In The Word
Read: Jonah 3-4
3 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. 4 Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
5 Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. 6 When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. 7 He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. 8 But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. 9 Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.
Jonah’s Displeasure Rebuked
4 But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” 4 The Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”
5 Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. 6 So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” 10 Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”
New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Walking In The Word
The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. Notice that the message was the same. All of Jonah’s drama and resistance didn’t change what God was asking him to do. In chapter four, Jonah reveals his heart toward the people of Nineveh. He would rather have God destroy them. Maybe, he looked at the things they were doing and thought that justice needed to be served instead of mercy. What was interesting was that Jonah understood the character of God and had insight from God that the people would repent. This did not sit well with Jonah, and he became so upset that he wanted to die. God taught Jonah a lesson by using a plant. God showed Jonah that he was more concerned about his comfort and what he wanted, instead of being concerned about God’s heart and what He wanted.
The king and the people of Nineveh, although a wicked and ruthless people, received the Word of the Lord and repented. They were brokenhearted, and they turned from their sinful ways. The scripture declares that God will not refuse a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). Because of this response from the city, God relented and saved them from calamity.
God may send us to minister to people that we may think deserve punishment instead of mercy. We must remember that we all deserved punishment, and that if it were not for His mercy, we all would be judged. Once we have received mercy, sometimes we can get more concerned about what we want and about our comfort instead of those that still sit under God’s judgment. God desires for all people to enter into His mercy, but how will they enter if they are not told about His mercy?