A God of Loving-Kindness
“O give thanks to Jehovah, you people, for he is good; for his loving-kindness is to time indefinite.”—Ps. 107:1.
1, 2. How do some view God, as compared with what David wrote?
WHAT is your conception of God? Do you view him as a kindly, benevolent deity, but one who perhaps is aloof from the affairs and problems of mankind? Or perhaps you think of him as a partisan fighter in world affairs, one who blesses the wars and bloodshed of the nations if they are in a “righteous” cause, perhaps even as a God who arbitrarily snuffs out the life of a loved one for his own inscrutable purposes.
2 This does not sound like the God of whom the psalmist David said: “Good and upright is Jehovah. That is why he instructs sinners in the way. He will cause the meek ones to walk in his judicial decision, and he will teach the meek ones his way. All the paths of Jehovah are loving-kindness and trueness for those observing his covenant and his reminders.”—Ps. 25:8-10.
3, 4. What should be our attitude toward the Creator, and why?
3 David had been a fugitive, fleeing for his life from his own countrymen, but he did not find fault with God for his troubles. Instead he prayed: “Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah; teach me your own paths. Make me walk in your truth and teach me, for you are my God of salvation. In you I have hoped all day long. Remember your mercies, O Jehovah, and your loving-kindnesses, for they are from time indefinite.”—Ps. 25:4-6.
4 Many persons in less severe circumstances have found fault with the Creator. They cannot understand why he does not personally intervene in their cases, and tend to blame all their troubles, regardless of the source, on God. But we do well to consider what Jehovah’s Word has to say about this. Is he a God of kindness and love, as David declared, or an unloving, bloodthirsty God, as even some clergymen have asserted?
5. What counsel from Jehovah’s Word did David wisely follow?
5 David was falsely accused and harassed by King Saul, whom Jehovah had entrusted with the leadership of his people. But David did not become bitter toward Jehovah over Saul’s jealous action, and David refused to take matters into his own hands to strike down “the anointed of Jehovah.” He recalled the law of Israel: “You must not hate your brother in your heart. You should by all means reprove your associate, that you may not bear sin along with him. You must not take vengeance nor have a grudge against the sons of your people; and you must love your fellow as yourself. I am Jehovah.”—Lev. 19:17, 18.
6. (a) What did the wars of Israel foreshadow, but what should we not conclude? (b) How did Jehovah deal rewardingly with David?
6 Later David took the lead in the fight Israel waged against the Canaanites to drive them out of the land that had been promised to Israel’s forefather Abraham. This action was a prophetic pattern of how Jehovah in our time will cleanse the earth of rebels against his sovereignty and give the inheritance to those loving and serving him, “those observing his covenant and his reminders.” However, there is no Scriptural indication that Jehovah in these days fights for one nation or another. To the contrary, Isaiah foretold that his people would beat their swords into plowshares and learn war no more. David was denied the honor of erecting the temple to Jehovah’s worship because he had been a man of war. Yet David had carried out Jehovah’s will for his time and so Jehovah promised that the kingship would not leave his line of descent. (Acts 13:36) Concerning this, Isaiah prophetically declared: “Incline your ear and come to me. Listen, and your soul will keep alive, and I shall readily conclude with you people an indefinitely lasting covenant respecting the loving-kindnesses to David that are faithful.” No wonder David declared: “As for me, in your loving-kindness I have trusted; let my heart be joyful in your salvation. I will sing to Jehovah, for he has dealt rewardingly with me.”—Isa. 55:3; Ps. 13:5, 6.
7. How did Paul connect God’s loving-kindness to David with Jesus’ time?
7 The apostle Paul tied in the covenant with David with the events in Jesus’ day, explaining: “And so we are declaring to you the good news about the promise made to the forefathers, that God has entirely fulfilled it to us their children in that he resurrected Jesus; even as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son, I have become your Father this day.’ And that fact that he resurrected him from the dead destined no more to return to corruption, he has stated in this way, ‘I will give you people the loving-kindnesses to David that are faithful.’” So the promise to David was fulfilled and Jesus as the heir of David and Jehovah’s only-begotten Son was raised up to become King of Jehovah’s new order of things at the appointed time.—Acts 13:32-34.
8. What are some evidences that Jehovah is a God of loving-kindness?
8 From the very beginning a growing chain of events showed Jehovah’s kindness and loving concern for mankind. Jehovah’s purpose that righteous men live on earth in paradisaic conditions would not be thwarted. When Jehovah formed the earth as a beautiful home for men, he did not provide just the stark necessities, but covered the terrain with fruit-bearing trees and flowering shrubs for their pleasure and delight. In the midst of the garden he planted the tree of life, looking forward to the time when the first couple would prove their faithfulness and expand the boundaries of the paradise garden to the ends of the earth. Even after their rebellion and the execution of sentence against them, Jehovah in prophecy showed his undeserved kindness as he foretold the future redemption of those putting their faith in him.
