Compassion

The Regret of God

by Daniel Burton

Certain parts of the bible are, frankly, tricky.  We can read through the bible and know the things we know about God, but it seems that some other parts are a bit difficult to understand in view of the nature of God.  For instance, we know that God is an all knowing and infallible God.  Yet, multiple times in the bible, it says that God had “regret” for making man.  Most notably you see this in Genesis 6:6 with the events leading up to the Great Flood and the account of Noah.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

Genesis 6:5-6, NIV (emphasis added)

The word the original Hebrew text uses is the word “naham.”   While it definitely implies that God felt regret, there is a deeper meaning than how you and I understand regret.  The interpretational problem comes from why it was that God was facing regret.  “Naham” also carries with it a sense of compassion.  While God may have had regret, it was underscored by compassion.  The bible makes it abundantly clear that God has love for His creation, not ambivalence, disdain, or hatred.  It was not mankind that God regretted, but the wickedness mankind brought.  In every case “naham” is used, there is the sense of the wickedness of mankind and the impending judgment that would be levied upon them.

The Wickedness of Man

From the beginning, creation was intended to be a source of communion and loving, intimate relationship with God.  The Universe was created to proclaim the glory of God and mankind was meant to live in that glory.  Yet, mankind not only allowed sin to enter, but invited it openly.  The perfection of the world was tainted.  The system of perfection had infected by the decay of sin.  The light has been set aside for the darkness.

CompassionFor a Holy God, the consequence of leaving the light is darkness and the effects of darkness are painful.  Furthermore, God is a God of justice.  For His special creation, His image bearers, there would be punishment for their sins and for their wickedness.  This is what God regretted. Having to watch His beloved creation endure the consequences of sin, laid out from the beginning of time, God regretted man’s wickedness with a regret fueled by compassion.

The Ultimate Compassion

God, seeing the best that mankind could do, regretted having made man, not in the sense that God made a mistake, but in the sense that God had compassion on his people and knew the consequences of their sin.  During the Old Testament, there were multiple times of punishment that the people endured for their actions but each and every time, their sinful heart drew them back to their wickedness.  So what did God do with His regret? He sent his only Son to die on the cross.

CompassionWhere there was regret for the wickedness of man, there was compassion on the people.  God regretted having made man because God saw the effect it would have on man.  In God’s regret for seeing His creation, made in Him image, He had compassion on mankind and paved a way out of from their sinful nature.  Jesus created a way to perfection that mankind could not otherwise achieve on their own.  God has the ultimate compassion by not only taking the consequences of sin on Himself, but by providing a way to re-enter into that eternal relationship with Him.  The sacrifice of Christ was on the cross and his resurrection shows what God did with His compassion fueled regret. He defeated the darkness, condemned the wickedness, but showed love to His beloved creation.

This is the ultimate compassion, upholding justice and grace simultaneously.  This is the Gospel.

A Quick Note

This particular topic was based on a question asked by a family friend who is always thinking and pursuing God who wasn’t afraid to ask a question.  We are all learning more and more about God each day and none of us are as all knowing as God.  So, if we have questions, we do not be afraid to ask.  Ask your pastor, ask your small group, ask a trusted friend rooted in the faith, but ask.  Having questions, doubts, and struggles is common and we are all here to lift one another up.

If you have something you would like The Gospel Outpost to look into, feel free to send a message to thegospeloutpost@gmail.com. We are always taking suggestions and new ideas for topics.

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