Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; I said, I am driven away from your sight; Yet I shall again look upon your holy temple…Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!
Jonah 2: 1-2, 4, 8-9
When we think of the book of Jonah it is all too easy to focus on the fantastic story of the big fish that swallowed the prophet for three days and nights, but the real focus of the story is on the heart of Jonah who struggled with the concept of God’s boundless compassion for more than “us” but also for “them”.
How did Jonah respond to God’s grace for himself?
In the passage above we see that while he was in the belly of the fish, Jonah sees the steadfast love and “salvation belongs to the Lord”. He understood what it meant to experience the grace of God for himself, but how did Jonah respond to God’s grace to the people of Ninevah?
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry (Jonah 3:10, 4:1).
Ninevah repented. God forgave. And Jonah was angry. Angry? Jonah felt cheated. Why would God show compassion to the enemy of Israel when Jonah wanted them defeated?
What about us? Is there someone or some group of people that is so hard for us to love – maybe even in our own families? Like Jonah we have a choice to change and see God’s mercy for all who will turn.
Remember these words penned by Peter –
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”(2 Peter 3: 9).