“And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.” – Jonah 4:8
O Jonah. There are so many lessons to be taken from the story of Jonah. The consequences of running from God, the transformation and revelation that comes from being shut in with God, the power of evangelism, God’s love and great mercy, and the lengths He will go too to express it, but perhaps one of the most relatable isn’t expressed until the last verses of the book.
In his story we see Jonah receive a mandate from God to go and deliver the Word of the Lord to a cruel and heathenistic people. We might fault Jonah for running from this calling if we don’t know quite how wicked and cruel these people were. This was a people that wallpapered the walls of their city with the skins of their enemies, and lit their streets with their skulls. No wonder Jonah did not want to be the one to have to go and tell them that they were wrong, had offended God, and would be destroyed unless they repented.
Jonah surely had reason to run from this people, but what he didn’t have was a love in his heart for these people. Without a selfless love for them he was easily overcome by his fear of them, because perfect love cast out all fear. Therefore God had to drive him there the hard way. If we do not let the love of God drive us to obedience, then it will be left to the fear of God to do it, but the first is better then the last.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18
Jonah thought that these people deserved to be destroyed, yet God wanted to see them saved. After all, it is not His will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Therefore, though He does not force our decision, He does go to great lengths to provide us with the truth and the option to walk in it.
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9
Jonah eventually delivers this word of warning and to his great surprise, the whole nation repents! Wow! What evangelist wouldn’t want that on their record? An entire nation of about half a million people brought to repentance at one time?!… Well, surprisingly old Jonah gets upset that they repented and that God had spared them His wrath. Jonah’s judgment was wrath, but God’s was mercy.
Jonah thought it discredited him that his warning of destruction did not have to come to pass, but in reality it was a credit to God’s great wisdom, mercy, and sovereign rule. As Jonah sits and pouts, the sun beats down on him and God causes a plant to grow up which gives him shade. Then in the night a worm (which represents sin) kills the plant. When the sun rises the next day Jonah is sorrowful for the loss of the plant. To which, God reminds him that he has more love and pity in him for this plant in whom he had no hand or labor in, then he did for all these people in whom he had ministered to, suffered, and labored for.
Believe it or not, we as Christians sometimes do the same. It is easier to have pity for those we don’t actually know, yet the people close to us of whom we are aware of all their evil deeds, we have become numb too. We may say that we pray for our enemies or for a wicked, heathenistic, or destitute people, yet if they come to our church we pout, sneer, gossip, slander, or ignore them because we have already determined that they are not worth saving.
“And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:31-32
Remember that it is not God’s will that any should perish, but that all should be brought to repentance. Jesus suffered, sacrificed, was tortured, mocked, shamed, beaten, bled, and died for all. He paid a very high price to purchase this gift of salvation and sonship, who do we think we are to think that we get to choose who receives it? It is a gift to all and we are commanded to share it with all that are lost. Not just the ones we love, but with the ones that God loves. The prisoner, the homeless, the poor, the helpless, the hopeless, the wicked, the wounded, the stranger, the foreigner, male, female, red, yellow, black, and white, all are precious in His sight. So if you are truly the body of Christ then they should all be precious in yours.
“Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” – Jonah 4:10-11
“For God so loved the world that He gave His olny begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” _ John 3:16