The story of Jonah in the bible is an amazing story to me. It was an early bible story that I was taught as a child, but at that stage just it’s simple outline- Jonah runs away from God, big storm, he’s thrown overboard, a whale swallows Jonah, after 3 days the whale spits him out, he eventually does what God wanted him to do, preaches to Nineveh, everyone is saved in Nineveh.
Now I’m an adult, I can read and understand some of the deeper messages in the story.
I had always thought that Jonah didn’t obey the Lord’s command to go to Nineveh because he was scared. It was a big assignment. Go and tell a city of people that they are wicked, God’s judgment is coming and they will all be destroyed. Not a happy message. I would have been terrified if I was Jonah that the people would take hold of me and kill me bringing such a message.
The story tells us that the city was very wicked and violent. It had a bad reputation. I’m sure some of us can think of places that we would not want to enter…they call them “no go” areas here and to enter is at your own risk.
However, that wasn’t the reason though that Jonah didn’t want to go. These are Jonah’s words telling us why he did not obey the Lord’s command to go.
He (Jonah) prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord , when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Jonah 4:2
Wow..read that again..that’s a shocker. Jonah didn’t want to go because he knew how merciful God was and that if the people repented then God was so merciful that He would forgive them. That is God’s nature. He is a gracious and merciful God. Jonah wanted the people of Nineveh to pay for their wickedness and be destroyed. They were not deserving of God’s mercy. Jonah wanted judgment.
This is still a challenging message for us today. Deep down I believe there can be a struggle in our flesh about those people who have committed heinous and atrocious crimes. In our humanness we can struggle to accept that such people deserve the grace and mercy of God. How can God forgive such people.? How can God want to forgive such people?
The people of Nineveh believed God’s message from Jonah and they all repented in sackcloth. They proclaimed a fast and turned away from their wickedness and cried out to God for mercy. As Jonah knew, God heard their prayers and saw their hearts and poured out His grace and mercy. He relented of the judgment to destroy them as he had destroyed Soddom & Gomorrah for their sins.
This is the truth of the gospel message that we are called to share with the whole world.
We all need a Saviour for all have sinned before God. Not one of us is righteous even if we try to delude ourselves that we are more deserving of God’s grace and mercy than others. We are not such bad people. The truth is that all our righteousness is filthy rags before God and all of us need the grace and mercy of God.
Let us not withhold the good news of Salvation from anyone for God’s heart is for all humanity to be saved through faith in Jesus who paid the price for all our sins.
That is why it is Outrageous Grace.
Bless you today.