Angry at God’s Compassion

From Lynda Lindsey 

When God saw what they (the repentant Ninevites) did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened. Jonah 3:10

Jonah, displeased and angry at God’s compassion: 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. Jonah 4:2(b)

The Lord to Jonah: “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more that a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

God, creator and maker of the world and all it contains, is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Compassion, suffering with or alongside another, having sympathy and concern for another’s plight, is noticeably absent in Jonah’s life. Jonah’s indifference to the Ninevites, people in such spiritual darkness that they could not tell their right hand from their left, is perplexing considering his circumstances. Jonah had just survived near drowning, and after living three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, had been vomited onto dry land, all because of God’s great mercy and compassion!

The second time God told Jonah to preach repentance to the citizens of Nineveh Jonah obeyed; the whole city believed, immediately repenting in sackcloth and ashes! Was Jonah joyously dancing and leaping? No, Jonah, angry and petulant, went outside the city hoping to die. One would think God would angrily smite Jonah; instead, God taught Jonah a lesson in compassion. God provided a vine for shelter from the sun, a worm to eat the vine, and a scorching wind and blazing sun to make Jonah weak. Without God’s gracious intervention Jonah, as well as the Ninevites would have perished.

The Ninevites, evil and cruel enemies, practiced witchcraft and idol worship; Jonah wanted vengeance upon sinners who didn’t, in his opinion, deserve God’s kindness. Are we any different? Do we think those who don’t look “like us” or who aren’t in our socioeconomic set deserve God’s mercy, grace and compassion? Are we indifferent to their plight? It’s worth thinking about.