In the short Book of Jonah The God of all Grace is pictured in remarkable light. The three entities discussed in this book are Jonah, God and The City of Nineveh. God had commissioned Jonah the prophet to go to Nineveh to preach to them and tell them that their sin had come up before God and God was so frustrated with the evil among them that in forty days He would destroyed the city completely. Jonah tried running away but you can’t run for enough from the God of the Universe. He brought him back by commissioning a great fish to come and swallow Jonah after he was thrown off the boat to save it from the storm. The fish kept him in his belly for three days and nights, then as he prayed the fish spit him out on dry land. God again commissioned Jonah to go to Nineveh with His message. This time he went and traversed the city with the message “Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed.” He didn’t mention repentance, God’s grace or the possibility for forgiveness. Instinctively they began to repent, to fast and put on sackcloth and ashes and pray to God for forgiveness.
Jonah did the bare minimum of what of what God wanted him to do. But they repented anyway. He had one of the greatest revivals of all time and he didn’t like it a bit. He didn’t want them to repent. He wanted them to keep on with what they were doing so God would destroy them.In chapter four He explains why he didn’t want them to come to Nineveh to begin with. “But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I know that thou are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah didn’t want to warn the people of what would happen if they didn’t change and commit to God. He wanted God to wipe them out.
So he sat down outside the city to watch and see what happens in forty days. Perhaps they will fall back into their sin and God will proceed with the destruction. But he is angry over the whole mess. In verse four God asked, “Is it right for you to be angry?” There outside the city he had sat down at a place east of the city. He made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen. The Lord provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort. Jonah was happen to have the shade. But the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. “When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He want to die, and said, ‘I would be better for me to die than to live.” God again asked him, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is’ he said, ‘And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
Listen to the Lord’s response to him. “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left – and also many animals?” Very few people have ever had more mixed up values it seems to me, than Jonah. He was a prophet of God, but he stayed angry at God much of the time. He didn’t like it that God cared about people other than Israelites. He didn’t like God being graceful. I suppose he thought it was good when God extended grace toward him over and over again. But he didn’t want him to extend the same grace to the people of Nineveh.
It does shine out from this short book of the Bible, that God’s grace extends to all kinds of people. It didn’t matter that the people of Nineveh were from an idolatrous nation. It didn’t matter that Nineveh had the reputation for being cruel people who killed their enemies with abandon. God wanted them to have a chance to change and they took it readily. But it may well be that God showed the greatest mercy and grace toward his prophet instead of the people in Nineveh. His prophet never repented of his lousy attitude. He was never convinced that he was wrong for what he felt. He wanted a brand of justice that freed every Jew and destroyed every Gentile. Yet God kept reaching out to Jonah. The way the New Testament speaks of Jonah seems to indicate that he did eventually repent and have a right attitude. If that is the case, I sure wish God had allowed us to see the change in him. By the way, if God showed so much grace then with Jonah and Nineveh don’t you think he will extend the same kind of grace toward you?