In yesterday’s post about the mercies of God, I called attention to how God was merciful to a lawless and violent city. Typically when we read about Nineveh, we focus on Jonah’s journey of disobedience, obedience, and then anger. But I want to remind us that while there is much to learn from this story, the story is about God, His redemptive plan of mercy and grace.
Let’s recap this familiar story. Jonah was one of the few prophets from the northern kingdom and most likely a contemporary of Amos. Prophets were generally called to minister to their own people, but God specifically called Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn them of impending destruction.
Jonah heads in the opposite direction! And God does not let him off the hook! You know the childhood story, how there was a storm at sea. The sailors cried out to their own gods to no avail. Jonah is sleeping. The sailors wake him up, scolding him, instructing him to pray to his god. When Jonah realizes what is happening, he tells the sailors he is the one who is at fault and that they should toss him overboard. The sea is calm as soon as they do, and the sailors recognize God, worshiping and making vows to HIm.
A big fish swallows Jonah. While in the belly of the fish, Jonah prays, and at God’s command, the fish vomits him onto dry ground. God again gives Jonah a mission – to proclaim impending doom in Niniveh. This time Jonah obeys. He preaches a single sentence. And Nineveh not only hears, but the whole city repents. God relents; He does not destroy the city. Jonah is distraught and angry that God would extend mercy to Nineveh.
So where’s the mercy?
Jonah accepted God’s mercies gladly at every turn of his adventure, even though he was unaware of them. Notice how God protected him while he preached to people in Nineveh, prevented him from drowning, and even created a plant for him so he wouldn’t suffer from heat exhaustion. God uses life circumstances to teach Jonah that all salvation originates with the Lord. With Jonah, we learn that God chooses where and to whom He will send His kindness and salvation because He is sovereign. We also learn that if God calls us to a work, we can save ourselves some trouble by obeying Him.
Prayer of Gratitude
Father, your mercy on Jonah gives us hope! When we run from Your call and refuse to follow through on the assignments You give us, we pray that You will disrupt our lives to get us back on track! Your discipline isn’t pleasant, but we know it is evidence that we are Your children. Train us, Lord. We invite you to judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart so that we might grow in grace. We praise You and thank You for your mercy on us! Amen.