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. “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?”
The last chapter in Jonah leaves us wanting more. We want to know how Jonah answered that question. I for one would really like to know where Jonah went from here. All we really know about Jonah is that he did not want God to act in His compassion, that we was rebellious, and apparently loved the plant more than he loved his fellow humans. But, in this story we learn a lot about God. We can clearly see that God is gracious and compassionate with all of His creation.
In this final question to Jonah God also says a lot about Himself. Jonah looked at the city of Nineveh as evil. He looked at this city and these people as a threat, someone that needed to be destroyed so his way of life could be preserved. Jonah put limits on the very same gracious compassion that God had just showed him (an underserving, rebellious prophet). But, God didn’t see a rebellious prophet or an evil city full of His enemies. God saw a man who was struggling with God’s grace and who needed to be saved. He saw a city full of people who were lost and needed some direction to find their way. In both cases, they were His creation, whom He loved dearly.
God moved in His compassion way more than He moves in His anger. Praise God for that! We understand Jesus to be God’s revelation of Himself to us – God in the flesh, the Word coming to life and living with us. Jesus didn’t come out of God’s anger and Jesus didn’t reveal God’s anger to us. Jesus came out of God’s compassion and came to show us just how much God loves us. He came to reveal God’s grace and compassion.
Jonah had things wrong. In his self-righteousness he cared more for the plant than he did for the people. When we allow our own self preservation to take over and when we are moved by our anger we will put limits on God’s compassion and limits on the compassion we show. Which leaves us with the same question to answer – do we want God to be compassionate or not?
Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time
I am so thankful that we serve the God of second chances! God spoke, again, to a rebellious prophet who had run from Him and was even attempting to hide from Him. God then used that prophet to extend a chance to an evil and violent city. Jonah chapter 3 is full of second chances and stands to be the most encouraging chapter in the book of Jonah. Who of us couldn’t use a second chance here and there?
One of the things we can learn from Jonah’s second chance, though, is that they aren’t always easy. Jonah still had a long journey ahead of him as he headed back to the place God originally called him. At this point he had about 500 miles to travel – it would have taken him about a month if he was able to find a camel or donkey to ride. Had he just listened the first time he would have a much easier journey. That is so true for all of us, often times the journey we are on got harder because of a mistake we made.
Despite our mistakes or the length of the journey we know it is always worth it as long as we travel in God’s grace. As a result of Jonah’s obedience, this time, Nineveh is given an opportunity to be saved. This city was destroying itself by the way they were living. At this point things were starting to fall apart, so when Jonah showed up with the message he had from God they jumped on it. They repented and ceased their violent ways. God’s grace was able to save Jonah and the Ninevites. There is nothing God’s grace can’t do and no person God’s grace can’t reach.
I am praying that today you have received God’s grace and that now you embark on a life of obedience. You never know what a life lived in God’s grace will accomplish. Jonah’s saved a city. Maybe God will use you to save a city too? Maybe He will use you to reach your neighborhood, your family, or your friends? I don’t know how God will use you, but I know He will. When we get a second chance and use it to live for God amazing things happen. So, go today, embark on the journey of living obediently in God’s grace and see what happens!
Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
Can you imagine falling asleep during a really bad storm on board a ship? Jonah must have been incredibly tired and a really heavy sleeper. Then, to be woken up with a rebuke – a good solid rebuke is never any fun! But, sometimes we need to be rebuked so we do wake up and start doing what we are supposed to be doing.
Jonah was a man of God, a prophet, and instead of praying he was sleeping. The pagan sailors were the ones praying to their gods, their gods that had no control over the wind or the sea. The one person who could talk to the God who did have control was asleep. I think there are times in life where we are like both of the people in this boat – we are praying to the wrong gods or totally avoiding the One True God who can do something about the storm we are in. Which one are you? Are you hoping a lesser god will answer or are you just avoiding the One who can?
Now, I know no one really likes to be rebuked or called on the carpet when we are doing something wrong. We treat the word accountability like an evil four letter word that we want nothing to do with. But, accountability is a good thing, a healthy thing. Being held responsible for our actions, rebuked when we are wrong, is what keeps us out of the storms and leads us to safety when we find ourselves in one. A rebuke is what Jonah needed. He was no longer interested in listening to God’s Word or to God’s action (the storm) so God forced him to listen to the pagans.
We might not want to hear the rebuke, but we need to hear it. In all of God’s grace and mercy He will make sure we do. Those rebukes can come from other people, can come from storms, and many times will come from the places we least expect it. What we need to learn to do is listen to that rebuke. As hard as it might be, it might just be the only thing that will get us back on track and back into the life God has for us. Jonah jumped off the ship, the storm stopped, and God went to work setting him back on track. Listen to the rebuke, be held accountable – it could be the most loving thing anyone ever does for you.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.
Jonah was a prophet of God who was called to a wicked people to proclaim God’s judgment. But, instead of heading the call and being obedient he rebels and runs the opposite direction. Perhaps he was thinking he would just get out of dodge and go live a different life somewhere else. Ever wonder why he would rebel like that? Why run from doing the very thing God had called him to do?
In Jonah chapter 4 he says why he rebelled – because he knew God would be loving and compassionate. He had a feeling God would forgive and redeem them. So, instead of giving them the chance to change he decided he would just run away. No way was he going to give such an evil people a chance to come to God. He would rather die than see them change!
Where do you see yourself in this story? It is easy for us to say that’s messed up – no way would I ever treat someone like that or run away from God like that! But, haven’t there been times when we rebelled against God because our agenda wasn’t being met, God wasn’t doing what we wanted so we took things into our own hands. Has there ever been a time when we rebelled because God wasn’t serving our agenda?
What about those times when God asks you to love your neighbor and your refuse for (fill in the blank)? Jonah had a “us vs. them” attitude. They have killed and butchered us for too long, it is time for them to suffer. This wasn’t an attitude of love but one of anger, bitterness, and vengeance.
The amazing thing – despite the rebellious heart and attitude – God still pursued him. The storm was one of mercy. God cared about him too much to leave him in his rebellion. Know today, that even in your rebellion God, in His mercy, is pursuing you and ready to redeem you too.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.