So, what does a story about a prophet of Israel going to preach to a bunch of Assyrians have to do with God’s plan working itself out in the Old Testament? Some of the Jews couldn’t figure that one out. Bible Commentators Jamieson, Fausset and Borwn remark, “It seemed strange to Kimchi, a Jew himself, that the Book of Jonah is among the Scriptures, as the only prophecy in it concerns Nineveh, a heathen city, and makes no mention of Israel, which is referred to by every other prophet. The reason seems to be: a tacit reproof of Israel is intended; a heathen people were ready to repent at the first preaching of the prophet, a stranger to them; but Israel, who boasted of being God’s elect, repented not, though warned by their own prophets at all seasons.” This is certain. I would add to it that it is also a tacit reproof of Jonah and rest of the Jews who had an attitude of hoarding God’s Love. A desire not to let the promise God made to Abraham, to bless every family of the earth, actually come to pass.
Sometimes, we as Christians forget that God has saved us in spite of ourselves. Not because we are such wonderful people who are deserving of His love, but because His is a loving and faithful God. Jonah could not stomach the idea that the God who is, “…a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. ” (Jonah 4:2) would behave that way to anyone other than his own people. Yet, his own people were once aliens from God and His promises and were called through Abraham, not because of who they were, but due to God’s love. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8) In spite of His love, they rebelled more and more as He called this with cords of Love to turn from their idols and their sin (Hosea 11:1-4)
As Christians we to were once “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) In spite of who we were, God chose to set His love upon us. Totally Undeserved! If this is so, how can we look upon another person and feel any sense that they are undeserving of God’s mercy and more that we?
Titus 3:3-5 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
There is ultimately a lesson in the book of Jonah that we need to see. Jonah certainly had reason to hate the Assyrians. They had pillaged and plundered his homeland. They had subjugated it and forced it to pay tribute. Yet, when God chose to show mercy to them, Jonah was reproved by God for opposing His plan. How much less can we stand in judgment over God as He chooses to show mercy to others, no less deserving that ourselves? This it the heart of the message of Jonah as the Jews read it and continued in their sin, yet begrudged God’s mercy to heathen who obeyed His Word. May we never find ourselves in such a place as Christians. Hear God’s gentle reproof!
Jonah 4:10-11 But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 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?
How easily our priorities can get shifted! How easily can our comfort and customs cause us to take God’s grace for granted and look with conceit upon others whom we deem less worthy. Yet as with Jonah, how patiently God deals with us, as He gently reminds us of His grace in our own lives.
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