The Compassion of God

January 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Many people are overwhelmed by the apparent harshness of the Old Testament.  One of last night’s Global Award winners jokingly referred to her director as “God, the punisher”, and added, “an Old Testament God I guess…”  And yet, I always wonder how so many people can miss the central message of the Old Testament that is quite the opposite.  Jonah 3:1-10 illustrates the amazing compassion of God as well as anywhere else in the Old Testament.  What is truly amazing about the Jonah story is that God shows His compassion to the Assyrian city, Nineveh.  The history of the Assyrian Empire shows the most terrible destruction of Israel and many other nations in its quest for dominance.  If even the brutality of Assyria can be forgiven, then surely the compassion of the Lord has no limits.  We see it clearly in how the book of Jonah describes this:  “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (3:10); and as a result, Jonah prayed, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love…” (4:2).  Callie Plunket-Brewton writes, “Jonah challenges the perspective of the righteously indignant to put aside moral superiority and take on the character of God, whose mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. Cycles of violence and blame can only be broken where mercy is extended. The only way forward for any of us is to demonstrate the same mercy that has been offered to us.”

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