Sincere compassion opens the way for God’s provision

A heart that truly cares for the needs of others has the ability to receive the resources necessary to meet those needs.

Core of the Bible podcast #78 – Sincere compassion opens the way for God’s provision

A heart that truly cares for the needs of others has the ability to receive the resources necessary to meet those needs.

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and how God provides what others need when we act sincerely from the heart. Additionally, instructing others in the way of God is in itself an act of compassion toward those who are willing to hear.

These principles were demonstrated by Yeshua as his popularity had begun to grow in Israel, and large crowds had begun to follow him looking for miracles and instruction from Yahweh. They were hungry for physical healings and spiritual guidance.

Mark 6:34 – Yeshua came out, saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.

Yeshua’s compassion here is expressed through a recognition of the general population of Israel’s lack of correct doctrine, and their eagerness to learn. The context of this verse is set as Yeshua and his disciples have been tirelessly ministering and are now attempting to find a secluded place to be refreshed. Yet, hundreds of people find out where they are going across the lake of Galilee and end up waiting for them on the shore when they arrive. Seeing these crowds, Yeshua is moved with compassion, and decides to continue to provide instruction.

It is interesting here to note that whenever a text mentions Yeshua has compassion on someone, he immediately does something to help them. Here are some examples:

Matthew 14:14 – Yeshua saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 15:32 – Then Yeshua called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.”

Matthew 20:34 – Yeshua felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him.

Mark 1:41 – Moved with compassion, Yeshua reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”

In the case of our subject passage in the sixth chapter of Mark, Yeshua’s compassionate response to the crowds who had rushed ahead of them to meet them is to continue to provide them instruction, even though he and his disciples had been worn out from the constant interactions with everyone at the previous location. They were simply trying to find a quiet place to rest and be refreshed, and could easily have said something like, “Please let us get some rest. If you come back tomorrow morning we can continue to provide some instruction and healings.”

Instead, the text says Yeshua saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd. A good shepherd won’t leave the sheep to wander on their own; they cannot provide for themselves. Left to their own devices, sheep tend to get injured or lost and cannot feed themselves because they don’t know where to find the pasture.

This was how Yeshua viewed the condition of the crowds. In a spiritual sense, they had been scattered and left behind by the religious leaders of the day who were more interested in upholding man-made traditions than providing the people the spiritual guidance they needed from the Torah. For the most part, the leaders were corrupt and sought only to serve themselves and their own purposes by trying to appear holier than everyone else, and they held everyone to impossible standards according to their traditions.

The leaders were fulfilling the prophetic picture that Yahweh, through his prophet Jeremiah, had lamented regarding the the status of their disarray:

Jeremiah 50:6 – My people were lost sheep; their shepherds led them astray, guiding them the wrong way in the mountains. They wandered from mountain to hill; they forgot their resting place.

Recognizing this, Yeshua railed against the leaders for their failure to live up to the true purpose of Torah and to properly serve the people the spiritual instruction they needed.

Matthew 23:13, 15 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in. … “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are!”

In the balance of the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, Yeshua goes into great detail regarding the specific failings of the ruling elite in Israel. They were essentially holding people to the letter of the law while they themselves circumvented it through loophole justifications. Their hypocrisy and corruption was known to all but rarely, if ever, challenged.

It was within this larger context that Yeshua sought to provide instruction, real instruction from the Torah, to the people. When they heard his words and saw they great works that validated his teaching, they were amazed and excited that a true teacher had arisen within Israel, and they didn’t want to miss any opportunity to hear him.

Matthew 15:29-31 – … Yeshua passed along the Sea of Galilee. He went up on a mountain and sat there, and large crowds came to him, including the lame, the blind, the crippled, those unable to speak, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he healed them. So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the crippled restored, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they gave glory to the God of Israel.

This was Yeshua’s mission: gathering together the lost sheep of Israel, those who had been wandering due to a lack of direction and guidance from the very Torah or instruction that God had provided them to keep them on the right path. He was to begin instructing his disciples in the same mission:

Matthew 10:6-7 – “… go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.'”

So when Yeshua saw the eagerness of the crowds that met them at the shore of the sea, and how they were anxious to learn and be healed, he couldn’t help but have compassion on them. He intentionally set aside continued time to instruct them in the truth and to provide physical restoration to those who diligently pursued him.

In a moment, we will see how the entire context of this scene actually serves as a metaphor for spiritual guidance and instruction, and how we can be inspired to provide the same level of compassionate guidance to others.

As we continue in the narrative of the sixth chapter of Mark, we find an object lesson is presented to the disciples that we also can be challenged by today.

Mark 6:35-37 – When it grew late, his disciples approached him and said, “This place is deserted, and it is already late. “Send them away so that they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages to buy themselves something to eat.” “You give them something to eat,” he responded…

I am a firm believer that nothing is presented within Scripture that lacks meaning, and certainly not within the carefully constructed narratives of the gospel accounts. We can see in the parallel passage in Matthew 14 that the same unfolding of events takes place: Yeshua and his disciples seek to find rest, crowds meet them when they come ashore; Yeshua continues to teach them, and they are then challenged to provide food for the people.

What follows in both accounts is the miraculous feeding of the five thousand people.

Mark 6:37-44 – … [The disciples] said to him, “Should we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” When they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he instructed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke the loaves. He kept giving them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. Everyone ate and was satisfied. They picked up twelve baskets full of pieces of bread and fish. Now those who had eaten the loaves were five thousand men.

To me, besides being a bona fide miracle that provided the needs of this great crowd, this is more importantly an object lesson, a continuation of the same principle that Yeshua had just demonstrated to the disciples. In their exhaustion from a full day of ministering to the people, they had no energy left. Yet, the people still needed more. They were hungry for guidance, and they needed healing and help. So Yeshua, as exhausted as he was, continued to give. The compassion he demonstrated allowed for a miraculous provision for the people.

The miracle of the bread and fish simply illustrates the same principle: the people were hungry for spiritual truth, and were supplied by a miraculous provision from God. At the end of the day, the people were not merely physically fed; they were spiritually fed, with “food” left over.

This was the lesson Yeshua wanted the disciples to understand: those who rely on the provision of God will never lack to provide to those who are truly in need. God will always meet the needs that are present when believers step out in faith that he can do so. All that is required is the compassion to want to help others, and God will make the rest happen.

So, these lessons also hold true for us today. First, we can learn that instructing others in the way of God is an act of compassion toward those who are willing to hear. Next, we should also understand that the most willing disciples are those who are hungry to learn. And finally, instead of sending people away because of our own lack, we should learn to rely on God to provide what is needed to meet the needs of others. All we have to do is allow the compassion of God to work through us to reach them.

We should always be mindful that instructing others in the way of God should be motivated by compassion for others who are willing to hear. If we are trying to teach only for the sake of prestige, or wealth, or obligation (or worse yet, only to win arguments), it will rob that form of instruction of its power and purpose.

Although Yeshua and his disciples had limited resources, God provided enough food to satisfy everyone with more left over.

This metaphorically reinforced his act of compassion to begin with: instructing them in the way of God. The crowd’s hunger for truth was not only satisfied, but there was so much more left over; and it continues to bear fruit to this day!

In like fashion, we can be sure that when we act compassionately in faith, whatever our response, God will be faithful to fill that need through us. Instruction in the way of God, when it is coming from a heart of true compassion to meet the needs of others, will be blessed with multiplication and fulfillment.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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