God sent a reluctant man to preach to the inhabitants of Nineveh. Though Jonah originally sailed in the wrong direction, the Lord used a dangerous storm, a ship full of pagan sailors, and a very large fish to move His ambassador in a better direction. Jonah eventually arrived on the scene and presented his no-nonsense message: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Amazingly, the people of Nineveh repented. Good news? Not to Jonah. The prophet was very angry, and He expressed his disappointment to the Lord God in prayer.
Jonah knew of the Lord’s character from the beginning of this ministry. God was gracious, merciful, and abounding in steadfast love. He knew that God might relent from judgment if the Assyrians humbled themselves. Jonah wanted to see the Lord’s justice come against his enemies. He was unwilling to allow God’s compassion to get in the way of his dreams. Now that the people of Nineveh had turned from sin, Jonah was so angry that he wanted “to die.”
God asked Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry?” The Assyrians were brutal and oppressed Israel and Judah. Their leaders spoke against the Lord and His people with impunity. Jonah would have done well to have righteous indignation concerning that empire, but he was very wrong to be angry with Jehovah for extending His kindness to repentant sinners.
Jonah set up camp outside of the city and waited to see what would happen to Nineveh. In the meantime, the Lord caused a plant to grow in order to provide shade for His rebellious servant. Jonah was pleased with the plant, but the joy of this unusual gift was soon gone. God had appointed a worm to destroy the amazing growth. God then turned up the heat and the wind on His messenger, and Jonah was once again ready “to die.” He seemed to love that miracle shrub more than the thousands of image-bearers who were inhabitants of a great city.
God is the Maker, Keeper, and Judge of humanity. If He chooses to save some, we have no right to question His wisdom or goodness. When Christ came to die for the sins of His people, there were religious leaders who were very offended by His kindness to unworthy human beings. Many did not approve of the notion that Gentiles could become true followers of Christ without becoming Jews first. Jesus gave His life for the fulfillment of the divine plan of worldwide grace. We should never resist God’s good news, but join with angels in rejoicing when even one sinner repents and finds life in our Redeemer.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Great God of Israel, You have a plan for the entire earth. You are a God of grace. Will we hate mercy? We do not do well to be angry about Your kindness. Your Son is our shade and our protection. The scorching heat of Your justice is coming upon the nations of the world. Make us to pity the people who live in darkness, for there are so many who are facing judgment with no knowledge of Your Word. Send us forward in Your service, O Lord, that people everywhere may know that You are God.