Sometimes when people try to describe qualities and characteristics of God today, they gravitate towards lofty theological and philosophical constructs. God is Omnipotent. Omniscient. Omnipresent. But when God’s reveals divine characteristics, notice what God leads with—compassionate.
The Hebrew word used to describe compassion is a deeply emotional word. It’s like a parent’s deep feeling love for their children (i.e. Psalm 103:7-8, 13). This is fitting because the root word for compassion in Hebrew is the same as the Hebrew word for a mother’s womb. When we talk about feeling something deeply, we might say we feel it in our gut. But this is more beautiful and maternal and is connected to the womb. It taps into a bond that mothers feel before a child is even born. It alludes to the connection and commitment that only grows after giving birth, nursing, nurturing, caring, cuddling. That’s the deep-seated emotion, the empathy, the connection to creation that defines God’s character. Even when God’s children mess up.
This shows up fantastically in Isaiah 49. Israel has this patten in the OT of messing up, of turning their back on God, and then crying out to God for help. But in 49:14, Israel complains that they have cried out to God, but he’s not listening. “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’” (So, God responds,) 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
Even when we are at our worst, God offers compassion. Compassionate is who God is… time after time.