Lesson on Compassion

Group Discussion // May 4, 2022

This is a lesson I prepared for a community group discussion. I have reworked it a bit to provide a summary of the discussion points during our time spent together in Jonah chapter 4.

Jonah 4

4:1-4 Self-righteous Anger

  • (v1) Anger…What should have been a moment of joy and praise about the relenting of the promised destruction of a city, Jonah finds himself exceedingly displeased with the outcome that led to anger. Anger with the Lord for not destroying this enemy of Israel and by extension an enemy of God.
  • (v2) Prayer of accusation, but using positives. The self-righteousness of Jonah leads him to pray to God not with superlatives of praise for his mercy but of accusing God of being wrong about Nineveh.
    • “I knew that you are” – Jonah here knows the doctrinal truth about the character of God. He even states that the reason he fled previously was that because of God’s character, there would be mercy instead of judgement at this message.
    • If we read this prayer out of context, it would seem like a psalm of praise. Starting with “for I knew,” this phrase could easily be a hymn of praise and worship. Not a cause for bitterness and anger.
  • (v3) He is so angry that he would rather die than see Nineveh spared. Jonah hates these people so much that he does not want to live in a world where it is possible to have mercy and grace given to them.
    • Do we have these same thoughts about our supposed enemies?
      • Different political party?
      • Different social justice issues?
      • Different lifestyle choices?
      • Sinners being sinners?
  • (v4) God’s response to Jonah’s anger is a simple question, “Do you do well to be angry?”
    • God wants Jonah to examine his heart and motivation. Clearly there is a disconnect between the doctrinal head knowledge of Jonah and his doctrinal heart knowledge.
    • How often do you ask yourself this same question? Do you meditate on the Word of God and let it examine your heart with critical questions or do you sit and wallow in your indignation and self-righteousness? Letting this poison of bitterness and anger grow and infect every area of your life.

3:6-9 Repentance… with fasting

4:5-10 Irrational Anger

  • (v5) Jonah is still harboring thoughts of the city’s destruction. He wants to wait and see if God will come to his senses and destroy Nineveh.
    • Content in his self-righteousness, Jonah leaves the city and sets up a booth to watch. He wants to see if the Lord will really relent of the destruction.
  • (v6) God’s grace to us even in our anger and sin is overwhelming. Even in the midst of Jonah’s anger, disappointment, and even sin, the Lord brings a tender mercy to Jonah to sooth his discomfort.
    • What are some of the tender mercies that God has brought into your life during moments of sin or even disappointment with God?
  • (v6) Jonah was glad because of the plant, not for God’s provision.
    • Do we have this same tendency as well? We are sometimes more focused on the gift instead of the gift-giver. We are quick to acknowledge the blessing that has been brought into our life, but not always so quick to acknowledge that this blessing was a simple grace from the Lord and nothing of our own doing.
  • (v7-8) God’s appointed test of adversity to show Jonah that the Lord is the Sovereign One of this world.
    • He appointed the fish to save him in the water.
    • He appointed the plant to provide shade for him in the sun.
    • He appointed the worm to destroy the plant.
    • He appointed the  scorching east wind.
  • (v9) God asks the same question for a second time, “Do you do well to be angry?” Jonah’s answer is to delve deeper into his irrational anger as he doubles down on his anger in the trial. Angry enough to die again. 
  • (v10-11) God gives a Jonah a lesson in compassion
    • Jonah has compassion for the plant that was both given to him freely and then taken away. This is a good response. A response of pity for the plant.
    • God reveals to Jonah that he should not just have pity for this simple plant, but he should have compassion for the 120,000 people who live in the city. People who were at enmity with the Lord. People who did not know what they were doing and were ignorant of the Lord.
    • This is the lesson for us as well. Where is our compassion for the lost and the hurting? Not just a doctrinally right theology of compassion that understands and can explain the character of God, but a heart that beats in tune with the heart of God. Our heart should feel this same compassion as we live in this world and encounter all sorts of people in need of our risen Savior.

Change our hearts O God. Give us not only an understanding of who you are, but an heart that wants to be just like you. A heart that wants to be more like Jesus every day. A heart filled with compassion and mercy and grace.

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