Here comes the Judge!
Jonah, Jonah, Jonah…we look at him and see stubbornness, disobedience, rebellion and definitely ungratefulness.
Yes, he did thank God for saving him from the belly of the great fish, and yes, he did finally obey and head for Nineveh. What he didn’t expect was for the people to believe, repent and turn from their wickedness.
Jonah arrives in Nineveh, (a city that takes three days to walk through!), and just one day inside he starts preaching the Word of the Lord. He told the people, in this wicked city, that they had 40 days to repent or the entire city, and everything in it, would be destroyed. “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.”
They believed God, they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth (a sign of repentance and humility) even down to the least of them.
Word had come from the king himself, he had taken off his robe, covered himself in sackcloth and sat in ashes! He said,
“Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger,that we perish not?”
The desperate situation called for desperate measures. They humbled their souls with fasting and what happened?
“And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” Jonah 3:3-10.
Did they change the mind of God? Of course they did!
This is what Jehovah wanted them to do!
But it is NOT what Jonah wanted them to do. At all.
This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. “So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” Jonah 4:1-3 NLT.
Can’t you just see Jonah complaining to God? “I told you, Lord! I told you this would happen!” He says he knew all along if they repented God would go soft. And he was mad about it! He was upset that these people that he literally despised were going to receive the forgiveness of God…just like he had.
Now here is where we think Jonah is One Selfish and Self-Righteous Dude.
But is he really any different than so many of the rest of us? Haven’t there been times in our lives where we have been a little aggravated at some of the Ninevites in our own lives? Do we think they can’t be saved, that God surely wouldn’t bother with them; His mercy couldn’t possibly extend that far?
And when they do come to the Lord? When they DO repent? We doubt and say, “They won’t stick with it, that’s just how they are.” We second guess their motives, “They aren’t really sincere, they are just coming to church to put on a show or to be seen.” We are sure there is nothing to their experience.
We reason it in our minds…and sometimes speak it with our mouths.
Worst of all? Looking deep in our hearts we might discover we just do not like them. Maybe they have hurt us in the past, done something against us that we are struggling to forgive. We actually want to see them continue in their sinful life, they are deserving of judgment!
God is no respecter of persons. And the story of Jonah and the Ninevites is a wonderful example of the mercy of a loving God. It was a wicked city, the Assyrians were bent on world domination, they didn’t care who got in their way. They even sacrificed their children and served the idol Dagon! But when they heard the warning, and their king took it seriously, they believed, they repented and they were forgiven. They were spared!
Just like God told Jonah, “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
Can we just be grateful that God had mercy on us, that He loved us, in spite of ourselves, overlooked our faults, failures and sins?
Let us not be judgmental when it comes to the sins of others. Let’s not be critical of their motives when it comes to salvation.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 NKJV.