“Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3)
Here in the last chapter of Jonah, we get to the meat of the issue and what was really causing Jonah such distress about preaching to the Assyrians in Nineveh.
As I mentioned in my post Which Way Are You Running? , Jonah hated the Assyrians and wanted nothing to do with them, let alone calling them to repentance and right-standing with God. In Chapter 3, Jonah finally obeys God’s word and goes to Nineveh to proclaim the threat of their certain destruction if they do not repent. The Ninevites immediately listen, including the king, and God shows them mercy and relents from destroying them.
So why was Jonah so displeased and angry at God, to the point where he would have rather died than seeing the Ninevites saved? It’s because Jonah’s heart was hardened, and he did not have any compassion for those whom he saw as mortal enemies and a threat to his own nation’s safety. He absolutely believed that the Ninevites deserved God’s wrath, not His benevolence.
As I think about it, I can’t say that I blame him for feeling that way. Honestly that would be an expected reaction to those who are threatening his people’s very existence. His attitude shows his humanity, even a man who God chose as a prophet. I also realize that this is before the gift of the Holy Spirit was given, so Jonah did not have God’s very Spirit dwelling within him to convict him and fill him with the fruit of love and kindness, as Christians do today. That’s why the scene between God and Jonah in chapter 4 is so interesting to me, because God ultimately uses Jonah’s hardness to show us the contrast to His own grace, mercy, and kindness. It’s a love that goes well beyond our human capacity to invoke on our own.
Is your heart hardened towards someone today? Who is God calling you to love, not out of your emotion or feelings towards them, but out of obedience to God? I know this is extremely difficult to do and is counter-intuitive towards the way this world teaches us to treat our enemies, but thank God that we can rely on the Holy Spirit to transform us through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2)! It’s not solely up to us– we must lean on Him.
At the end of the day, many of us are no different than Jonah, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing… sometimes we just need to course-correct. What will change how our story ends, is how we respond to the Lord out of obedience despite the way we may feel about something.
God loves His creation more than we can ever understand, yes, even those who do evil. And so we love others, not because we feel like it, but because He first loved us; and we leave vengeance to the Lord. His ways are higher than ours, and so we must trust God and not be so bitter when He chooses to bless those whom we feel don’t deserve it.
[From February 21, 2019]