The Compassion of God (Jonah 4:1-11)

WW2015-wk28Have you ever had someone in your life whom you despised and, yet, God shows them grace? Maybe it was a family member or spouse who treated you so cruelly, a co-worker who deceived and cheated you, or a neighbor who gossiped about you? What do you do and what would you do if they turned from their ways and turned to God? How would you react? Quite plainly we see the manner in which Jonah replies. In response to Jonah 3:10, where God relents of His wrath because the Ninevites turned from their evil way, Jonah grows “displeased” and is even “angry”. Don’t miss what is occurring here. The thing Jonah is displeased and angry at is in what God has done. God has shown the Ninevites mercy. Jonah knows this is the character of God, for he says, “for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (verse 2). His beef here is not primarily with the Ninevites, although they play a part, but with God. Jonah does not rest it there either. He complains that it would be better for him to die than to live (verses 3, 8). God shows His patience with Jonah and uses a life illustration, a plant, to drive home the point He wants Jonah to get. Jonah 4:10-11 summarize it, “And the LORD said, ‘You pity the plant for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (verses 10-11). God essentially confronts Jonah with the question, “Should not the Lord have had compassion on Nineveh?” While we do not receive Jonah’s response in the biblical text, we would do well to ponder the answer for our own lives to that question. In doing so, may we be reminded of God’s character and the grace and mercy He has shown us in Christ!

Reflection Time:

  • Should not the Lord have compassion on those, including our enemies and people we may have a hard time liking, if they respond to the Lord in repentance, turning from their sinful ways?
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