Jonah 3:1-5, 10 - Then the Word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you." So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the Word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them .... When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it.
I always think of Jonah as the cranky missionary. God sends him far from home to talk to his worst enemies so that they may be saved—and Jonah doesn't want to go. So he runs away. God has to send a giant fish to drag him back and start the mission over again. How embarrassing for Jonah!
So now Jonah is doing what God said—he's visiting Nineveh and warning them that God is about to send judgment on them. He walks through the city saying exactly what God tells him to say—"Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And all the while, he's hoping they won't listen to him. Because Jonah doesn't like those people, and he wants to see them burn.
But Jonah has another problem. He knows that God is forgiving and merciful, full of compassion—the exact opposite of Jonah, in fact. So Jonah finishes his job and gets out of town to a spot where he can look down over the city, hoping to see hellfire and brimstone fall. And then it doesn't happen. "When God saw what [the Ninevites] did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it."
And Jonah whines. He says, "God, see this? See this? I knew You were going to be this way. I knew You were going to forgive those people, and I just wish I were dead!"
What's Jonah's problem? Does his hatred run that deep? Or is he afraid that people will make fun of him for making a prophecy that didn't come true in the end? Maybe a little of both.
But God is merciful even to Jonah in his tantrum. He explains things to him as kindly as He can—and to us, who read the story years later.
Yes, God cares about the Ninevites, even though they are the enemies of Jonah's people. God cares about His own enemies too—about every human being who has rebelled against Him and turned the world into a place of violence, lying, and hatred. God will do whatever He can to rescue these people, even though they don't deserve it—even if it costs Him death on a cross. Through Jesus, He will turn them from enemies into beloved children—people who live through their trust in the Son of God.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, soften our hearts to share Your Word with others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. What makes you cranky?
2. Have you ever had to do something you didn't want to do because God wanted it?
3. When did someone show you mercy though you didn't deserve it?
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