The Bible tells us about a “huge fish” so rare that God had provided it especially to swallow a runaway prophet (Jonah 1:17). Most know the story. God told Jonah to take a message of judgment to Nineveh. But Jonah wanted nothing to do with the Ninevites, who had a reputation for cruelty to just about everyone—including the Hebrews. So he fled. Things went badly. From inside the fish, Jonah repented. Eventually he preached to the Ninevites, and they repented too (3:5–10).
Great story, right? Except it doesn’t end there. While Nineveh repented, Jonah pouted. “Isn’t this what I said, Lord?” he prayed. “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love” (4:2). Having been rescued from certain death, Jonah’s sinful anger grew until even his prayer became suicidal (v. 3).
The story of Jonah isn’t about the fish. It’s about our human nature and the nature of the God who pursues us. “The Lord is patient with you,” wrote the apostle Peter, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God offers His love to brutal Ninevites, pouting prophets, and you and me.
Father, we tend to look at what others “deserve” and forget we need Your love just as much. Help us live in Your love and tell others about it.
Our love has limits; God’s love is limitless.
What a difference a couple of chapters can make in the tone of Jonah’s prayers! In Jonah 2:2, the desperate prophet prayed, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.” But in Jonah 4:3, he asks God to kill him. God answered the first prayer miraculously, delivering Jonah from death. But with the second prayer, God simply asked, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (4:4). Then Jonah actually repeats his death wish. “I’m so angry I wish I were dead” (v. 9). Even then, God appealed to Jonah by sharing His heart for all of humanity. “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh?” God even extends His concern to the animals that would have been destroyed in Nineveh (v. 11). The book of Jonah provides a fascinating contrast between human nature, which is self-serving, and the profoundly loving and patient character of God.
How do we respond to God’s grace to us? Do we resent it when He extends that grace to others we may perceive as “worse” than we are? Do we resemble Jonah when things don’t go the way we’d like them to?