[b]The Compassion of God[/b]
[i]by Zac Poonen[/i]
In Jonah 3:1-2, we read that the word of the Lord came to Jonah a
second time saying: Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city and
preach unto it the preaching that I bid Thee. Praise the Lord that
when we fail once, the Lord gives us a second chance. That is one of
the great messages that comes to us from the book of Jonah. Have you
failed the Lord? God is waiting to give you another chance. Have you
failed Him a second time? He will give you a third chance. He is not
only the God of the second chance - for most of us have blown our
second chance long, long ago. He is the God of another chance, no
matter how many times you have failed! The Lord can restore you even
now and enable you to fulfil a ministry for Him, if you repent wholeheartedly.
Jonah had learned his lesson now. He had been chastened and now he
went to Nineveh gladly. It took him three days to walk through that
huge city, proclaiming in every street that Nineveh would be
overthrown in 40 days. Amazingly, the people of Nineveh repented
immediately. This was the greatest and quickest revival that ever took
place in the history of the world - and it took place in a heathen
nation. Such a revival has never been seen anywhere. Jonahs sermon
consisted of only one sentence. But it brought conviction to thousands
- and they ALL repented.
What do we see here? When God has successfully dealt with His servant
and done a work in him, even one sentence from his mouth has such
tremendous power. If God has not succeeded in dealing with your
stubbornness, your disobedience, your rebellion and your pride, then
even long sermons you preach wont accomplish anything. But if God has
succeeded in breaking you, then even one sentence will be powerful.
From the king down to the beggar there was much weeping and repenting.
They put on sackcloth and called upon God to forgive them. They knew
they would be judged. And when God saw that, He did not punish them.
One of the things that encourages me here is that even when a wicked
city like Nineveh repented, God was merciful. God knew that some years
later, the city would be so evil that He would have to destroy it. But
God treats everyone as they are right now - and not as they were in
the past or as they will be in the future. His Name is I AM, not
I was, nor I will be.
God is more compassionate than we are. There is not a single case in
Scripture where a person repented and turned to God, where God did not
forgive. Even if Judas Iscariot had gone to the Lord and asked for
forgiveness, he would have been forgiven. But he went to the priests
instead like many do today! You cant get forgiveness by confessing
your sins to any priest. Judas Iscariot tried it and was not forgiven.
And you wont be forgiven that way either.
When God had mercy on Nineveh, one would have thought that Jonah would
have been excited. But he wasnt. Imagine an evangelist who sees an
entire city of over 120,000 people (Jonah 4:11) weeping and repenting
the greatest revival in history - and not being excited! Jonah
became angry instead. First of all, because his prophecy was not fulfilled.
Secondly, because as a patriotic Israeli, he hated the people of Nineveh
and had hoped that they would not repent and that God would destroy them.
Are we like Jonah? Is there anyone on earth whom you do NOT want God
to bless? Have we forgotten how merciful God has been to us and how He
has blessed us even when we deserved only Hell. But Jonah was now
concerned about his own honour and reputation as a prophet.
To teach Jonah a lesson, the Lord allowed a plant to grow up over his head.
Jonah was very happy for the plant. But the next day because God
made a worm eat up the plant, and it withered up. Jonah was very angry
again because the sun was beating down on him and he said, It is
better for me to die than live. Then God said to Jonah, You had
compassion on a plant which came up overnight and perished overnight.
Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there
are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between
their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" (Jonah 4:11). God
expressed His concern for more than 120,000 innocent babies in Nineveh
besides many animals. It is amazing to see Gods concern here for the animals
in Nineveh! A good man is concerned for the welfare of his animals (Prov.12:10).
In this verse (Jonah 4:11) - more than in any other verse in the Old
Testament - we see Gods tremendous compassion for lost souls. God so
loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that no one should
perish. Jonah somehow did not get into fellowship with God in this
matter. There are many preachers today too who preach and see revivals
(like Jonah did), but who like Jonah, are not in fellowship with the
compassionate heart of God. Such preachers do not fulfil their
ministry as God wants them to. You may preach and get people saved;
and yet at the end of it all, like Jonah, you may have no fellowship
with God at all. The proper basis for an evangelistic ministry is
fellowship with the heart of God. God has such a great compassion for
those who dont have light.
The Bible says God wants all men to repent, to be saved and to come to
the knowledge of the truth. He longs for that. The more we come into
fellowship with Gods heart, the more we will share His burden. If God
has called you to be an evangelist, He will give you a compassion for
lost souls. If God calls you to be a teacher, He will give you a
compassion for believers who are blinded and deceived, who are not
entering into a life of victory. Fellowship with the heart of God in
sharing His compassion is essential if we are to fulfil our ministry effectively.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon