The Motherly Compassion of God
John Telgren

One of the recurring attributes of God is his compassion. In Hebrew, compassion is from rhm. The root meaning is womb. The Hebrews used the plural form of this word to refer to Yahweh's compassion. Literally, they would refer to "your wombs" or "his wombs."

This gives a powerful picture of God's compassion. This is very much a motherly image. Like a mother, God never completely severed his tie to his children. In spite of the fact they were wicked, disobedient, and turned away from him to other gods, he did not give up on his children. Because of his rahamim (his "compassions"), they are given a second chance.

Here are some examples of the use of this word in connection with a second chance:

"For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great 'compassion' I will gather you" (Is 54:7).

"The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail" (Lam 3:22).

"I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in 'compassion' " (Hos 2:19).

"Therefore thus says the Lord, 'I will return to Jerusalem with 'compassion'; My house will be built in it,' declares the Lord of hosts, "and a measuring line will be stretched over Jerusalem." ' (Zech 1:16).

"Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions" (Ps 51:1).

Even though it does not use the word rhm, this text from the end of Isaiah has the idea of womb and new birth. In context, it speaks of God once again comforting, nursing, and delighting in his child once again.

"Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?" says the Lord. "Or shall I who gives delivery shut [the womb]?" says your God" ... As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem" (Isa 66:9-13).

Due to the Lord's compassion, Christ came into the world. Through him, everyone would have a second chance. Jesus refers to this as being "born again" (Jn 3:3). The image of this second chance is a new birth. God's "compassion" gives us all a fresh start, a way to start anew, a "rebirth." We can "put on the new self" (Col 3:10) because he has made us a new creation, a new creature (2 Cor 5:17). We have been reborn, regenerated, renewed, and transformed (Tit 3:5).

All of this is because God is full of compassion. He allows us to have a new birth and a fresh start. The Parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us that the Father "felt compassion" for his wayward son and enthusiastically allowed him a new start (Lk 15:20ff).

It is hard to imagine, but with God, it is possible to be as innocent, delightful, and beautiful as a newborn baby. God erases the sin from our lives and sees us without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. As a mother delights in her newborn baby, so does God delight in his reborn child.

So, what would it mean for us to have compassion on other people?