“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me’”
(Jonah 1:2, NKJV)
God is a forgiving God. As I read this small Book of Jonah, I’m amazed by a clear picture of a firm but forgiving God. It starts with God ordered Jonah to preach in Nineveh, a foreign town filled with the unusual immorality associated with major cities of Assyrian Empire. “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD” (1:3). Jonah ran away from God (How funny is that!). Yet Jonah’s disobedience in heading in the opposite direction didn’t result in his death or the end of his service. God’s mercy was upon him.
In fact, God used Jonah to convert the sailors on his escape ship, even when he rebelling and sinning. Before they throw Jonah into the sea, the sailors prayed, “We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You” (Jonah 1:14). And God used Jonah to reach Ninevites even though he hoped that they would be destroyed. “Then God saw their [Ninevites’] works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). God’s mercy was upon the sailors and the people of Nineveh.
Of course, Jonah did experience God’s anger – in the form of a storm, being swallowed by a big fish, and suffering intense heat – but these were also signs of God’s mercy because God used them to show Jonah that he had a second, a third, fourth… and so on chances to him. From our human perspective, there can be few people who deserved God’s mercy less than Jonah, the sailors and the Ninevites. Yet God forgave them all.
Throughout the Bible, God’s mercy is directed towards his children, the Jews. But in the Book of Jonah, God is clearly revealed as also the God of non-Jews, of the Gentiles (us!). God is interested in a crew of pagan sailors and He even forgives “more than one hundred and twenty thousand” (4:11) of Israel’s greatest enemies. He gave many chances to Jonah. See! God’s forgiveness is not restricted to the Jews only but to all people who asking for forgiveness and acknowledge their sins toward Him. Now, God even show greater mercy toward us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of all mankind. In Jesus, God’s great mercy revealed to the fullest.
The Scripture says: “[Whoever] believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:15-17, NKJV). Mercy! Mercy! Mercy! Thank you LORD!
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.