Jonah was greatly displeased with the Lord and actually became angry. His enemies, the nemesis of his country, the evil ones of Syria, were being given a chance to repent by the Lord. The Ninevites were an evil, bloodthirsty people determined to conquer Israel, and commit atrocities against them. Jonah tried to run from God and head to Tarshish, in the hope that God would change His mind about offering mercy to Nineveh (Jonah 4:2). He was also afraid to carry out his mission, as walking through a hostile city crying out, “Nineveh will be overthrown!” was a frightening prospect. He wanted them destroyed. His reason for fleeing seemed right in his own eyes. Instead, God dramatically intervened in his life until he submitted to His will. He would not accept Jonah saying in affect, “Yes God, I understand, but . . .”
Jonah 4:4 “Do you have a good reason to be angry?”
After Jonah said he would rather die then see God’s mercy poured out on Nineveh, God tested him with the precious shade-producing plant to see something of God’s mercy to people He created in His image. When God saw the repentance of the people of Nineveh, He relented and did not bring calamity upon them; God showed compassion on them.
In 2 Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord is not slow about His promise . . . not wishing for any to perish.” Then again, Jesus implores us in Matthew 5:44 to “. . . love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” To me, Jonah’s story reveals a little more about who God is, than a story of a man trapped in a huge fish. The focus is more on a people engraved in the heart of God.
What Do We Learn to Use Today?
Rereading this story gave me pause to think some about our collective hearts today. Realize that the people of Nineveh, a large city in ancient Syria, were loved by God despite their wickedness (Jonah 1:2). Today it seems sometimes we have adopted Jonah’s heart about many of the residents of that part of the world. The disastrous results of 9/11, and subsequent actions of wickedness, have hardened us so even many strong believers today seek their destruction and punishment. Does this demonstrate a heart after the will of God, or more reflect our personal and selfish desires for revenge and punishment? Now this is not intended as a treatise on our current national security apparatus or an indictment of the religions practiced by many in that part of the world. I just ask you to stop and ponder what the heart and will of God may be. Should we “love and pray” for our enemy? How much more amazing would it be for our country and world if our “enemy” could become an ally who worshipped the same Lord God?