me…(vv.5-7)
Then the heart breaks, and compassion flows.
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?… My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath (vv. 8-9).
So what will God do with the energy of anger? Herd the children home.
They shall go after the Lord, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west. They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord (vv. 10-11).
We Christians know of God’s love through Jesus Christ. But I write this week’s posts to invite Christians to reclaim faith in the God to whom Jesus prayed, the One Jesus revealed, the God of the Hebrew prophets. We need this God undomesticated. For if you suffer the rage of rejection or the broken heart of compassion for one who hurts you, you are not alone. God stands in solidarity with you. And it is not just that God is feeling your pain. You are feeling God’s.