The Mercy of God: God’s Compassion for His People
Read Psalm 116
“Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.”
It is one thing to know of the suffering of others, it is quite another to be moved to take action to alleviate their suffering. In an age of mass media, it is easy to become indifferent towards the distress of others. We watch the news and hear of some tragedy befalling people and in the next moment we change the channel to our favorite comedy show. While we may feel a momentary pain of sorrow for their tragedy, we quickly move on and forget the events as we become engrossed in the affairs of our own world. Only when the events touch us directly, do we truly take notice. It is one thing to hear, it is quite another to truly listen.
The Psalmist, in Psalm 116, knows the torment of intense trials. In verses 3 he is despairing of life itself. He presents a picture of being completely and inescapably entangled by the rope of death. So deep is his distress, that he sees no hope of rescue from the terrors of surrounding him. But just when it seems that his situation is hopeless, he turns to his last hope of deliverance, he cries out to God. However, this hope is not unfounded, but brings to his desperate mind a firm conviction that help is available. His hope is grounded in his belief that God does not just hear our cry, but he responds when we desperately call for help. The word picture presented by the phrase “he has inclined his ear to me” is that of a person who bends down and turns his ear towards the speaker in order to capture every word spoken. The word is often used in the literal sense of turning aside or diverting from the path that one is traveling. Thus, the picture is of God diverting from his path in order to carefully listen to our cry for help.
But the Psalmist does not give the basis for this confidence until verse 5. The reason he knows that God will respond stems from the understanding of God’s compassion. This term refers to a deep love that results in the inward feeling of compassion, pity and mercy. This word is also translated “womb” and speaks of the intense love and compassion a mother feels for her nursing baby. One of the great imageries of love is the picture of a mother looking intently and lovingly at the baby nursing at her breast. Such is the picture the word paints for our understanding of God’s mercy. When the word is used of God, it captures the depth of God’s compassion and love for his children. When we speak of the mercy of God, we are identifying that aspect of God’s character that has compassion on those in misery and distress. This is the confidence of the Psalmist. In verse 15 we see the full extent of God’s care when he states, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.” The idea being that when one of his children is at death’s door, God is especially watchful and attentive, making his presence known so that the person has comfort in death’s hour. When we are at our darkest hour of life, God is most attentive to us.
No matter what the circumstances you face, whether it be an occasion for joy or one of deep sorrow and fear, you can have the confidence that God’s mercy is moving him to act on your behalf. God is not indifferent or turning a deaf ear to your need, rather he is attentive, watchful and quickly turns aside to be with you and guide you when you are experiencing any trial in life. When you are going through a time of sorrow, pain or difficulty, be assured that God not only hears your prayer, but he truly listens intently with a desire to act on your behalf.