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A Compassionate Heart: Jonah

Sun setting on the ocean; Jonah learns the compassionate heart of God
Photo Credit: Sarah Joyce

May 3, 2023

Praying Friends,

Thank you for praying each Wednesday for our prodigals and for revival. Prayer produces compassion in our hearts for others. It is a reminder of how significant and valued each individual person is in the eyes of God.

The book of Jonah is only 4 chapters and is unique from the other minor prophets. Unlike other prophetic books, it focuses on the man Jonah in contrast to the message God had for him to deliver to the people.

It is easy to assume that a messenger’s goodness is linked to the goodness of the message he or she provides. This is a false assumption, and Jonah teaches this lesson well. While his message was from God, Jonah was in just as much need of the message as his audience.

Jonah was from Gath Hepher, which means “the winepress of digging,” and lived when Jeroboam II of the Northern Kingdom was king (2 Kings 14:25). He was the only recorded Old Testament prophet to try to run away from God.

Nineveh was a city in the land of Assyria. According to John Walvoord, “It was one of the cruelest, vilest, most powerful, and most idolatrous empires in the world.” It was an enemy of God and His people.

Jonah cringed at the idea of going to this place with God’s message. The reason for his reluctance was that he knew something of God’s character.

Like all of us, Jonah had a brokenness in his heart that needed repairing. As he was pouting over his own need and the loss of a plant, God asks, “And should I not pity Nineveh?” Despite their past sin, God cared for these people and wanted Jonah to care about them as well.

Jonah (as well as the nation of Israel) had no thought of pity or compassion for Nineveh and thus did not want to listen to God. Instead, Jonah ran in the opposite direction, but God followed him and brought him back.

Jonah knew enough of the character of God to know that if these people repented, God would turn from His anger and have compassion. After Jonah gave the message (which was only 5 words in the Hebrew language), what came to pass happened exactly as he had feared (Jonah 4:4, 3:10).

“I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:2).

It took a long journey through his own experience for Jonah to be brought into harmony with God’s heart through his own experience. It seems that he eventually did since he was heroic enough to write about his own failure in such an open and honest way.

G. Campbell Morgan says, “The measure in which we are able to serve is the measure in which we sympathize with God. We remind ourselves again of what was stated at the commencement, that Jonah’s failure was due to the fact that he did not sympathize with God.”

The contrast to Jonah’s selfish attitude is witnessed in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And no matter how much we may resist God’s call to mercy and forgiveness, there is always hope for redemption and transformation through Christ.

The city he came to save rejected Him. The people He came to love hated Him in return. His response is heavenly. He wept over the city of Jerusalem saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing” (Luke 13:34).

As we reflect on the heart of Christ, may we do as Paul instructed when writing to the Colossian believers. “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

If our hearts are clothed with the compassion of Christ, our actions will reflect the same.

Love in Christ,

Bryan and Rachel


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