“The Lord is compassionate and gracious… He does not treat us as our sins deserve.” (Psalm 103:10-12)
This is the last week of our summer Bible study on the book of Jonah — Waves of Mercy. You know, compared to the others, Jonah was one of the most successful prophets in the Bible? Sure at first he tried to run from God and there was that unfortunate incident with the big fish.
But once he got to Ninevah and preached the word God gave him, he was a HUGE success. These people actually listened to him, instead of stoning him to death or sawing him in half, like the other prophets. More than that, they repented of their sin – all of them, the king and everyone.
You’d think Jonah would be thrilled with the results.
But not Jonah. He actually had the nerve to be angry with God for FORGIVING the people of Ninevah. He complained about God being so “gracious and compassionate… slow to anger and abounding in love.” (4:2)
“I knew this would happen,” he literally said.
It seems Jonah WANTED God to destroy the city. He wanted to see those wicked people get what they deserved. That’s why he sat there outside the city, watching and waiting. He was rooting for them to return to their sin. Hoping that their repentance was insincere and shortlived. Because God would know, if it was — and then!
If God had taken that attitude with him — determined to see him get what he deserved — he’d still be at the bottom of the ocean, in the belly of that fish. God had forgiven Jonah when HE repented. But Jonah was beyond annoyed when God gave the people of Ninevah a second chance.
Reading Jonah’s story, I’m appalled.
But I’m also convicted.
Because I know that sometimes I experience that same hardness of heart. Sometimes I hear about bad things happening to “bad” people and think to myself — without an ounce of love or compassion — “Well, they’re getting what they deserve!”
Or I find myself wishing that they would …. get what they deserve, reap what they sow. It sounds so spiritual, doesn’t it?
I’ll admit I’ve even prayed that way.
Once I was talking to Jesus about a person who mistreated me. I was so hurt and angry.
I said, “Lord, I’m going to choose to forgive this person. I’m not going to hold onto bitterness in my heart. But I’m asking You to deal with them. Hold them accountable for their sin. Sometimes it seems people sin and they don’t even know or care. They don’t experience any obvious consequences. Not this time! Don’t let this person off the hook — let them feel the full weight of what they have done. Let them experience the consequences. Let them get what they deserve.”
When I paused for a moment, I heard Him say quietly:
“Is that what you want Me to do with you?”
Suddenly I was sobbing so hard I coud barely breathe.
“No, Lord! No! That’s not what I want from You. I’m so thankful for Your mercy and grace. I don’t even know how many sins I commit that You forgive me for, things that I’m not even aware of or don’t recognize as sin. Let alone the ones I do know of! And I’m so grateful that every one of those sins — every poor choice, every failure or mistake — is not only forgiven in eternity, but even here and now doesn’t turn out to be a worst-case scenario. That so many times, You intervene. You cover me with Your mercy and grace. I want You to keep on covering me, keep on forgiving me, keep on showing me Your mercy.”
That’s what Jonah’s story reminds me…
This week’s Virtual VBS for GrownUp Girls Assignment:
Read: Jonah 4 (again), Luke 6:27-38, 41-42, and John 4:7-12 As you read these verses, pray and ask God to show you how they apply to your own life today — to your heart, your attitude, your behavior. Are there people you need His help to love and forgive? People you need to show mercy and grace?
(Keep in mind that these verses in Luke are not about setting healthy boundaries in relationships, holding each other accountable, or excercising discernment — all subjects Jesus addresses in other places, including verses 43-45 of the same chapter. Some relationships cannot be reconciled or restored. But your attitude toward those who have wounded you can still reflect God’s love and compassion.)
Memorize: James 2:13
This last week, I’d love to know: What has God been speaking to your heart through the story of Jonah? What will you be taking with you?