Compassion is another facet of Jehovah’s love. What is compassion? In the Bible, there is a close relationship between compassion and mercy. A number of Hebrew and Greek words convey the sense of compassion. For example, the Hebrew verb ra·cham′ is often rendered “show mercy” or “have pity.” This Hebrew term, which Jehovah applies to himself, is related to the word for “womb” and can be described as “motherly compassion.”
The Bible uses the feelings that a mother has for her baby to teach us about Jehovah’s compassion. Isaiah 49:15 says: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion [ra·cham′] on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (The Amplified Bible) It is hard to imagine that a mother would forget to nourish and care for her nursing child. After all, an infant is helpless; day and night a baby needs its mother’s attention. Sad to say, however, maternal neglect is not unheard of, especially in these “critical times.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 3) “Yet,” Jehovah declares, “I will not forget you.” The tender compassion that Jehovah has for his servants is immeasurably stronger than the most tender natural feeling that we can imagine—the compassion that a mother normally feels for her infant child.
How does Jehovah, like a loving parent, show compassion? This quality is clearly seen in the way he dealt with Israel of old. By the end of the 16th century B.C.E., millions of Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, where they were severely oppressed. (Exodus 1:11, 14) In their distress, the Israelites cried out to Jehovah. How did the God of compassion respond?
Jehovah’s heart was touched. He said: “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry . . . I well know the pains they suffer.” (Exodus 3:7) Jehovah could not see the sufferings of his people or hear their outcries without feeling for them. Jehovah is a God of empathy. And empathy—the ability to identify with the pain of others—is akin to compassion. However, Jehovah did not just feel for his people; he was moved to act in their behalf. Isaiah 63:9 says: “In his love and in his compassion he himself repurchased them.” With “a strong hand,” he rescued the Israelites out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 4:34) Thereafter, he provided them with miraculous food and delivered them into a fruitful land of their own.
Jehovah does not show compassion to his people only as a group. Our loving God is deeply concerned about us as individuals. He is keenly aware of any suffering we may undergo. The psalmist said: “The eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their cry for help. Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” (Psalm 34:15, 18) How does Jehovah help us as individuals? He does not necessarily remove the cause of our suffering. But he has made abundant provisions for those who cry out to him for help. His Word offers practical counsel that can make a difference. In the congregation, he provides spiritually qualified overseers, who endeavor to reflect his compassion in helping others. (James 5:14, 15) As the “Hearer of prayer,” Jehovah gives “holy spirit to those asking him.” (Psalm 65:2; Luke 11:13) All such provisions are expressions of “the tender compassion of our God.”—Luke 1:78.
Is it not thrilling to contemplate our heavenly Father’s love? In the preceding article, we were reminded that Jehovah has exercised his power, justice, and wisdom in loving ways to our benefit. And in this article, we have seen that Jehovah has directly expressed his love for mankind—and for us individually—in remarkable ways. Now, each of us does well to ask, ‘How will I respond to Jehovah’s love?’ May you respond by loving him with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. (Mark 12:29, 30) May the way you live your life each day reflect your heartfelt desire to draw ever closer to Jehovah. And may Jehovah, the God who is love, draw ever closer to you—throughout all eternity!—James 4:8.