Originally scheduled for September 20
The city of Nineveh made a brief appearance on the biblical stage.
The town was a working definition of evil. The chief deity of the
place was Ishtar, the goddess of sex and war (now there’s a
combination!) She was not the goddess of marriage and certainly not
of peace. It was a rough, evil place. The city was a prominent place
for about 50 years and then declined into just another spot on the
map. For the time it was pretty large, but perhaps most amazing of
all was the fact that it was primed for repentance. Jonah showed up
— you can almost imagine him carrying a signboard and ringing a bell
— and the whole place, from top to bottom, went into sackcloth and
ashes. Because of their repentance, God had compassion upon them and
did not deliver them to the destruction he had planned for them.
You might well ask why. Most people would see no reason for God to
be merciful to these folks. They were arrogant, they were almost
casually wicked and showed no sign of being righteous or having any
intention to become that way. Why, then, did God have compassion
One reason is that the people of Nineveh were the work of God’s
hands just as we are. (See Psalm 103:13). They were his children and
he longed to have them close to him.
If it seems unreasonable to you, perhaps it is. God’s ways are much
higher than our ways. Often, what seems completely unreasonable to
us God sees is the logical way forward.
God’s compassion, unlike that of many of us, extends not only to
those who love him but to those who are his enemies. God knows the
battle is over when you win the victory — but the war is over when
your enemy becomes your friend.
The ultimate example of God’s compassion comes at the cross. Christ
wept over the city — “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” (Matthew 23:37) — a sign
of how much he longed to have his children come to him. The cross
and the resurrection were unexpected by all those around Jesus;
God’s ways are higher than our ways. He saw what we did not: to
reach the light of the world you must go through the cross. His
compassion extended there even to his enemies. Some of the people
who were jeering him as he hung on the cross would soon become
members of his kingdom.
We now partake in the memorial of God’s compassion. The cup
represents his blood; the bread his body, given for us that we might
no longer be his enemies but his children. In so doing he has said
this the ultimate example of compassion. As his children, we should
go forward and do likewise. The imitation of Christ compels our
compassion on one and all.