Jonah’s Judgment vs. God’s Grace
Our pastor preached on a Whale of a Thanksgiving today. Do you know the scripture reference for that one? Jonah 2:9
Most of us know the story of Jonah well. It’s one we’re taught from a very young age. Jonah gets swallowed by a big fish (whale) and God has the fish vomit him up onto dry land after they have a heart-to-heart talk and Jonah says he will do what he has vowed.
This is the story we know. Jonah’s prayer was heard and he was saved.
Occasionally we reflect on what caused Jonah to land in that fish belly. Disobedience.
Jonah received a directive from God and RAN the opposite direction. There was no confusion as to what Jonah was to do. It was clear. He simple did not want to do what he was instructed to do.
We look at this book in the Bible, at this character, Jonah, at his failure to fulfill his calling, at his discipline, and at his forgiveness and ‘resurrection’. We like to use this example to make ourselves feel better when we mess up. It’s a reminder that God can still save us from our own bad choices and will continue to use us despite our shortcomings.
But what about the heart of Jonah? What was really in Jonah’s heart and did it change as a result of God’s punishment and forgiveness?
Jonah did not want to go preach doom to Nineveh. Who would, right? Do we really want to tell someone they’re about to be destroyed by God Himself for all their sin?
That may be what one thinks when they first read of Jonah’s rebellion, but if we read into Jonah 4 we see something a little different.
1. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them God was aware and angered by their wickedness.
2. Jonah intentionally ran the opposite direction.
3. God caused Jonah to be swallowed by a big fish.
4. Jonah cries out to God and promises to do what he’s vowed to do.
5. God hears Jonah and has the fish spit him up on dry land alive and well.
6. God again tells Jonah to go to Nineveh.
7. Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches doom in forty days.
8. The people of Nineveh believe, go in to a period of mourning, and repent.
9. God saw their repentance and forgave them.
10. Jonah was FURIOUS that God forgave them and didn’t destroy them like He had planned.
Ok, so Jonah is angry, no furious, that God forgave the Ninevites. Shouldn’t a follower of God want God to forgive others?
I rush to, “Yes! We should want, and expect, God to forgive others!”
What was Jonah’s problem them? Is he simply a bad Christian?
Unfortunately, I don’t think Jonah is any different than any of us.
Jonah knew to cry out to God for forgiveness when he messed up. He was even thankful that God heard him from the pits of hell. We can say that Jonah asked for forgiveness and rejoiced when he received his salvation.
Shouldn’t he want others to experience that same joy?
How many times do we see the wrong people are doing and make statements like, “They’ll get what’s coming to them eventually.” or “They’ll reap what they sow.” And in truth, aren’t we passing judgment and expecting discipline and correction to come to these people? We watch for their fall.
Sometimes that fall never comes. It didn’t come to Nineveh. God saw their repentance and forgave them.
Jonah wanted them punished. God wanted them redeemed.
I’ve always wondered why Jonah didn’t celebrate the fact that he was an instrument in the salvation of many. Instead he was bitter that they were saved at all.
How many times do I risk someone’s eternity because I want to see them punished for what they’ve done?
We need to stop expecting God to judge others, and start expecting God to save others.
When we expect salvation from God, we will see others saved. But when we are waiting for God to judge, we are allowing others to pass from life unto death without knowing what we know.
God is in the saving business. Perhaps the reason we aren’t seeing revival is because we’re too much like Jonah. We are thankful that God heard our cry and saved us, but we don’t really have a desire to see others gain that same salvation.
Christian people, we, not the government, not our country, not the unsaved, are responsible for the condition of our communities. If we want to truly claim “Today is the day of salvation!” then we must be willing to see God forgive those we’d rather see judged.
If given the choice between Jonah’s Judgment and God’s Grace, there is no choice. God’s grace is the obvious answer. It’s up to us to take that message to the masses.
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