When We Have No Compassion

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. Jonah 3:10-4:1

Even prophets sometimes have a lot to learn.

After his time in the belly of the fish, Jonah was no longer disobedient, but he was perplexed in his obedience, wrestling still with God’s sovereign grace. Although, having initially sought to run away from God’s purposes for him, Jonah had gone where he’d been told to go and had said what he’d been told to say, he was by no means in harmony with God’s gracious plan for Nineveh. Revival had broken out in a city that had been completely hardened to the God of Israel—and the prophet of God responded in anger towards his God!

Yet even though Jonah was churlish and narrow-minded and responded wrongly to God’s kindness, God didn’t write him off. He had already provided a large fish to save Jonah from disobedience; He could justifiably have provided a large lion to eat him too! But He didn’t, because He is gracious and compassionate. He treated Jonah with patience and kindness to bring him to the realization that what was wrong, more than any other thing, was his attitude.

Jonah’s reaction to the Ninevites’ repentance was strange for a preacher. We may have expected him to be grateful that God chose not to cast him off but to give him the privilege of being used in His service. Instead the city’s repentance “displeased Jonah exceedingly.” A literal translation of this verse takes it a step further: “It was evil to Jonah, a great evil.” The absence of the calamity that he expected—a judgment which he thought and hoped would come upon Nineveh—proved to be a calamity in his own heart and mind.

Unpalatable though it sounds, we may see our attitudes and reactions reflected in Jonah’s. We may go where we’re told to go, we may say what we’re told to say, we may externally conform to all that God has called us to do… and yet, at the very core of our lives, we may not really be in harmony with how His plan is unfolding. We may long for judgment to fall rather than mercy to be extended. We may chafe against God blessing others in ways that He has not blessed us or blessing others without them showing the commitment to His mission that we think we have displayed. We may find ourselves telling God how He ought to arrange things in His world.

What will bring us into line with His compassion and send us joyfully on His mission? Simply this: to understand that we are no better than anyone else—no less deserving of His wrath and no more deserving of His kindness. As it demonstrates the mercy of God, the cross humbles our hearts and fills them with the same compassion and grace that took His Son to Calvary. Are you struggling to live with such compassion toward others? Gaze at the cross and ask the Lord to teach you what Jonah also needed to learn.


Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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