We are back in Jonah this week. Last week we left with the words, “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.” How exciting for second chances. After Jonah shook off all the remains of the fish he started walking toward Nineveh. As he arrives in Nineveh he delivers the message God has ordained for the people, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” “Overthrown” is the same verb God used for destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This was not a death sentence but a warning if they repent, God will relent. Jonah knows this in his heart and I am sure given the kings action he is hopeful that God will show mercy. As Jonah was walking in the city he sees the people begin to repent. In verse 5 it says, “The people of Nineveh believed God.”
Believed in this sentence underscores the immediate reaction of the people. What is interesting is that yet another Pagan (the King) is concerned about people perishing, but not the man of the Lord. We see Jonah here to be a heartless man with no compassion, and certainly one who does not represent God. But let us allow our gaze to fall inward for a moment. Have we with held compassion because people did not meet our terms? Have we withheld forgiveness because we felt someone did not deserve it? Have we withheld the gospel because we felt God would never redeem such a person? Have we made harsh accusations to harm someone because they did not live up to our standards? Are we self-righteous in our attitude thinking we have arrived; therefore, giving us a right to criticize and judge? Jonah was not worried about the people perishing because he believed they deserved it. This clearly indicates that although he had been obedient physically his heart did not match his actions. Isaiah 29:13"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
Jonah wanted to control who received God’s grace and who would perish. When the people repented and God reached out his hand of mercy, Jonah burned with anger. He was upset with God for extending mercy and grace to a people group he deemed unworthy of grace. Don’t miss this “people he deemed unworthy.” How ironic that he would feel this way when in the previous chapter God saved his life even though he was in complete disobedience. He deserved death but God provided a great fish to preserve his life not because he deserved it because God chose to stretch out His hand of mercy. Let’s not forget that he was also a prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Israelites were notorious for their constant disobedience and rebellion, yet God demonstrated His mercy to them time and time again throughout their heritage. Now Jonah stands on a hilltop, after being the recipient of so much mercy, to judge a nation of people. What does the bible say about judging?
James 4:12 “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Mathew 7:1-5“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
The fact that Jonah wished a whole entire nation is almost unfathomable to me. However, when I look around me today that is exactly what I see: Relationships torn apart by harsh words; Families not speaking because of unforgiveness; Christians lashing out and condemning a lost world to name a few. How sad that we have received God’s mercy and grace not because we deserve it but because God is an almighty God that lovingly extended it to us, yet we fail to give it in return. Jonah in fact was more worried about a plant withering away than he was a city of people perishing. Sometimes I think we are so determined to ride our spiritual high horse that we fail the people around us because we do not demonstrate love and compassion. We only want to walk around spewing contempt and condemnation. “God's definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.”
“"Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people he has made?”
Jonah had repented of his sin of running from the Lord, but failed to allow God to turn his heart to Him. Sometimes God comes into our lives and ask us to do what seems like the impossible. Many times I have said to Him, “I just don’t have it in me.” Then I am reminded in Psalms when David is pouring out his heart to the Lord and he says in 86:11 “give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” He is at a loss. He is begging the Lord to give him the heart that matches God’s desire for his life. David realizes God is going to have to come along side him and put his heart in agreement with His will. He wants to be able to give God his whole heart in worship.
Maybe you are reading this today and your not running from the Lord, but your not surrendered to him whole heartedly either.Your like Jonah your lips are saying one thing, but your heart doesn’t match up.Perhaps today God has called you to what seems impossible? It is highly likely that some of you today are living in a place without joy.For whatever reason someone or something has come along and stole your joy.There are parts of your heart that are crushed, hardened, or closed altogether.Perchance there are parts of your life that you have not been able to turn over to the Lord and say God help my heart match your desire.If we are a child of God he is relentless in his pursuit of us “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life” Psalm 23:6 MSG