Jonah 3:1-5, 10 is a glimpse of the grace that results when God changes His mind. God never changes, but I love that He can and will change His mind. He can do whatever He wants to do, but; like Jonah, I find myself wanting Him to do what I want Him to do. That means sticking to the agenda and not embarrassing me with last minute changes.
Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”
This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.
When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. (NLT)
Jonah was an important man delivering the message that Nineveh was about to be destroyed. The people heard and repented, but that didn’t make Jonah happy. In fact, he was angry when God extended grace and let them live. That may sound strange, but it is human nature to hurt when humiliated. He wanted them to get what they deserved, and he wanted to be right! God wanted them to change, so he forgave them when they did.
Forgiveness heals as nothing else, and no one knows that better than God. I don’t know what happened to Jonah. We leave him sulking over a plant while God asks where his compassion is for the 120,000 people and the animals of Nineveh who would have perished. God spared Jonah’s life and the lives of the sailors who pleaded for mercy, but time in the belly of the big fish didn’t seem to sweeten Jonah’s disposition.
Jonah is a book of incredible love, but that love doesn’t come from Jonah. I hope he found compassion, and I hope he learned to extend and accept forgiveness. I know God forgave him, but that doesn’t mean he accepted. He may not have recognized his need for it. Like the older son in the story of the Prodigal Son, Jonah may have had a hard time seeing those who don’t deserve forgiveness and grace getting it. None of us deserve God’s grace, love, mercy, or forgiveness, but that doesn’t stop Him.
God lets me get angry, and he allows me to sulk when things don’t turn out the way I want. I can’t be too hard on Jonah because I’ve been where he is, and it isn’t a pleasant place to be. I learned years ago that seriousness is a serious sin that disguises itself in many ways. The need to be right or the need to retaliate get in the way of true forgiveness and cause my journey to be a self righteous march rather than a walk in God’s kingdom. I’m learning to let God humble me with humor when the sin of seriousness creeps into my path. As a dear friend once told me, a little levity goes a long way 🙂