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4th November 2012
The book of Jonah tells us much more about God than it does about Jonah. Through Jonah's story – perhaps more than any other book of the Bible – we see what pumps through God's heart: his amazing compassion.
Jonah knew God. In fact, Jonah's complaint revealed that he understood very well just what God is like: "I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." (4:2) Earlier on, God's character was a cause for great celebration – "In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me... you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God" (2:2-9) – but Jonah's attitude soon changed when he saw the same mercy God had shown him now extended to the Ninevites!
We can be like Jonah: loving to apply God's gracious, compassionate, slow-to-anger, abounding-in-love nature to ourselves, but not being quite so generous towards those around us! Jonah wasn't wrong about the Ninevites – they were evil! – but he was wrong about two other things. Firstly, he'd failed to really understand God's concern for the people of Nineveh; secondly, Jonah had got caught up in a self-righteous bubble and forgotten that he deserved God's wrath too.
Jonah's attitude was 'I will show compassion if they deserve it' – which is pretty much how everyone else operates. Maybe he was prejudiced, maybe he was afraid. Either way, Jonah was far more concerned about his personal comfort than he was about 120,000 people who were about to be destroyed!
Likewise, we can get shirty when our comfort or our plans are interrupted, without caring at all about people dying all around us without Christ. Jonah was a prophet – he heard God's voice, he was involved in the salvation of a group of sailors, he was saved by a big fish! Then he was re-commissioned – given a second chance – by God and saw revival in a major city... Yet he still missed the heart and purposes of God! Let's make sure we don't, like Jonah, miss God's heart of compassion for those around us.
Readings: Jonah 4:1-11
Question: Do I have God's compassion – or am I holding onto my prejudice, fear or personal comfort?
Posted by Paul Mann