“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”
For the past several months I have been reading through the Bible. Although I have read most of it before, I was surprised to find that the Old Testament is basically the same story over and over again…the people disobey God, he sends them warning, they don’t listen, then he sends calamity to try to bring them to repentance. It seemed like the same thing over and over. For about a month, I was feeling really discouraged from reading how many times God’s people fell and how many times God sent his wrath. I began to wonder if I had a wrong impression of God’s character. It didn’t seem like these stories painted a picture of a loving God.
But when I got to the book of Jonah, I finally understood. I was seeing God’s punishment as mean, not even thinking about what the people really deserved. If God had justice without compassion, he would have zapped them at the first sign of their sin. Instead, he forgave again and again and again. Despite his disobedience, Jonah understood God’s character. He knew that God was compassionate and would forgive anyone who would repent. Jonah understood God’s tendency for compassion and hated the fact that if the people he disliked (the Ninevites) would repent, that God would forgive them. It made him mad that these people that didn’t “deserve” compassion would receive it. To make a long story short…God told Jonah to go tell the Ninevites to repent, Jonah didn’t want to so he headed in the opposite direction, but ended up back in the right direction after being thrown off a ship in the middle of a storm and being swallowed by a big fish. Jonah finally went to the Ninevites, and as he suspected, they believed him and repented. After the Ninevites repented the Bible says, “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee 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.'” Through Jonah’s bad attitude, God’s extreme compassion is revealed. The Lord not only had compassion on the Ninevites, but he also went on to show Jonah a picture of his compassion. (You’ll have to read that yourselfit’s a great story!) I strongly suggest you read it again today. It’s really short, but jam-packed with a beautiful picture of God’s compassion.