The heart of God is quite clear in this book: Compassion for the lost.
And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”Jonah 4:11
If we look at the book of Jonah a little closely, we see that God did not want the people of Nineveh to perish. He appointed Jonah to go and speak the message He had for the people of Nineveh. From Jonah’s account, we see that, he was quite sure that God would have mercy on the people of Nineveh.
The very reason for Jonah’s anger against the Lord was His mercy toward the people of Nineveh.
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly,[a] and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.Jonah 4:1-2
A closer look
Firstly, the people of Nineveh were not God’s chosen people. They did not come under the covenant community of God and hence they did not have any privileges. They rightly deserved the wrath of God.
Secondly. Jonah was the prophet to the people of God: The Israelites. He was called out by God to go and preach to a pagan community.
After reading through the book of Jonah, we come to a realization that, saving the people of Nineveh was God’s plan all along. The heart of God was for the lost people of Nineveh.
Firstly, God calls out a prophet from His own people to go preach the message of coming judgement from God.
Secondly, God pursues Jonah far and wide, causing the boat to threaten to break, a tempest in the sea, and a fish to swallow. These events were unheard of and not natural events. All these took place just so that the prophet Jonah would take the message of God to the people of God.
Thirdly, God protects Jonah through all the unusual events. He was even safe in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights! Mind boggling but true!
Fourthly, as Jonah goes about preaching the coming destruction to an enemy land, we see that he is unharmed. We also see that the people repented, all of them from the greatest to the least.
And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.Jonah 3-5
The people of Nineveh were worshipers of pagan God’s. And they listened to this prophet of the LORD and repented. They not only left the prophet unharmed but also believed on the God of this prophet. And all in just 3 days. Miraculous!
Fifthly, the people of Nineveh repented and turned from their evil ways. A whole pagan nation turned to God! Jonah 3:6-10
Jonah ran away from God because he did not want God to be merciful to the people group who were not his own. He did all he could: took a boat in the direction away from the direction he was to go in, sleeping in a tempest, throw into the ocean ,all so that he could avoid God’s call over his life.
What about us?
To look at Jonah and say that he was being utterly foolish is simple. But what about us today? How are we facing the call of God on our lives?
God’s heart is for the lost. He came to seek and save the lost. He has called you and me to go and preach to the lost, make disciples, baptize them and teach them all of His commandments. Matthew 28:19-20.
What is our boat? Which boat are we hiding behind? What is our escape route? Children? Work? Busy life? No time?
It is high time we realize that we cannot run from God. If our boat is rocking today, what is it that we are running from? What has God called us to do that we are scared of and running away from?
We need the power of God , The Holy Spirit, to preach clearly to the lost and so that we are bold and can face what comes our way.
Dear Lord God, please give us boldness to go and preach to the lost. Let us understand your heart of compassion, lean on you and draw strength from you to go and preach to those who are perishing.God, show us the areas in our lives that we are running away from your call so that we can turn from it and go do the work you have called us to do. Help us have a heart of compassion just like you. Help us to become more like you. In your name I pray, Amen.