The Forceful Compassion of God
Today, the Spirit of God captivated my attention with a phrase in a very familiar passage of Scripture. I have read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah many times in chapter 19 of Genesis and usually the same main points keep my attention:
- the wickedness of the men of Sodom who demand Lot's guests be released so they can sexually abuse them
- the power of the angels who caused all those men to become blind instantly
- Lot's wife turning into salt because she turns to look at the city as it is destroyed
But for the first time as I read, a different point became painstakingly clear to me: God's compassion is often forceful. And I am so thankful that it is!
When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying "Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city." But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was up on him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. - Genesis 19:15-16
Leave, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.
DANGER DANGER! Lot is clearly warned that he is standing in the direct path of the impending doom. God is about to pour out His wrath on these wicked cities, and in His great kindness (and due to the prayers of Lot's uncle Abraham, Gen 18:22-33) He warns Lot to leave immediately before He is swept away with the rest of the city.
Likewise, God has warned us as well of impending doom. Through His Word He makes clear the wrath stored up for all. "The wages of sin is death." And then in His kindness tells us the way out. "But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus." (Rom 6:23)
I think of the way Jesus sought to convince us of how dangerous sin is: "If your right eye makes you sin, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you sin, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell." Matt 5:29-30. It's better to lose parts of our body than to continue in sin. This is a warning of the dangers of sin for the human soul.
The warning given to us isn't once and for all either. Even for the adopted children of God, those who have trusted in Jesus to pay the penalty of sin, there is still a warning not to continue in sin. True, for those who believe there is no more wrath left from God and we safe in the grace of God. But we live in the already and not yet. Our sins already covered, yet their presence not entirely gone. There is still a warning for us.
The warning has been given to me today: Daughter, do not be gluttonous. Do not live for yourself any longer, but for Jesus who died for you. Consider yourself dead to greed for those new shoes, those new household items. Put aside that anger from your speech toward your children. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked. But now put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge. (Col 3, 2 Cor 5:15)
But he hesitated.
Why? Why would Lot hesitate? He was just told, leave or you will be annihilated! I do not know why Lot and his family hesitated in the face of certain death. But honestly, I cannot say I do any differently.
I hear the petition of God to forsake my sinful flesh and find true life and freedom by walking in faith through the Spirit, and yet I too hesitate. I don't quickly forsake the sins I know will kill me. The call has been given to leave my prison cell, but I look around and realize, I love my prison cell. I love my shackles. I feel comfortable there. I feel in control there. I am fearful of the unknown of walking with God in such utter dependency. I hesitate.
So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was up on him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city.
In their hesitation, the angels literally dragged them out of the city and into safety, because the compassion of the Lord was upon him. The compassion of God for Lot and his family manifested as force. And what a great thing that it did! Otherwise they would have been destroyed.
Likewise for me, God's compassion has often been forceful. At times, his force has been the confrontation of a friend, putting before my eyes the way my sin is harmful to those around me. His force has been the perfect storm of circumstances that upon first glance seem to prove that He hates me but soon reveal that He was delivering me from self-destruction. His force has been suffering, the stripping away of everything I trusted in, leaving me with Him alone. The compassion of God seizes me by the hand and drags me out of my sin when I hesitate to flee.
Often I am the greatest enemy in my own life. Knowing what that sin leads to death, I often chose it anyway. Knowing that repentance leads me to full life, I often resist it. Thank the Lord He is so good at saving me from myself!
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven... God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity... God gave them over to degrading passions... God gave them over to a depraved mind... - Romans 1
Lest you think you don't want God to be forceful in your life, see here His wrath: "He gave them over..." God's wrath is revealed when He simply allows people to continue in the path of destruction that they themselves chose. This is wrath.
And we must remember, we all deserve this and nothing more.
But when God's heart is moved by compassion, it moves Him to act. Like the angels who pulled Lot's family to safety, it is His compassion that pulls us out of the prison cells we are so reluctant to leave. His compassion is often forceful. So do not despise His seizing of your hand and pulling you to safety. Thank Him for it. Thank Him for such undeserved compassion that He would save you despite your hesitation.
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. - Psalm 51:1