The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. Jonah 3:6-10 ESV
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:8-12 ESV
In the days of Robin Hood, his strongest man, Little John, was walking through the green woods when he came upon a thatched cottage. As he walked by the cottage, he heard the sounds of someone crying. He looked into the cottage and saw an old woman sobbing and rocking back and forth with terrible grief. Little John heard her crying and it made him feel very sorry for her. He asked her what her problem was, and she told him that she was a widow, and that she had three sons. The family was very poor, and the night before her oldest son had killed a deer to eat, which was against the law. Now all three of her sons were going to be hanged. Little John felt very sad when he heard her story, and so he planned to rescue her three sons and bring them back to her.
This is only a story, but is shows what it means to feel compassion for someone who is in trouble and is crying with sadness. God had the same kind of compassion on the people of Nineveh. The people repented of their sins, but not only that, they cried out to God for mercy. The king said that none of the people, and even none of the animals, should have anything to eat or drink for awhile. Can you imagine the way the babies and little children cried and begged their parents for some food or a drink of water? Can you hear the animals mooing and baaing and neighing because they were hungry and thirsty? God heard all the crying, and he felt compassion and mercy for them and decided not to destroy their city.
God had mercy and compassion on us when we rebelled against him and became the slaves of sin and death. We were so lost that we couldn’t even cry for help, but he felt sorry for us, and sent Jesus to die for us and to set us free from death and evil. When we have problems and sadness now, we can be sure that God hears our cries and is with us. He is always ready to help us and to give us his love and mercy.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the compassion you showed us through Jesus, and that you keep on showing us every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.