Those who cling to worthless idols forsake faithful love,
but as for me, I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving.
Jonah didn’t have anything to offer but thanksgiving at this point. He was hostage in the belly of a huge fish after his unsuccessful attempt to evade God’s call to warn his enemies of impending judgment! But I’m not sure his heart was compelled yet by love for his enemies. He sets himself apart from those despicable idol worshippers, he who has known faithful LOVE.
Then came Jonah’s second chance. Vomited up on dry land he received his orders: “Get up! Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach the message that I tell you.” From what we can see of it, his message was pretty straightforward: “In 40 days Ninevah will be demolished!.” I wonder if Jonah felt a little smug at being the bearer of the tidings. The Assyrians were after all a feared and hated aggressor in the region. It would be good to have done with them, to see them get their dues!
I’ve been there. A dozen or so years ago I was in a small fellowship group telling how I’d had my bike stolen from our back yard but how the thief hadn’t gotten very far with it since he’d been drunk and had taken a spill. I wrapped up my small town tale with a smug: “He got what he deserved!” I’d have long forgotten the whole incident were it not for how Andy responded. Soft-hearted, gracious, people-loving Jesus-follower Andy. He didn’t chuckle with the rest of us but soberly responded that he could never think that way. He could never delight in someone getting their just deserts, because of how much Jesus had done for him, despite what he had deserved. We didn’t get what we deserved. Andy has a deep understanding of the grace of God for sinners. And with gentle words he cut my self-righteous heart to the quick. I’ve never forgotten it. How does one who’s been forgiven a death-sentence look at another and gloat over what they have coming.
Jonah had himself just come through a near-death experience of God’s mercy inside that fish. He knew his God as ‘merciful and compassionate, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster.’ But. He wasn’t quite ready to extend that to his enemies. And this was why he had run from his calling to preach to them. Better to let them face fire and brimstone unawares! But God.
And sure enough Jonah’s message was believed. Repentance was the order of the day, with sackcloth and fasting, in hopes that God might relent of His burning wrath and spare their lives. And He did.
Jonah was angry enough to just die. This wicked enemy kingdom had been spared judgment. (God loves even his enemies.)
Jonah was not the first, nor will he be the last to stand in grace and point fingers at sinners worthy of death. But his story is here in all its red-handed shame for our sakes, for my sake. May God teach us to love as He does, even our enemies and those that despitefully use us. May He give us eyes to see the depths of our own depravity and the heights of His redeeming love so that we might become conduits of His grace!
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…according to the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires… and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion…Col.3:12 HCSB
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children…Eph.4:32;5:1 HCSB
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Mt.5:44-45 ESV