9. What need did David recognize, and how was this prospect provided?
9 How would this restoration to paradisaic conditions come about? Jehovah had promised Abraham: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” This seed of Abraham would prove to be a blessing by providing the means for redemption. David had expressed the need for this when he prayed: “The sins of my youth and my revolts O do not remember. According to your loving-kindness do you yourself remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Jehovah. For your name’s sake, O Jehovah, you must even forgive my error, for it is considerable.” (Gen. 22:18; Ps. 25:7, 11) David saw that something more than animal sacrifices was needed to provide a satisfactory atonement, and he trusted in Jehovah’s loving-kindness to provide it. Jehovah’s covenant with David was another step forward in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. (2 Sam. 7:16) How was that? As Paul said, regarding Jesus: “From all the things from which you could not be declared guiltless by means of the law of Moses, everyone who believes is declared guiltless by means of this One.” What a prospect for blessing all nations this opened up, thanks to Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, even the forgiveness of sins and errors such as David mentioned!—Acts 13:38, 39.
10. In what way have mankind generally responded to Jehovah’s provisions, and what does this indicate?
10 Still down to this day mankind have not accepted and applied the lesson of kindness taught by Jehovah and his Son. Instead, throughout the world there is hatred due to nationality, prejudice due to religious differences, abuse and unkindness due to race. Those pursuing such a course show they are walking in darkness, as far as the viewpoint of their Creator is concerned, and darkness has blinded their eyes. (1 John 2:9-11) Following the course of kindness is to walk in union with Jehovah, walking in the light. This light from his Word further reveals the contrast between those who are children of God and those who are following the Satanic course of unkindness, division and hatred. “The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God, neither does he who does not love his brother. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should have love for one another; not like Cain, who originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother.”—1 John 3:10-12.
11. (a) What illustration of kindness did Jesus give? (b) How did he show the same impartiality as his Father?
11 Nor is this love for one’s brother to be understood to mean just those of one’s own family or even one’s own race. As Jesus said: “My mother and my brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21) So he did not make distinctions due to blood ties or race. He knew that his Father had shown undeserved kindness to all kinds of men and that He is impartial toward all. He made all men of one blood, and has given all the same hope of life through his Son under his Kingdom rule. A scholar of the Law, knowing Jehovah’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves, asked: “Who really is my neighbor?” Jesus replied by telling of a man on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho who was robbed and beaten and left half-dead. Ignored by a priest and Levite who passed by, he was finally given kindly attention by a Samaritan. Jesus asked: “Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers?” Certainly it was the man who acted mercifully who showed himself to be the real neighbor. Jesus commended this action, saying to his inquirer: “Go your way and be doing the same yourself.”—Luke 10:29-37.
12. (a) For what is God not to be blamed? (b) How do the Scriptures show this?
12 Despite the fact that many people not only pass by and ignore their neighbors when help is needed, but even act rebelliously toward their Creator, Jehovah has continued to deal with long-suffering, patience and kindness toward mankind. (Ps. 107:11-13) He is not to be blamed because sudden death through accident, war or disease strikes thousands of young and old just when least expected. To the contrary, he is the one opening the way to life for those desiring it. Both he and his Son advocate and practice undeserved kindness.—Eccl. 9:11; Heb. 2:14.
13. (a) What condition had Israel fallen into according to Hosea? (b) What kind of God would Jehovah show himself to be if the people were repentant?
13 However, Jehovah’s loving expressions of kindness toward men through the centuries do not mean that he overlooks or will sentimentally forgive all wrongdoing. To Israel he described himself with the words: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but by no means will he give exemption from punishment, bringing punishment for the error of fathers upon sons and upon grandsons, upon the third generation and upon the fourth generation.” (Ex. 34:6, 7) Israel in time became deserving of chastisement. Hosea described the people as having loving-kindness “like the morning clouds and like the dew that early goes away.” Judah had treacherously violated their covenant with Jehovah. Instead of practicing the loving-kindness of their God, Gilead became “a city of wrongdoers, tracked with bloody footprints. Like troops of men lying in wait, so the priests hid themselves; on the way to Shechem they committed murder, they practiced vice.” Israel was defiled. Surely with conditions like this in the land it was true that what little loving-kindness there was had vanished away in the early morning like dew. With good reason Hosea pleaded: “Come, you people, and do let us return to Jehovah, for he himself has torn in pieces but he will heal us. He kept striking, but he will bind us up.” Jehovah wanted their loyal love rather than sacrifice, and that they recognize the importance of knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hos. 6:1-10, NW, AT) If the people would repent, then Jehovah would show himself to be a God ‘slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, but by no means giving exemption from punishment.’
