Jonah 3:10 – 4:11
This has always been a tough passage for me to swallow… Because I find myself in the shoes of Jonah sometimes.
Let’s start with a recap of what has happened in Jonah to lead up to this final chapter:
Jonah feels a call from God to go and tell the people of Nineveh that they are about to be destroyed. But he doesn’t want to go to Nineveh. I can relate… I wouldn’t want to go to Nineveh either. They are slapping each other with fish and that’s not cool with me. (Shameless VeggieTales reference) So Jonah runs away, and gets on a ship headed for Tarshish… But it doesn’t take long for God to summon up a big storm that scares the sailors on the boat with him. The sailors ask who Jonah’s God is, repent, throw him over board, and a great fish comes and swallows up Jonah and personally carries him to where God intended for Him to be. Jonah still doesn’t want to be there… so he really only does his job halfway by only telling half the city that Nineveh will be destroyed. But God turns the hearts of the people despite Jonah and they repent, and God doesn’t send the destruction that Jonah prophesied to the people.
All in all, it’s a great story about the grace and mercy of God.
The book doesn’t end in chapter three. I wish it did… That would make it so much easier. It would be a happy ending, it would be a wonderful ending… But that’s not how it ends.
Because the final chapter of Jonah doesn’t have a happy ending. It has a selfish ending. We find Jonah in the fourth chapter of this book sitting around watching the city of Nineveh, waiting for its destruction. He is waiting on God to fulfill His promise to destroy the city, despite their repentance.
And he waits… And he waits… And he waits.
And the longer that he waits the angrier he gets… And the more uncomfortable that he gets. It comes to the point that he looks to God and says “Well are you going to destroy them or what? I’m waiting here… And it’s getting hot, and I’m uncomfortable. Go ahead and destroy them!”
But God doesn’t destroy them. He gives Jonah a plant to shade him, and then takes it away.
Finally, it gets to the point that Jonah tells God that he is so angry that he could just die. He would rather die than sit here and wait for a destruction that isn’t going to happen.
Jonah is angry… He is angry that the town of Nineveh is being shown mercy when they don’t deserve it.
And I can see where Jonah is coming from here… He has made this long journey that he didn’t even want to make, and he gave the message that he was supposed to give (kind of…), but now God isn’t holding up His end of the bargain. He’s going to let these people off the hook! These people deserve to be destroyed, and God isn’t going to destroy them!
Jonah is quickly finding out that mercy isn’t fair, and he isn’t happy about it.
He didn’t want God to show this city mercy, he came all this way to watch them be destroyed. You would think that he would be amazed or excited! Shouting “Yay God! Thank you for not killing over 100,000 people!” Instead he decides that he would rather be dead than alive.
But this is where we see the message of Jonah come into full view: repentance. All the characters in this story repent… The sailors, the Ninevites… Everyone except for Jonah.
But what Jonah finds out is a message that I think we call testify to: Mercy isn’t fair.
When we should be destroyed for our sins, God doesn’t destroy us. When we are unfaithful, and we repent, God shows us mercy. And I am so thankful for that mercy and grace that God shows us. But sometimes I think we can be like Jonah: We would rather see those that are living in sin around us destroyed than brought to Christ.
Do we find ourselves ever thinking that way? That somehow, we were worthy of God’s mercy and grace, but those around us are beyond that. Do we get so exclusive in our thinking that we are sure that we are the only ones who are allowed to be forgiven? Maybe we think that their sins are “worse” than ours, or that they really would never truly repent in the first place… Or maybe we just don’t really want to have anything to do with them, so it would be better if they stayed outside our Christian circle.
Let me tell you straight up: That is a way of thinking that is completely opposite of what we as Christians are called to do.
Take a step back and look at the mess that God called you out of. Were you deserving of that mercy? Were you deserving of His grace? No. Yet you find yourself where you are today, living in the blessings of God because He showed you that mercy even though it wasn’t fair.
Does anyone deserve that mercy? No. We don’t. But praise be to God that He is loving, and generous with His mercy. He gives it to us even though we don’t deserve it. He gives it to them even though they don’t deserve it. And when God shows mercy to someone who are we to say that it isn’t fair? Who are we to say that they don’t deserve it?
God is the one that makes that decision. Praise the Lord for that… Because I wouldn’t be here today if that weren’t true.
Let’s take a look at how we view those around us. Instead of waiting for their destruction, why don’t we show them the one that can give them life?
Hunter, Creative Arts Pastor