By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
This is the question that God asked Jonah after he was not happy with the mercy God showed the people of Nineveh (Jonah 4:4). Jonah was a preacher who believed his personal feelings about sinners were more important than God’s longsuffering that all should be saved. Jonah seemed to believe if the people of Nineveh were informed of God’s displeasure with them, they would surely repent… and he was right.
Jonah 3:7-10 (NKJV): And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish? Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
The story of Jonah is a lesson of obedience, humility, and understanding what we are trying to accomplish. If our goal is to save the lost, then we shouldn’t be upset when an “enemy” becomes an “ally”. As Christians, we may occasionally find ourselves judging an action (even against the faith) as unforgivable. When that happens, we may stop thinking about how to save him or her, and start thinking about what fiery judgment awaits them. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, but we should not be hoping or find pleasure waiting for anyone’s destruction. We shouldn’t feel so comfortable that we say, if this Bible study doesn’t work, there is nothing else I can do to help them. Imagine if God had that same attitude. Imagine if God said, if I take them out of the land of Egypt and they still worship idols, I don’t know what to do? We must remain humble and understand how fortunate we are that God sent His son to die in our place. We must celebrate every time a soul is saved and mourn every time a soul is lost. We must find joy, not frustration, in the fact that our God is gracious and merciful towards all His creation.
Jonah 4:1-2 (NKJV): But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, One who relents from doing harm.