The people in the Bible are intriguing. Here are lives laid bare before us with their mistakes and victories, hopes and fears. We see the consequences of choice, and in all of this, the grace God still chooses to give for humanity’s faults. It is so interesting to see how God’s grace permeated the lives of all these people, and this week I want to take a closer look at Jonah.
JONAH: Grace, even when we do not want it
This prophet of God notoriously heard the voice of God and tried to run as far away as possible from his calling. As the story goes, Jonah realises God’s pursuit, gets himself thrown off a boat amidst a storm, is swallowed by a great fish, spends three days and nights in its belly reflecting and praying to God, then finally goes to Nineveh and speaks out God’s word to them. Then, we see some God and Jonah time which ends on a cliffhanger. God asks Jonah why He should not pity Nineveh, and we never get to see Jonah’s response.
So, we have a prophet who is chosen by God to deliver a message he does not agree with. Jonah hears God’s voice and understands the message but decides he does not like it and does not want to deliver it. Nineveh was an evil city and the message was that it would be overthrown in forty days. Yet, the people of Nineveh repented and God showed mercy and did not destroy them. Jonah knew Nineveh was an evil place and He knew God was merciful, but he wanted to see Nineveh destroyed. He thinks the situation so unfair that he tells God it is better for him to die.
What can we learn from the drama of Jonah’s story?
God’s nature does not change even when we do not agree – He pursues us so that we have every opportunity to fulfil our calling, and He is merciful even we we think it is undeserved.
God desires for us to understand His grace – He gave Jonah an example to help him understand how God might think about the people of Nineveh. In [Jonah 3:10-11] He says, “… You have had pity of the plant for which you have not laboured, nor made it growth, which came in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left – and much livestock?”
God loves us even in our disobedience – God could have easily turned his back on Jonah but instead, He chose to love and pursue Jonah even when Jonah was angry and disobedient towards God.
God can use imperfect people for works of grace – reading the story of Jonah, part of me thinks “Why Jonah?” especially since he did not seem to share God’s desire for Nineveh to be saved? Why not pick another prophet to deliver the message? Yet God gives Jonah an opportunity to grow when He uses Jonah to deliver this message. Despite Jonah then going to wait and watch for Nineveh’s destruction, God’s message gets through and the people of Nineveh repent and are saved instead. There is so much grace in this! Firstly, in the knowledge that God uses us despite our weaknesses and even in our resistance to accomplish His good will. Secondly, that He chooses to use us even when He knows our faults. Finally, if God, who knows us so fully, shows such grace towards us, who are we to judge our brothers and sisters? God can use anyone to proclaim His word and He wants people to know and respond to Him.
Grace for fault was seen in the life of Jonah, and it can be seen in our own lives too. The story of Jonah shows us that God’s love is unconditional – it does not depend on our “goodness”, His grace is for all, and His purposes will be done even despite us. Will we stop running from God and allow Him to show us His grace?