As I was compiling these stories of compassion in the Bible I was overcome with the beauty of the God we serve. A holy and all-powerful God reaches down to His creation with a love and compassion that is incomparable.
I pray that you are also moved to worship and praise the great I Am as you study these stories. I chose only five stories of compassion in the Bible and I could write five more posts on this same topic. They kept coming to mind one after the other and it was nearly impossible to choose just five.
It is my desire that you see the compassion of our God throughout scripture. I think it is often associated more with Christ than with what many consider the God of the Old Testament. Obviously, they are the same as Jesus tells us “when you have seen me, you have seen the father” (John 14:9-11)
With this in mind, I have chosen three stories from the Old Testament and two stories from the New Testament. All of them provide a wonderful example for us to follow as well as a call to draw close to our creator.
Meaning of compassion in the Bible
According to Merriam-Webster, compassion is defined as “sympathetic consciousness of other’s distress together with a desire to alleviate it”
It is a beautiful emotion that leads us to bond as friends, reach out to those in need, and nurture our children. It is often associated with love and has an overall positive connotation.
What is the meaning of compassion in the Bible? The Hebrew and Greek lend themselves to meanings such as “to show pity” “to love” and “to show mercy”.
Compassion is part of God’s character.
“And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6)
His compassion is compared to that of a mother.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. (Isaiah 49:15)
God’s compassion overcomes sin.
He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. (Micah 7:19)
Stories of Compassion in the Bible
Now that we know what we are looking at, let’s explore five stories of compassion in the Bible. May they touch you deeply and open your eyes to those around you in need of your compassion.
The Story of Boaz
The book of Ruth contains a beautiful story of loyalty, love, compassion, and the happy endings we all enjoy.
Naomi, her husband, and her two sons leave Israel and live in Moab. While there, her husband dies, but her sons marry nice young women and life isn’t bad. Until both of her sons die as well. Distressed and alone, Naomi decides to travel back to her homeland and live near her extended family.
Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, is determined to go with her prompting the well-known and beautifully spoken passage:
“Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
The compassion Ruth has toward Naomi is exactly what we are talking about here, but that is not the only compassion seen in this story.
When Naomi and Ruth return to Naomi’s hometown, they settle in. Both are widows and living is difficult. Ruth goes out to glean so they have something to eat.
The concept of gleaning alone shows the compassionate nature of God. He made a law that when the farmers harvest their crops that they should leave some around the edges of their fields to feed those who were poor or homeless or widowed.
Boaz, the godly man that he was, followed this law and Ruth ends up gleaning from his property. As time goes on, he takes a liking to her and is moved by her loyalty to Naomi. He instructs his men to leave more grain than usual for her to glean. He provides her with water and food while she is working and tells his workers to treat her kindly as well.
His compassionate nature leads to their marriage and Ruth bears a child who becomes the grandfather of David.
The Story of Rahab
God’s power is seen throughout scripture with the plagues of Egypt, fire from heaven with Elijah, and the creation story itself. The battles won throughout the Old Testament all point back to God and give Him glory for difficult military feats. The Battle of Jericho is one of the more well-known stories.
I spent plenty of time dancing around to the song “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho” as a kid and my own children are growing up doing the same. The walls of a great city crumble to the ground, thousands of people are killed, and I’m including this in Bible stories about compassion?
God’s compassion and His holiness abide together and He sees the hearts of men.
The forty years of wandering in the wilderness have come to completion and it is finally time to take over the land that was promised to the Children of Israel through God’s covenant with Abraham. Joshua is their mighty leader and he has a huge undertaking before him.
The first city on their route into the promised land is Jericho. It was a mighty fortress with thick city walls which were well guarded, especially now that they knew the children of Israel were on their way.
Joshua sends two spies into the city for a little recon. Apparently, Jericho has good intel and the spies are discovered. Rahab comes to the rescue and hides the spies. She explains that she believes that the true God is with them and begs them to save her family when they destroy the city.
God shows compassion on Rahab by doing just that! When the wall falls down in the climax of the story, Rahab’s house remains standing and her family remains unharmed.
Check out the Rahab Bible study by clicking here!
God Shows Compassion to Nineveh
Another well-loved children’s classic from scripture is Jonah and the whale, but we are going to bypass that part of the story and focus on Nineveh.
During the time of Jonah, Nineveh was a beautiful city full of parks, gardens, and a zoo. It was the largest city in the known world at that time and was considered a cultural center.
Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians were aggressive people whose religion was similar to that of the Egyptians. They did not worship the true God and were responsible for the destruction of Israel (the story of Judah and how God showed his power over the Assyrians is a great one).
God is angry at this nation for their evil toward His people. He decides to destroy them but first chooses Jonah to warn them of the coming destruction. Jonah doesn’t want to and runs in the opposite direction. After a series of events, Jonah ends up in Nineveh preaching of the coming doom.
Now, Nineveh was 60 miles wide, but communication was just as good in those days as it is today, and the news of Jonah’s preaching reached the king. In a strange turn of events, the king believes Jonah and commands the entire city to put on a sackcloth and fast with the hopes of appeasing God.
And do you know what our compassionate God did?
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. (Jonah 3:10)
Jonah becomes angry at God and says,
“Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.” (Jonah 4:2)
Have you ever been there? Not wanting to forgive someone? Wishing those who had been mean to you would fall flat on their faces?
Jonah was annoyed because this is the reason he had not wanted to obey God. He knew God would forgive them and he thought they should pay for their wickedness. God teaches Jonah a lesson and ends with this,
“Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 4:11)
Examples of Jesus showing compassion
Scripture tells us that Jesus had compassion for the people. How many times was Jesus moved with compassion? Probably more than is recorded.
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36)
But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:33-34)
The Woman Caught in Adultry
John 8 brings us the story of the woman caught in adultery. The pious men of the city are ready to stone her in obedience to the Law of Moses. They pause first and ask Jesus, the controversial teacher, what they should do. Of course, this is a test for Jesus which he skillfully uses to expose their own sinful natures.
His reply? “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
This is compassion in action. He reveals his merciful nature which later allows him to be hung on a cross for the saving of mankind.
Jesus Takes Care of His Mother
The most obvious story of compassion in the Bible is Jesus dying on the cross, sacrificing himself for us. What stands out to me is that while he was suffering on the cross, he was concerned about his mom. He sees her standing there next to his disciple John, most likely sobbing as she watched her son dying a cruel and public death, and he makes sure she is taken care of.
He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27)
What do These Bible Stories about Compassion Teach Us?
What lessons can we glean from these Bible stories about compassion? If you allow me to put it bluntly, I will list them like this:
- God’s compassion is difficult for our human hearts to fathom
- Compassion is part of God’s character
- We are sinful people and yet God is gracious to us, showering us with compassion
- We need to show that same compassion to others
- Compassion is more of an attribute than an action, one that spills out into everything we do and how we treat others
- Compassion can change our lives and the lives of those around us
How do you feel about these stories of compassion from the Bible? Which story spoke to you the most? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below!
Hi, I’m Heather from Lessons from Home. I’m in love with my five kids, homeschooling, and all things chocolate. At lessons from home I share my homeschooling and parenting journey along with the lessons God teaches me as I learn to follow Him wherever He leads. Healing from loss is a major part of my story as my family walks the dark path of grief after losing my beautiful 8 year old daughter.