14. What was the condition of Israel by the days of the apostles, and what provision did Jehovah make for the Gentiles?
14 The apostle Paul centuries later commented on Jehovah’s balance as a God of kindness, yet one showing severity when deserved. He quoted Jehovah’s words to Isaiah: “All day long I have spread out my hands toward a people that is disobedient and talks back.” Elijah had even pleaded with God against Israel, saying: “Jehovah, they have killed your prophets, they have dug up your altars, and I alone am left.” But Jehovah did not reject his people. He knew there were seven thousand men of faith remaining besides Elijah. So though the nation stumbled often, they did not fall completely from Jehovah’s favor, and, like the seven thousand who refused to worship Baal in Elijah’s time, a remnant of Israel during Jesus’ ministry proved faithful. Paul wrote: “In this way, therefore, at the present season also a remnant has turned up according to a choosing due to undeserved kindness.” However, the majority of Israel acted as though they were sound asleep, their eyes closed and their ears deaf to the wonderful opportunity Jehovah in his undeserved kindness was opening up to them. Their failure opened the way for Gentiles, the people of the nations, to come into the new covenant that Jesus inaugurated. No longer were the Jews set off as a select people from all the other nations, but the wall of partition had been broken down and now the way was open for others to come into Jehovah’s favor as his covenant people.—Rom. 10:21 to 11:11; 1 Pet. 2:10.
15. How did Paul illustrate Jehovah’s action, and what warning was given?
15 Paul described this by likening Jehovah’s covenant people to the branches in an olive tree. Since Israel as a nation proved unfruitful, the spiritually dead branches were broken off and new branches from a wild olive tree, representing men of faith of Gentile nations, were grafted in, that they might receive the riches of Jehovah and the blessings he would provide. Paul warns that this was not due to any special works on the part of those grafted in, but due to the lack of faith of those to whom the opportunity was first extended. He reminds them: “If God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. See, therefore, God’s kindness and severity. Toward those who fell there is severity, but toward you there is God’s kindness, provided you remain in his kindness; otherwise, you also will be lopped off.” (Rom. 11:21, 22) Faith and obedience are required to remain in Jehovah’s kindness. It is not a question of nationality or race. As Paul put it, “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for there is the same Lord over all, who is rich to all those calling upon him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.’”—Rom. 10:12, 13; 2:7-11.
16. How was the hope of everlasting life made possible?
16 Jehovah has opened the door to life through his undeserved kindness, balancing the scales of justice by providing his Son as a ransom so that we can escape from the condemnation and death inherited from Adam. Paul highlighted this at Titus 3:4-7, saying: “When the kindness and the love for man on the part of our Savior, God, was manifested, owing to no works in righteousness that we had performed, but according to his mercy he saved us through the bath that brought us to life and through the making of us new by holy spirit. This spirit he poured out richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior, that, after being declared righteous by virtue of the undeserved kindness of that one, we might become heirs according to a hope of everlasting life.” Jehovah truly is a God of loving-kindness. It is not because of our own righteous works that we become entitled to life, but because of Jehovah’s showing undeserved kindness in providing a ransom, which Jesus made available by giving his human life as a sacrifice. “So the Word became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father; and he was full of undeserved kindness and truth. For we all received from out of his fullness, even undeserved kindness upon undeserved kindness.” In this Jesus mirrored the kindly qualities of his Father.—John 1:14, 16.
17. In what way did undeserved kindness come to rule as king?
17 Thus it can be clearly seen that it is due to no action on the part of the individual that he has the hope of everlasting life, because all have sinned; yet God grants this prospect of being declared righteous through faith in the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus as a free gift by his undeserved kindness. (Rom. 3:23, 24) Up to the time of Christ the law that God gave stood as a reminder to Israel of their imperfection and sinfulness, but Jesus’ ransom opened up the way to receive the benefits of God’s undeserved kindness. Until that time it was true that sin ruled as king with death, but then Jehovah opened up the way that “undeserved kindness might rule as king through righteousness with everlasting life in view.” (Rom. 5:21) Jesus had come as a leader and commander to bless all national groups, in fulfillment of God’s “covenant respecting the loving-kindnesses to David.”—Isa. 55:3, 4.
