DAY 32: Don't Be Like Jonah

But the Lord said, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in the night and perished in the night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left, and much livestock? Should I not be concerned about that great city?" (Jonah 4:10-11)
I suspect most of us are familiar with the story of the prophet Jonah.  It’s one of the first lessons we teach our kids in Sunday School.  But the Book of Jonah is full of surprises – it’s quite troubling really.

Jonah was called by God to be a prophet, but he is a terribly flawed character.

If I was going to be charitable and give him the benefit of the doubt, I would say he lacked compassion.  If I was being more forthright, I would say he was spiteful and something of a racist.

Do you know why Jonah fled from God and refused to go to Nineveh in the first place?

He answers that question himself near the end of the book: “O LORD,” he complained, “is this not what I said while I was still in my own country? This is why I was so quick to flee toward Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion—One who relents from sending disaster” (Jonah 4:2).

In other words, Jonah knew that if the people of Nineveh repented, God would forgive them and hold back his judgment!

The fact is that Jonah hated the Assyrians because they were a threat to his people.  They were Gentiles… pagans… military enemies known for their cruelty and brutality in war.

So Jonah is kind of an anti-hero.  He teaches us what a prophet should not do. And he stands in stark contrast to God:

  • God wants a prophet to go to the lost people of Nineveh.  Jonah doesn’t.
  • God wants to proclaim a message of repentance.  Jonah doesn’t.
  • God is willing to forgive.  Jonah isn’t.
  • God has compassion.  Jonah refuses.

I find the Book of Jonah fascinating because it’s the opposite of what many expect.  We ask questions like, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”  We question his love and doubt his mercy.

But in this story the human is the harsh, unforgiving one.  And God is full of compassion.

Could it be that God is far more compassionate than we are… and some of us Jonahs just don’t realize it?

Suggested things to pray for:
  • Praise God for his incredible patience and compassion.  And praise him for his justice and wrath.  He is both merciful and just!