Where in the Bible do you see God’s compassion towards the Gentiles? Let’s first take a look at Jonah. Right from the start, Jonah’s disobedience was very evident. A constant tension to withdraw from and to fight against the Lord God is sustained throughout the book. Although many are familiar with the story, it is helpful to read the account with fresh eyes. When we read it anew, we will notice that the audience is kept unaware of the reason for Jonah’s resistance to God’s prophetic calling to Nineveh. It is only until near the end of the narrative that we are enlightened of Jonah’s reason for running away. Jonah was angry that the Lord had relented from Nineveh’s destruction because of His gracious and compassionate character, who is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. Jonah could not live with the reality that the cruel and monstrous Ninevites would be spared the punishment. Did God forget Nineveh deserved annihilation? Who would exact revenge for their evil? Moreover, Jonah knows God is gracious and compassionate. Could not God pour out His favor upon the Israelites? From Jonah’s perspective, the compassionate character of God should have been fully displayed amongst the Israelites who were God’s chosen people. Although it may be true God could have easily portrayed His compassion towards Israel, the emphasis in Jonah’s adventure was to display God’s compassion toward the Gentile nations. We can see the thread of the Lord’s compassion to Gentiles weaved throughout the Scriptures. This common theme begins in Genesis and is carried throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament until Revelation.
In the beginning of the book of Jonah, God’s compassion was displayed in the conversion of an unruly crew of heathen sailors. Their salvation was the trailer that whets the appetite of the reader before a revival broke out in the city of Nineveh. God’s great work of redemption of an evil and wicked nation was unparalleled in compassion. The Lord’s abundant mercy allowed 120,000 souls to live another day. Beginning in Genesis, the foundation of God’s compassion towards Gentiles was revealed in the Abrahamic Covenant when God promised to bless the nations through Abraham. The motif continued to reoccur in God’s dealings with Gentile nations as well as pagan individuals throughout the Old Testament—God prospering Egypt through Joseph, God healing the Assyrian captain Naaman’s leprosy and saving his soul, God saving Rahab, a Canaanite harlot, and honoring her in the hall of faith, and God saving the Moabite woman Ruth and grafting her into the Messianic genealogy. As the Lord is everlasting and never changes, His compassionate mercy and love continues to resound in the New Testament. The Gospel accounts narrate Jesus’ compassion towards the Gentiles such as Jesus giving living water to the Samaritan woman, Jesus healing the demon-possessed daughter of a desperate Canaanite woman, Jesus giving a Roman centurion’s servant the ability to walk again. The Holy Spirit echoes God’s compassion in Acts and the Epistles such as saving Cornelius’ family, explaining Christ and baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch, and commissioning Paul to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. The apostles heeded Christ’s Great Commission and spread the good news all over the known world to both Jew and Gentile alike. God continues to display His compassion towards all peoples today, of which we are grateful recipients. Praise be to God! May God increase our compassion for the lost and move us to love them and proclaim the Gospel to them.