18. How do some shove aside the undeserved kindness of God?
18 Today Christians are not in the Mosaic law covenant with God, but, being associated with the new covenant, are led by God’s spirit. (Rom. 6:14) Even so, our prospects of righteous standing in God’s sight do not come as a result of our works. The apostle Paul spoke strongly about this, showing that no one could obtain life through his own efforts: “I do not shove aside the undeserved kindness of God; for if righteousness is through law, Christ actually died for nothing.” (Gal. 2:21) In fact, Paul went on to say: “You are parted from Christ, whoever you are that try to be declared righteous by means of law; you have fallen away from his undeserved kindness.”—Gal. 5:4; Rom. 11:5, 6.
19. What privilege has Jehovah given Christians today?
19 However, although it is not by our own efforts but rather by the merit of Christ’s sacrifice that we have the wonderful hope of everlasting life, whether in heaven or upon earth, that fact does not mean that Jehovah has not given us an assignment of service. So Paul reminded the Galatians: “God, who . . . called me through his undeserved kindness, thought good to reveal his Son in connection with me, that I might declare the good news about him to the nations.” (Gal. 1:15, 16) By also accepting this call to declare the good news Christians today can share in the ministry and show they appreciate the undeserved kindness of Jehovah. As sons of God, we should reflect his quality of kindness to others, and what better way can there be to do this than by bringing them the truth that leads to life! Jesus did this, sharing both undeserved kindness and truth through his ministry.—John 1:17, 18.
20. Who is the true source of kindness, and what invitation does he extend?
20 Jehovah himself is the original source of kindness. As the aged apostle John wrote: “Who will not really fear you, Jehovah, and glorify your name, because you alone are one of loving-kindness?” (Rev. 15:4, edition of 1950) Even for those who have gone contrary to the direction of God, if they change their course of action, the opportunity of being reconciled and obtaining the gift of life may still be open, just as the prophet Joel invited the wayward Israelites: “Come back to Jehovah your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness.”—Joel 2:13.
21. What effort is Satan making, but what can lead to salvation?
21 On the other hand, Satan is doing all he can to counteract the kindness of Jehovah, knowing that he has only a short time remaining to blind the minds of the people to the good news. (2 Cor. 4:4) His every effort is to defame the Creator as a God who does not care and is not concerned with the problems and trials of mankind, a God taking sides in human wars and thus being responsible for the suffering and grief of the people. (John 8:44) But Jesus foreknew that before Jehovah finally brings an end to Satan’s deceit and troublemaking, a warning would be given and the real position of Jehovah as a God of loving-kindness would be made clear, One who will bring blessings to his people through his Kingdom under the rule of Christ Jesus. To this end he has gathered together men of faith as his witnesses in a worldwide organization to preach “this good news of the kingdom.” Sharing in this God-assigned work now leads to salvation.—Rom. 10:9-11.
22. What fate awaits those who fall into Satan’s snare?
22 During this interim period before the final crushing tribulation comes against Satan’s organization many are having the opportunity to hear the Kingdom message and are in effect taking up the prayer of David: “Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah; teach me your own paths.” (Ps. 25:4) They come to know Jehovah as a God extending undeserved kindness to those “observing his covenant and his reminders.” They no longer fall into the snare of lack of faith that Satan has laid, brooding over the barbaric acts of warfare of recent years and attributing such things to God. (Jas. 4:1, 2) However, Christendom generally, like Israel of old, displays loving-kindness that vanishes in time of trouble like a morning dew in a hot sun, quickly dissipated because of not having real faith in Jehovah, his Word and Kingdom. Unless such ones come back to Jehovah and turn to the knowledge of God, they will be cut down as in a harvest when Jehovah cleanses the earth of all wickedness at the battle of Armageddon. As Isaiah prophesied, men of faith will then “actually go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that were transgressing against me.”—Isa. 66:24.
23. (a) How do the Scriptures show Jehovah’s justice? (b) How does even Jehovah’s severity prove to be a kindness?
23 Thus Jehovah in his righteous judgments shows both kindness and severity—deserved severity toward those who oppose his Kingdom ambassadors and their message and who turn their backs on his righteous purpose, but kindness to men of faith with the prospect of everlasting life. (Luke 20:9-18) Even during this “time of the end” Jehovah continues to show his patience, not desiring any to perish. (2 Pet. 3:9) Each one by his course of action will determine whether he will receive of God’s kindness or severity. Jehovah will actually be showing kindness to all putting faith in him when he completely cleanses the earth of all wickedness. (Heb. 10:26-29) Then as never before ‘undeserved kindness will rule as king through righteousness with everlasting life in view through Jesus Christ our lord.’—Rom. 5:21; Ps. 107:15.
[Picture on page 139]
The kindly Samaritan