CAMEOS OF CHRIST – LOVE AND PITY (Isaiah 63: 9)
In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.
In his address to the nation of Israel on the eve of their entering into the land of Canaan, just a few days before his death, Moses unveiled something very wonderful about Jehovah, their God. Something that particularly set Him apart from all the imagined deities of the heathen. This is what he said: ‘the Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you‘ (Deuteronomy 7: 7, 8a).
The reason for our love is generally outside of ourselves – our love is drawn out by things that are external. That’s how it works in life, and that is how it works with false gods. Moses was telling that ancient nation that the reason for God’s love was not in them – it was in God Himself: ‘because the Lord loved you‘. And this is underscored in the New Testament where John writes twice in his first letter that ‘God is love‘ (1 John 4: 8, 16). Love is not simply something ‘about God’. The phrase ‘God is love‘ tells us that God’s love is like Himself – unoriginated, unparalleled, unlimited, unwavering, unending. Paul tells us that the Lord Jesus is ‘the Son of His love‘ (Colossians 1: 13) – the One who is the perfect expression of God’s love. Who so fully told it out in His sacrifice and suffering for sin: John reminds us: ‘herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us‘ (1 John 4: 10).
God’s love and God’s pity are so beautifully brought together in the verse that we have read. It was the psalmist who wrote: ‘like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him‘ (Psalm 102: 13). And His pity is seen time and again throughout the history of Israel. On four occasions in the gospels we read about the Lord Jesus being ‘moved with compassion‘ (Matthew 9: 36) – that is just this idea of ‘pity’. And it brings together these two ideas – God’s love, which is active and God’s pity, which is responsive. But not always in the way that we expect!
Our verse tells us that ‘in all their affliction He was afflicted‘. He did not desert them in their trial – He was with them. It was in retrospect that Job learned that in his trials, so that James could write about ‘the end of the Lord‘ in his letter: that ‘the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy‘ (James 5: 11).
Love and pity comes together beautifully in Christ. But Peter reminds us that these two features should characterise us too. This is what he writes: ‘having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous‘ (1 Peter 3: 8). In a world that is so taken up with self, the Christian has the responsibility to be loving and compassionate to all.
Because our Lord is full of love and pity.