5. Mercy's Liberation: Jonah
God doesn’t ask you to let wrongs go unpunished but to surrender judgment to him!
“When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.”
Jonah is an Israelite prophet living in the time before Israel’s exile. In this period of their history, Israel has forgotten its purpose to share God’s love with the world. We see them stuck in self-consumption instead of living as a blessing to the nations.
Despite Israel’s spiritual state, God calls Jonah to go and preach to the nation of Nineveh. At the time, Nineveh was an enemy of Israel, and their culture was one of horrible brutality and violence. Jonah knows that God is full of compassion and that the Ninevites will be forgiven if they repent and believe. So, in his disdain for them, Jonah doesn’t want to even give Nineveh the opportunity for salvation.
Jonah runs away from God and this assignment by boarding a boat in the opposite direction, but, through his tries, Jonah cannot outrun God or hinder his mission to pursue the lost. God sends a violent storm while Jonah is on the boat. Accepting that the storm has been sent by God, Jonah informs the sailors that they must sacrifice him for the storm to stop. So, Jonah is thrown overboard and swallowed by a giant fish sent by God.
While inside this fish, Jonah calls on the Lord for deliverance, but he does not confess his sin. After 3 days, he is spit out of the fish onto dry land. Despite his close encounter with death, the true state of Jonah’s heart has not changed. The entire city of Nineveh repents in response to Jonah’s preaching, and God forgives them! But, instead of being joyful about their salvation, Jonah is upset and angry! He does not think they deserve mercy, and he wants God to destroy the city!
Still, God shows patience to this arrogant prophet and seeks to help him understand his own heart. As a teaching lesson, God causes a plant to grow and provide much needed shade for Jonah in the heat, but then he causes the plant to die. When Jonah is furious about the death of this plant, God points out that Jonah cares more about one plant than thousands of people!
And then the book ends.
This account of Jonah leaves us hanging because it’s meant to lead us to go deeper and examine our own hearts.
Can we accept that God loves our enemies?
Do we resent the mercy God extends to those who have hurt us?
Do we consider ourselves more deserving of God’s grace and compassion than others ?
Now, forgiveness does not mean just forgetting and moving on: it is important to acknowledge our experiences and pain. But in the end, bitterness only hurts us.
If we want power to forgive, we must go to the cross of Christ. While we were still God’s enemies, Jesus died for us. Because those brought into his family have received an abundance of God’s mercy, they can show that same mercy to others!
God isn’t asking you to let wrongs go unpunished. He’s asking you to surrender judgment of these wrongs to him! He’s asking you to trust that they will be paid for, either by the person themself or with the blood of Jesus, the same blood that covered all of your sins!
The cross of Christ gives us the humility and power to show mercy, that we might leave behind the poison of bitterness and walk in freedom.
RESPOND: Is there someone you are angry at? Take a moment to go to God and surrender the situation to him. Ask him for the power to show the same mercy that’s been shown to you.