Jonah Preaches & Pouts — Jonah’s hardness toward the Assyrians of Nineveh & God’s mercy.
Reading 1: Jonah 3
Reading 2: Jonah 4
Reading 3: Matthew 12:38-41
Today we read of Jonah’s obedience and his anger at God. His obedience seems to have flowed from the amazing experience he went through as he ran away from God’s plan. It is not surprising that his fleeing was unsuccessful, but it does not seem to have turned his heart toward God for long!
He goes to the city of Ninevah, the capital of the nation that will soon take Israel into captivity, and boldly proclaims their doom. That part is easy to understand – most of us are comfortable declaring God’s judgment on our enemies!
What is harder to comprehend from our viewpoint, is Jonah’s anger when God sees the repentance of the Assyrians and forgives them! Jonah has no paradigm for forgiveness – in his world there are only those who do what God says (and live) or those who do not do what God says (and are wiped out).
That binary view misses God’s heart, which is for restoration if possible and judgment only when restoration has proved unattainable. Judgment as last resort is not a good fit with Jonah; he wants justice not mercy. When he says “I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” he is declaring the truth that he himself would do well to embrace! He goes on to say “You are eager to turn back from destroying people” but then he adds: “Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
The lesson for us is to beware of the trap of being so right that we are wrong! God is primarily a God of mercy – which is good for us because we need mercy! He is only a God of judgment when mercy is fully rejected. Don’t reject His mercy today – you need it yourself, and He called you to share it with others.
Have a great day!