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Developing Godly Compassion

 “The book of Jonah may be summarized in one word: compassion.  The centrality of compassion does not become explicit until this last chapter.  But that is the way a good story often unfolds...Often the best teaching is done by contrast.  You appreciate the speed of an Olympic runner when you see him or her leave the pack behind.  You see the greatness of God’s compassion to the Ninevites when you set it beside Jonah’s reaction.” Jonah, O. Palmer Robertson

5 principles from the striking contrast between God and His errant servant

I. Jonah’s Emotions Revealed the ______________________ of His Heart

A. Rich ________________ did not move him

Jonah 4:2 - ...I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness; one who relents from doing harm.

B. God’s ______________ did not move him

C. __________________ pleasure made him deliriously happy

“See the goodness of God!  He gives concrete evidence to Jonah that he still regards him with the tenderest love.  Even though he intends to show mercy to the Ninevites, his love still has plenty of room for Jonah and the Israelites as well.” Jonah, O. Palmer Robertson

D. ____________________________ came easily

Jonah 4:8 - And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

II. Jonah’s Emotions Revealed the ________________ of His Heart

Proverbs 23:7 - “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he...”

A. It is acceptable to be spiritually ______________________ to other people groups

B. It is acceptable to ____________________ with pity parties

C. It is acceptable to prefer your plan to __________

D. My _________________ are the byproduct of the choices/actions of others

E. If you believe it, it must be ________

Jonah 4:9 - Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”

III. Ministry Effectiveness Requires Developing Biblical ____________________

A. __________________________ this term

Hebrew word “hus”– “to look with pity”

“the feeling which goes out toward one who is in trouble” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)

“a positive attitude toward the object with the intention of performing a helping act” (Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis)

“Sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by an urge to help; deep sympathy; pity” (Webster’s New World Dictionary)

B. With special emphasis on the ______

Ezekiel 16:5 - No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born.

Ezekiel 20:17 - Nevertheless My eye spared them from destruction. I did not make an end of them in the wilderness.

C. ________________________ passages

1. With reference to the ________

Psalm 72:13 - He will spare the poor and needy, and will save the souls of the needy.

2. With reference to God’s ______________________

Psalm 78:38 - But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath…

3. With reference to our _____________________ of others

Zechariah 7:9 - Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother.”

4. With reference to the way ___________ viewed people

Matthew 9:36 - But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

5. With reference to our ______________________ of others

Matthew 18:33 - Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?

6. With reference to ____________________________ in the church

1 Peter 3:8 - Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous…

Real vision, of course, is seeing what God clearly wants us to be.  And through the grid of a New Testament blueprint, the idea of being or remaining a “church club” or a “church success story” becomes noxious.  In seeking to become a church of irresistible influence, church leaders must again, in practical terms, envision for their people the church as profiled by Jesus and the apostles within the pages of the New Testament:

  • A church passionately committed to Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the gospel.
  • A church of winsome lifestyles punctuated by high moral standards.
  • A church of radical love and selfless good deeds that amazes the world around it.

IV. Too Often God’s People are Passionate about the __________ Things

A. Wrong because you were not _________________________ for them in the first place

B. Wrong because you cannot ______________ them

C. Wrong because they have little/no ______________ value

V. Godly Compassion is Focused on ____________ in Need

A. Nineveh was a great city because of the significant number of __________ that lived there

B. Nineveh was filled with people who needed __________


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Growing in Our Understanding of God’s Grace

3:9 - The King of Nineveh—“Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.”

3:10 - When God saw their deeds (Nineveh’s), that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

4 - But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. [lit. This was wicked/calamitous to Jonah, a great wickedness/calamity. And Jonah became “hot” internally, in a moment he will become “hot” externally] He prayed to the Lord and said,

“Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that

You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger (slow to “hotness”—unlike Jonah) and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity [The King of Nineveh had hoped that God was One who “relents concerning calamity and He was!”]

Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” [Jonah did not see “justice” so he asked for death.]

The Lord said,

“Do you have good reason to be angry?”

Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city.

So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort (calamity/wickedness?). And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. [lit. Jonah rejoice a great rejoicing]

 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying,

“Death is better to me than life.”

Then God said to Jonah,

“Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?”

And he said,

“I have good reason to be angry, even to death.”

Then the Lord said,

“You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, 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? [In essence God says, “If you don’t think I should have compassion on 120,000 people maybe then what I should have compassion on the beasts since you had compassion on a plant?!!]”


  • God provides grace for the repentant Ninevites so they do not burn
  • Jonah despairs to death for a perceived lack of justice. He responds in internal anger (he was “hot”) because God granted forgiveness
  • Jonah goes east and outside the city hoping against hope that God will turn again and burn the city.
  • Jonah instead “burns” out in the heat
  • Jonah attempts to provide his own deliverance (a lean to/booth) but it fails to provide adequate relief.
  • God provides a grace covering for Jonah in the plant in order to spare Jonah from burning externally. But God also means it to spare him from burning internally as he teaches Jonah
  • Jonah rejoices for God’s grace covering for himself to spare him from his burning
  • God removes the grace covering
  • Jonah experiences the “wrath” of burning
  • Jonah despairs to death without the grace covering from his burning
  • God, through the object lesson, has now exposed Jonah’s failures in understanding grace
    • Failure #1: “They don’t deserve grace but I do”
    • Failure #2: “I don’t deserve wrath but they do”
    • Failure #3: “I know how to distribute justice and grace”

4 truths that God’s object lessons with Jonah reveals to us about His Grace

1. God’s grace has to be available to ______ in order to be grace

  1. Grace for a select group who is “deserving” is no longer grace but payment for what is earned
  2. Grace available for all rescues us from our damning and deceiving efforts to see ourselves as meriting God’s favor
  3. Grace available for all shows God’s love for the world and not a select few of His favorites

2. God’s grace available to all offers a way ______ of God’s burning justice mandated for all

  1. Our personal efforts to escape the heat of God’s justice cannot and will not work
  2. God must appoint a way for grace or else there is death

3. God’s Grace available for all and burning justice mandated for all can only by _____________________ in HIS WAY

Jonah 1:17 - “The Lord appointed a great fish”

Jonah 4:6 - “So the Lord God appointed a plant”

Jonah 4:7 - “But God appointed a worm”

Jonah 4:8 - “God appointed a scorching east wind”

Exodus 34:6-8 - Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.

  • God appointed the Messiah—grace and justice perfectly woven together

John 1:14 - “And we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth”

John 13:31 - “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him”


Something Greater than Jonah is Here (Matthew 12:41)

Jonah goes outside and east of the city in hopes of the wrath of God on the city (no grace only wrath)

Jonah—“put me to death because I did not see God’s wrath on my enemies” (no grace only wrath)

Jonah—“I cannot live in this heat without a covering” (only wrath)

Jesus is crucified outside and east of the city taking the wrath of God (justice) on Himself for the city (grace)

Jesus—“Put me to death (justice) to take God’s wrath from my enemies”(grace)

Jesus—“I will die in the heat (justice) to provide a grace covering” (grace)

Romans 3:21-26 - But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

4. God’s gospel of grace properly understood and embraced leads one to ________ all

  • God’s grace is the greatest need in life for the perishing therefore it motives us to love all
  • God’s grace is the greatest gift in life for those who receive it therefore it motives us to tell all