But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

David’s description of God in this Psalm is similar to Jonah’s, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2).

It’s interesting that these two Old Testament people describe God as gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. We can easily see that Jesus was compassionate but sometimes when we read the Old Testament, we may wonder about a God who seems to initiate wars and destruction.

There are two things to keep in mind. The Old Testament was written thousands of years ago. While the language has been updated the customs have not. If we read other literature from this time period, we would be less surprised about the warfare in the Old Testament. Second, the Israelites were constantly being led astray to worship idols and engage in unsavoury religious ceremonies. God wanted to protect his people from the influence of pagan nations and sometimes the only way to do this was to defeat these nations in battle.

However, God has never liked violence and we read, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence” (Genesis 6:11). God even regretted that he had made human beings (6:5).

Yet if David and Jonah understood, in the war culture that they lived in, that God was compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, how much more should we grasp it. Especially as we have the opportunity of reading the gospels, where we see Jesus, the exact representation of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3).