God’s heart of compassion extends to all people. After a successful day of preaching to the City of Nineveh, the entire city repents and believes in God. But Jonah is furious at this outcome. God is pleased with the response of the Ninevites and does not destroy the city. But Jonah reveals that the reason he did not want to preach to Nineveh in the first place was because he did not want God to exhibit undeserved compassion upon them. “That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place, ” Jonah admits, “I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God…One Who relents from [sending] disaster.”
In other words, Jonah ran from God not because he thought God’s Message might not work, but because He was afraid that it would reach the people!
Jonah then leaves the city and sits at a distance with a view of the city in his sight. He watches in hopes that Nineveh will be destroyed. How unfortunate this is, that Jonah is unwilling to show the Ninevites the compassion that God has willingly given the people. While this is the beginning of a new relationship between God and Nineveh, Jonah’s anger against the people keeps him from being able witness with joy the fruition of God’s Plan. Now, we remember that Nineveh was an enemy city of Israel, and was part of Assyria, which had caused Israel harm in the past. Jonah’s anger toward God’s grace to Nineveh is understandable. However, because Israel is also God’s people, the compassion He shows towards Nineveh is the very type of compassion that Jonah should also show. God’s willingness to show mercy to an enemy city of Israel invites Jonah to do the same.
God shows compassion to people we do not expect should receive it. Especially for people who have harmed us or others, it is sometimes difficult to extend compassion and mercy that these people have not deserved. But that brings to mind the wonder of God. The wonderful thing about God is that the grace, mercy, and compassion He shows is just that: undeserved. Even for us who were once God’s enemies, He showed His compassion to us. How then, should we show compassion after we’ve been given it so abundantly? God Jonah a question on which we must pause to reflect: “Is it right for you to be angry?” Is it within our right to show anger in situations where our God extends compassion and grace? No. Instead, God’s compassion challenges us to extend to all people the undeserved grace we’ve first received from Him.
Lord, You are compassionate beyond understanding. You are so merciful. You are gracious Lord. Thank You for blessing me so richly in ways that I do not deserve. You are truly Good. I pray that Your compassion for all people challenges me and grows me to show this same compassion to others, and that Your Grace helps me to be gracious even when I don’t want to be. Help me to surrender to Your example. I pray these things in Jesus’ Holy Name, AMEN.
Thru the Bible in a year (credit: Biblestudytools.com): 1 Corinthians 14:26-40; 2 Kings 9; Jonah 4