Scripture Reading: Jonah 4:2,9-11
“And he prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.'” (Jonah 4:2)
Jonah now clearly states why he attempted to flee from the presence of the Lord. He knew that God was a gracious and compassionate God. And because of this, Jonah wanted to forestall God from being gracious and compassionate to the people of Nineveh.
When God confronted Jonah at the end of the story, He asked Jonah a question: “And should I not have compassion on 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?” God verified to Jonah that He indeed is a compassionate God.
The word “compassion” is a word that means to grieve over someone or something. It is really stronger than pity; it means to be heart broken. It implies that one feels so deeply about someone or something that he or she weeps over it. God had compassion for the people of Nineveh. He wept over the evil and lostness of the Ninevites. He looked at the spiritual condition of the people, “who do not know their right hand from their left.” He is referring to their spiritual darkness and despair.
I believe that the compassion used to describe God in Jonah is the same compassion Jesus experienced when He looked at the spiritual darkness and despair of the people in His day — “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). It was the compassion Jesus felt when He wept over the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 23:37-39). Yes, it was the compassion Jesus had for those who crucified them, when He said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Even while being mocked and tortured, Jesus knew how confused and spiritually blind the people were. He had compassion for them; He grieved over them; His heart was broken over them. Here is the unrelenting love and compassion of our Savior!
Lord Jesus, You have wept over me and with me, because You are gracious and compassionate. You are my great High Priest who sympathizes with me in my sorrow and who grieves over my sin. I know that You love me and that You are gracious and compassionate toward me. Thank You for Your tears, Your steadfast love, Your grace, and Your compassion that has been directed toward me all through my life.
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