A collection of seventeen books that make up the final third of the Old Testament. These books of prophecy record the words of men called by God and filled with His Spirit to proclaim God’s Truth to His people.
Throughout the prophetic books we see the repetition of several themes: a call for Israel to return to pure worship of the One True God and the pronouncement of impending judgment if they continued in their rebellion. Often, the message God assigned His prophets to deliver was unpleasant.
The prophetic books are not easy beach reading. Yet even within the hard-to-hear messages proclaimed by God’s prophets, we see God’s compassion on display.
Micah’s Message of Compassion
When it came to the focus of his message for God’s people, Micah didn’t beat around the bush. For verse after verse God’s Spirit prompted Micah to proclaim a message of defeat and destruction, yet it’s compassion, not devastation, that gets the final word.
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (7:18–19)
Hosea Reveals God’s Compassionate Heart
God called Hosea to marry a wayward woman and ultimately to purchase her back from the lovers she insisted on chasing after. Hosea was a faithful and devoted husband who received nothing but rejection and heartache from his bride in return. Hosea’s story is hard to read because it lacks the happy ending we all crave in a romance. It becomes really hard to read when we see it for what it truly is, a raw and graphic picture of the rebellion of Israel and our own sinful tendencies to run away from God and into the arms of lesser lovers.
Could it be that God’s compassion has a limit? Can we deplete it if we run from Him one too many times?
Listen carefully to Hosea 11:8 and find hope.
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I surrender you, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? I have had a change of heart; my compassion is stirred! (CSB)
It seems Hosea’s prophecy has a happy ending after all. Though we are wayward, God is faithful. Though we are weak and deserving of judgment, God is compassionate toward us.
Isaiah Points to the Compassionate Christ
Isaiah instructed God’s people to turn from their sin, while warning of impending judgment if they continued to rebel. There is an unmistakable emphasis on the consequences of sin on one side of the coin. But flip it over. There is a second, equally significant message contained in Isaiah’s words—a message of compassion.
They will not hunger or thirst, the scorching heat or sun will not strike them; for their compassionate one will guide them, and lead them to springs. (49:10 CSB)
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. (49:13)
Isaiah’s book contains two complementary drum beats: the need to turn away from sin to avoid God’s judgment and God’s compassion in accepting us when we do. This is the heartbeat of Scripture. Isaiah’s prophecy stands apart from many other prophetic books because it reveals the coming of our compassionate Christ.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (9:6–7)
Even as Isaiah was rightly accusing God’s people of sin and rebellion . . .
Even as he urged his brethren to return and worship the Lord . . .
Even as he announced God’s coming and righteous judgment . . .
God used Isaiah to declare that help was on the way. A Savior was coming who would give His life as a compassionate ransom for God’s children.
The prophets help us see that God’s judgment and His compassion are not contradictory. Because He is compassionate, God will not allow us to stay in our sin and continue to run away from Him. Isaiah’s words declared that a day was coming when God would put His love into action by sending His Son, Jesus.
Excerpted from Erin Davis, Uncommon Compassion: Revealing the Heart of God (Niles, MI: Revive Our Hearts, 2020).