There's more to the story of Jonah and The Whale than simply being a story kids love in Sunday School. Oh, no, it's very relevant to every adult who claims to be a child of God. God told Jonah to go to Ninevah. The ancient city of Ninevah was located in what is now Iraq. Back then they were enemies of Israel. Bent on destroying Israel. They were hateful and sinful people. So God is about to destroy them. That fact makes sense. To us. We are human.
What does NOT make sense - to Jonah and to some of us - is that He decides to WARN them and give them a chance to REPENT. If Jonah were alive today God might phrase it this way, "Jonah, I want you to go to those terrorists and tell them that what they are doing is wrong. I want you to warn them that I will destroy them for their sin if they don't change their wicked ways." Jonah thinks..."Yes, God. They deserve to be destroyed. Do it, God. Do it now!"
Jonah hated those people. And they hated Jonah. Jonah WANTS them destroyed for their sin and rebellion against God. And He knows that IF THEY REPENT, GOD WILL SHOW MERCY. IF THEY REPENT, GOD WILL HAVE COMPASSION.
Jonah decides that if he has anything to do about it.. there is no way they are NOT PAYING FOR THEIR SIN. So Jonah disobeys God, jumps on a boat headed in the opposite direction. And then The Storm. And thrown overboard. And The Whale. And The Rescue by God.
Jonah goes to Ninevah, speaks to the King and the King sees the error of his ways, repents, and God changes His plans to destroy them. Imagine terrorists all over the world seeing the error of their ways, repenting and turning toward God, putting their faith in Jesus, and God forgiving them... What? What? What? They get away with their sin? What? He has COMPASSION on them??? What? What?
Jonah -- recently rescued from certain death in the belly of a whale -- seems to forget that he is only alive because God had mercy and compassion on him.
He accuses God, “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." (Jonah 4:2)
Evidently, Jonah KNEW God, KNEW His character and KNEW God is longing to forgive. JONAH'S HATRED of these people was so INTENSE and so INGRAINED that he was unwilling to say a word that might cause them to be recipients of God's mercy.
JONAH LONGED FOR JUDGMENT.
GOD LONGED TO SHOW MERCY.
JONAH IS SO ANNOYED AND ANGRY at God's compassion that he demands his own death, "Kill me now Lord. I'd rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen!" (Jonah 4:3)
Jonah would rather die if God is not going to destroy the people who want to destroy him..
Jonah doesn't have compassion on people who hate him.
But God does.
This compassion is confusing to Jonah. And to some of us at times.
So.. here's the deal.
God doesn't OVERLOOK SIN.
He warns us about it.
And we are free to do what we want with the warning.
God didn't change HIS MIND about the consequences of the sins of the people of Ninevah - the people of Ninevah changed their ways.
God doesn't LONG to destroy the adulteress, or the homosexual, or the thief, or the pornography addicted, or the drug addicted. He longs to show mercy.
God doesn't LONG to destroy the liars, the jealous, the envious, the covetous, the unforgiving and hypocritical. He longs to show mercy. He longs to pour out His compassion.
God doesn't LONG to destroy the person who has betrayed us, hurt us, abused us or destroyed us..
The confusion of compassion is that God still loves - AND LONGS TO SHOW MERCY ON - the person who no longer loves you. He sent His Son for THAT person. He wants a relationship with the people who do not want a relationship with you.
Really? Really. God's compassion confuses us. That He would show compassion on people who have hated Him.. hated us... hated Jesus.. and hated anyone who follows Him.
His system is that ...
Anyone who says the simplest prayer of confession..
Anyone who asks for God's mercy.. RECEIVES IT.
PEOPLE WHO DON'T DESERVE MERCY.. GET IT?
(Yup... Go find a mirror and take a long, long look at the undeserving sinner looking back at you)
God's justice is not like ours. He will repay sin in His time.
Until then He is calling for everyone to come home.
It is not God's wrath that surprises us.
It is His love. Toward you. And me. And to those who hate us.
"Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?"