And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. — Jonah 4:2
God is amazingly merciful! He will go to astounding measures to rescue one soul. Our focus verse indicates that Jonah knew this well, but sadly, he was not happy when God did not destroy Nineveh. Unlike Jonah, we want to rejoice when any soul turns toward God.
One time the Lord gave me the opportunity to participate in His extension of mercy to a young man. Although I wish I had responded more quickly, I rejoice at the mercy God showed.
“Go talk to that guy.” I knew it was God speaking to me. “That guy” was one I was trying to avoid. What was I going to do?
The day had been completely normal until then. It was a midsummer day, warm but not hot. I had decided to walk to a nearby store when I heard a young man playing a guitar on a front porch.
Before my conversion, I had been a musician and played in rock and country groups. I had been “on the road” and seen the inside of many nightclubs and dance halls. When God saved me, I knew the influence of such places would not be healthy for my soul. I told my musician friends I would not be playing with them any longer.
But here was someone playing on a porch on a warm summer evening.
I walked across the street to get further away and continued to my destination. But when I arrived, the store was already closed. Turning around to go back, I heard God’s voice again, “Go talk to that guy.” With each step I took the phrase was repeated. By the time I had crossed the street I was convinced, and I knew that I was to speak to him about God’s plan of salvation.
However, I had no idea where to start. Walking across the street to the house where he was playing, the words that came out of my mouth were, “Can I listen for awhile?”
“Sure” was all he said, looking rather surprised. He continued playing, and after several minutes asked if I had any marijuana.
“No,” I said. “I am a Christian, I don’t need that any more.”
He played some more — all songs he had composed, based on his experiences in life. Then he asked me what I was going to do the next day. The next day was Sunday, so I told him I would be going to church. To my amazement, he asked if he could come with me!
As we talked further, he told me how he came to be on that porch that evening. He had been homeless, living in a nearby city park and spending his money on drugs and alcohol. The people living at that house were letting him sleep in their backyard for a few days. That morning he had prayed, “God, show me today what I need to straighten out my life.” He had been waiting all day to see if God was going to answer his prayer.
It was almost 9 p.m. before God directed someone — someone who did not want to talk to “that guy” — in answer to that prayer. But God’s mercy was in time. The man came to church the next day, prayed at the altar, and had his life changed, receiving God’s salvation.
God’s desire is for everyone to be saved, and we thank Him for His willingness to extend mercy to every soul. Perhaps today you will have the opportunity to see God’s mercy in action. Maybe He will even allow you to participate in it!
Jonah could be called the reluctant prophet. Perhaps his reason for running away when God sent him to pronounce judgment on Nineveh was not because he was afraid of being killed by the Ninevites, but because he thought they might repent and find God’s mercy! When the people of Nineveh heard God’s message and did repent, Jonah became angry because they had obtained the same divine mercy that he had just experienced himself. He reminded God that he tried to run away because he knew God was “a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Jonah 4:2). Jonah was repeating words spoken by Moses in Exodus 34:6. Jonah knew God’s Word, but apparently did not feel the love for mankind that was in God’s heart. Also, Jonah may have felt that his reputation as a prophet would be hurt if the judgment he predicted did not come to pass. So he asked God to kill him, preferring to die rather than be the one through which Israel’s chief enemy was spared (Jonah 4:3).
When Jonah went outside the city, perhaps hoping for fire and brimstone to come from Heaven, God prepared an object lesson for him. In these dealings with Jonah, God’s mercy was illustrated again as God reasoned patiently with him.
Jonah had made a “booth,” a term that comes from the Hebrew word sukka, meaning a flimsy hut made from leafy branches that would wither quickly in the sun. God miraculously made a plant grow up over Jonah’s hut, providing welcome shade for him. However, when God caused the plant to be destroyed and then sent a strong east wind and blistering heat from the sun, Jonah once more asked God to take his life (Jonah 4:5-8).
God asked Jonah again if he was doing well by being angry, and Jonah responded that he was. God then asked Jonah, if he could have pity on a plant in which he had nothing invested, could not God have pity on the people of Nineveh?
God’s last words to Jonah in this chapter give great insight into His love and mercy, His very heart. He was concerned about the people and did not want them to perish.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The obedience of Jonah
D. The results (4:1-11)
1. The displeasure of Jonah (4:1-5)
a. His anger (4:1)
b. His prayer (4:2-3)
c. His action (4:4-5)
2. The explanation of the Lord (4:6-11)
a. The illustration prepared (4:6-8)
(1) The shade plant (4:6)
(2) The worm (4:7)
(3) The wind (4:8)
b. The explanation stated (4:9-11)
God loves each person in the world, even those who may seem repugnant and impossible to understand. His mercy is extended and He is ready to forgive, if they repent. Rejoice in God’s mercy today!