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23 OCTOBER 1988

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

Exodus 33:19
Jonah 3:10 - 4:11
Jude 17-23

Preparation Verse (Exodus 33:19)

And He said “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”

The title of today’s sermon, "A Truly Strong Person Is a Compassionate Person," appears to be a contradiction in terms, if viewed by worldly standards.

This is particularly true when it comes to men; for the world considers a compassionate person to be “soft” or “weak,” and anything but strong.

The world doesn't understand the workings of God, but only of man as clouded by the devil.

In order for a person to be compassionate in the world today, and stand against the norm of society, requires a great deal of strength, far more than it takes to go along with other people.

God wants us to be a compassionate people.

In our New Testament lesson for this morning, Jude 17-23, we heard those exhorting words to encourage us and to guide us to be a truly compassionate people.

Let's take a second look at these verses of Scripture.

17. But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,

18. that they were saying to you, "In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts."

19. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

We are living in a time of worldly-mindedness and we are surrounded by mockers, who resort to jesting about those of us that desire to live our lives in Jesus Christ, in order to justify their own way of life to their equally worldly-minded friends.

The world says that men are to be full of gusto, and that they only go around once; therefore, they should do whatever they can to enjoy themselves.

And what is this worldly enjoyment? It is being full of beer, participating in contact sports, and chasing after women who just can't resist their amorous advances, or so they say in the commercials.

And in this ungodly attitude toward women, the real problem is manifested.

Women are accepting dates and end up being raped. On some college campuses, this activity is considered to be something of a sport. It may be to the men, but it sure isn't for the women.

What happened to the days of tenderness?

What happened to the days of flowers and candy?

What happened to the days of respecting a woman’s virginity?

God has been taken out of the relationship! That's what has happened.

And because the world really isn’t like the beer commercials and most men don’t look like the actors on television, their frustration builds up, and it turns to abuse of wives, children, and animals.

Why does this happen?

Because the world says that anyone who doesn’t participate is a sissy, and they don't want to be belittled.

Isn't this the attitude behind many of the meat advertisements?...To be a real man, you can't have any compassion for the suffering of the animals.

You can’t be this way and also be compassionate.

But if you’re full of true strength, then you can be compassionate; for you won't care about the world’s comments, because you will be secure in your position.

And there is much, much more; but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s look further at Jude’s message:

20. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit;

21. keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

This is where our true strength comes from.

The Holy Spirit gives us life and strength; and the more of Him we allow in, the stronger we become.

And isn’t the opposite true of the spirit that comes in bottles?

For the more of that we take in, the weaker we become; and instead of life, there can be death.

Now look at the following verses:

22. And have mercy on some, who are doubting;

23. save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

The Word of God even tells us to have compassion for those who do not know Him.

Our strength in the Lord will be an example to the worldly ones, that there is a better way.

We are to care for and love the sinner, but not their sin; but at the same time we are to be cautious that we are not bitten by their sin.

We don’t have to participate in the activities of the sinner in order to reach down to them with true compassion and the love of God.

The Book of Jonah shows us, by example, the compassion of God.

Jonah was a prophet; and the word of the Lord came to him, telling him to go and cry against the great city of Nineveh because of their wickedness.

But instead of' going and doing as God directed him, he tries to flee from the presence of the Lord.

He boards a ship heading for Tarshish, and a severe storm breaks out that causes the captain and the crew to fear for their lives; but not Jonah, for he knew the reason for the storm. The Lord was angry with him.

Jonah then tells them why all this is happening and tells them to throw him into the sea; but they didn't want to do it, and they prayed that they wouldn’t perish because of Jonah. But they finally threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped raging.

Because of this, the men on the ship feared the Lord greatly, so they offered sacrifices and made vows.

Because of the conditions on the ship, it is also most likely that these sacrifices were not animals, but other treasured possessions.

While Jonah didn't have compassion on Nineveh, he did for the sailors; and his testimony of the Lord led the men to repentance and salvation.

The Lord also had compassion on His reluctant prophet Jonah.

So the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and he spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish.

And while in the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed; and the Lord heard his prayers and commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto dry land.

Now Jonah must have been a sight, and he must have smelled bad, too.

Just think of what you would be and small life if you were covered with vomit and digestive juices.

His hair must have been bleached to an orange/yellow.

His skin must have been all blotchy and shriveled, and he was covered with seaweed and slime.

And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time to send him to Nineveh; and this time he goes.

It took Jonah three days to go through Nineveh because of its great size, and his message was heard.

Not only was it heard, but it was understood. And the people and the king put on sackcloth and ashes, and proclaimed a complete fast.

They even proclaimed it for their animals, and covered them with sackcloth, and made them to fast with the people.

And most importantly, they repented.

This is what God desires of all people. He doesn’t want any to perish.

And remember that non of these people were Jewish.

Note the results in verse 3:10 –

10. When God saw their deeds, 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.

And what effect did all of this have on Jonah? Note what we are told in chapter 4.

1. But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry.

2. And 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 Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

3. "Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life."

Unfortunately, many Christians are like Jonah. They know the Lord, and all of His great power, but they don't want to accept His whole package.

They want the Lord for their own private party, or at least only for those they consider worthy to be saved.

They don't want to consider the way we abuse our fellow human beings, our environment, and the cruelty we show toward all His creatures.

When we accept Jesus Christ, we also must learn to accept, fully, His compassion for the whole of creation.

Does God give up on the Jonahs of this world? No, He doesn’t; for He also has compassion for them. Note His loving reasoning with Jonah, as we continue with our Scripture verses.

4. And the Lord said, "Do you have good reason to be angry?"

5. 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.

The Lord is trying to make Jonah understand. He is trying to make him think by asking him why he is angry; for there is no good reason to be angry.

Jonah knew the ways of the Lord. Jonah was angry because the Lord wouldn’t conform to his ways. So he pouts and goes out of the city.

God is not done with Jonah; and be thankful that He isn't done with us either. To be conformed into God’s image, we must also be compassionate.

So God tries to show Jonah by example.

6. 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. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.

God is showing Jonah an example of His compassion on Nineveh. Just as the plant is protecting Jonah from the heat of the sun, so His message and Nineveh’s repentance has protected them from the heat of hell. And both Jonah and the people of Nineveh were extremely happy.

7. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day, and it attacked the plant and it withered.

8. And it came about when the sun came up that 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."

What has happened to the plant is exactly what Jonah wanted to happen to Nineveh, and what he is feeling is exactly what he wanted the people of Nineveh to feel.

God goes on to explain His message to Jonah.

9. 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."

10. 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.

11. "And 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?"

Our sense of compassion is so often limited to a specific situation or to specific issues, that we fail to see the full picture.

This is particularly true in political campaigning and with political issues.

God’s compassion extends to all of creation.

When explaining His intentions to Jonah, God doesn’t even mention the adults who repented on their own; but He reminds Jonah of all those who couldn’t do it on their own, that were brought into the repentant covenant: the little children, the mentally handicapped, and the animals.

How can we say that we love God, and then go out and destroy or pollute the environment?

We can't, or it would be a lie.

How can we say that we love God, and then go out and abuse other people?

We can't, or it would be a lie.

How can we say we love God, and then go out and take pleasure in the killing of animals, which included eating and wearing them?

We can't, or it would be a lie.

But do we have the strength to go out and have true compassion on all of God’s creation, and thereby show the whole world that we indeed do love God?

I pray we do!