God’s Stubborn Compassion for Stubborn People – Psalm 78

The overarching theme of Psalm 78 and God’s ultimate praiseworthy deed is
His stubborn compassion for stubborn people.
Derek Kidner, one of my favorite OT commentators,
writes,

“If Israel’s record is her shame, God’s persistent goodness emerges as her hope
and ours for the unfinished story.”

The Bible is a record of our family history.
It ought to foster both humility and hope in us.
It forces us to honestly assess and remember
how incorrigibly rebellious and stubborn we’ve been
as well as how merciful God has been to return again and again
in compassion to deliver us.
This is one primary way we celebrate the gospel with others,
especially our kids.
We humble ourselves and admit when we’re wrong.

Do you feel yourself spiritually and physically weak today?

The prophet Isaiah describes people like us:
Bruised reeds and smoldering wicks.

Listen to how our Savior deals with people like us:
“A bruised reed he will not break, 
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory…” (Matthew 12:20)

What are we to understand by the bruised reed and smoldering wick ?

This language is no doubt figurative.
What is it that these two expressions mean?
The simplest explanation seems to be,
that the Holy Spirit is here describing persons
whose grace is at present weak, whose repentance is feeble,
and whose faith is small. Towards such persons the Lord Jesus Christ will be very tender and compassionate.
Weak as the bruised reed is, it shall not be broken;
small as the spark of fire may be within the smoldering wick,
it shall not be quenched.
– J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)

Down in the human heart, Crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried, That grace can restore,
Touched by a loving heart, Wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken, Will vibrate once more.
– Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)

Jesus Christ the King does not merely tolerate weak believers,
but He is drawn to them, showing them special tenderness and compassion
in order to further them in sanctification.
– Richard Sibbes (1577 – 1635)

Why not take a few moments to cherish the special tenderness and compassion
of our Savior today by reflecting on the below prayer and making it your own!

God, our heavenly Father,
we are those who have been bruised and broken by sin and the fall.
We confess that we have bruised others
by our harsh and critical words,
our anger tempers, our betrayals,
and our failed attempts at loving others well.
The devil bruises us with his lies.
We also are bruised by others.
Thank you for dealing tenderly with “bruised reeds” and “smoldering wicks.”
We confess to you that our grasp of your grace is weak,
our repentance is feeble, and our faith is small.
Thank you Jesus that you were wounded for our transgressions
and you were bruised for our iniquities.
Pour out the healing balm of your grace
into our lives we pray for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Compassion at Christmas Time – A Word from Henri Nouwen

“Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to a place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.”

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen