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  • Writer's pictureJess Bird-Bellis

Oh, Jonah!

10 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. 4 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’” -Jonah 3:10-4:3

Oh, Jonah. I’ve so been there. Many, many times.

It doesn’t seem fair when God gives grace to people who have been disobedient to Him. Just writing this makes me cringe because I know how desperately I need God’s grace and how freely He lavishes it upon me, and when I’m faced with the reality that my heart is so ungracious to other people, it’s downright embarrassing.

But that’s the truth of it. I know I am a sinner whose only hope is God’s grace, but I, like Jonah, want other people (not myself, mind you) to get what they deserve— punishment for their wrongdoing.

Just like Jonah, I have found myself pouting when God gives grace to people who have wronged me (or whom I perceive have wronged me). But do you know what is so beautiful about Jonah’s story?

God is faithful.

He is faithful to the Ninevites: “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he said he would do to them and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10). And what’s more: He is faithful to Jonah.

Jonah pouts and gets angry, and God gently asks, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). Jonah continues in his childish behavior, so God, in His grace, appoints a plant to cover Jonah from the sun (he has gone out of the city to pout in the heat). Then God appoints a worm to eat the plant (Jonah 4:7), and then He appoints a scorching east wind (v.8). Jonah goes on whining and being angry about God’s graciousness to Nineveh and his discomfort. Then God says, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10-11)

God is reminding Jonah that He extends grace to all of his children. He uses the plant (comfort), and the worm, sun, scorching wind (discomfort) to open Jonah’s heart to this truth.

I am so thankful that God is faithful, and I can trust that just like He did with Jonah, He can use all circumstances to change my heart, and will work for my good and His glory.

It’s easy to judge Jonah for his disobedience and pouting when Ninevah doesn’t receive the justice he believes they deserve, but we all act this way at times.

We want to believe that we are somehow better than Jonah, but the truth is, we are just as sinful. We are afraid to do the tough things God asks us to do, so we run away. Then God, in His mercy, gives us the courage to do His will & we tend to take credit for it, even though without His grace, we’d still be hiding on a ship going the opposite direction.

We judge others because we were “obedient” & fail to have compassion on them.

We all pout like Jonah did. We want to be recognized for our obedience, but it is only by God’s grace that we hear His voice and obey.

We can’t take credit for any of it. All glory belongs to God.

He alone is faithful.

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