Jonah 1:1-2:10 (click on the link below)
What do we do about the enemy? Jonah and the Israelites hated their enemy Assyria and Nineveh was one of that nations great cities. Jonah would have enjoyed pronouncing judgement upon that city and would have waited with great expectation for God to destroy that city and people. However, Jonah had a sense that the people of Nineveh might repent and then God would have mercy upon them and spare them. What if the enemy repents and God forgives? What about the extraordinary mercy of God?
That thought was repulsive to Jonah so he took off in an entirely opposite direction from Nineveh to sail far, far away from the people he hated and whose destruction he had in mind. What do we do about our enemies? Like Jonah it is easy to hate them and wish for their inconvenience and unhappiness, and even their destruction.
Jonah doesn’t like what God is up to so he heads in the opposite direction. How often do we do the opposite of what God wants, particularly if we don’t like that part of the scripture or that particular nuance of God’s will? Sometimes it’s easier to go our own way rather than it is to go with God’s way. And after all, what does God really know about what it’s like to live here on planet earth and deal with the things we have to face each and every day.
And so, Jonah boards a ship to get away from the Lord. But it doesn’t work. The storm comes and he convinces the sailors to throw him into the ocean even though they know he is running from God. After being swallowed by a whale Jonah has second thoughts. He cries out to God and don’t we all when we are in a whale of a situation. “In my distress I called to the Lord and he answered me.” Jonah knows that his life and salvation rest in God. The whale takes him to Nineveh where God wanted him to go in the first place. In the end Jonah was not going to change God’s will and heart of compassion.
Jonah preaches destruction; perhaps he had a moment of gloating in that message. But the people of Nineveh repented and God had mercy on them. And this was terrible to Jonah and he was angry and he pouted and became distressed and told it all to God. Nevertheless, God had mercy on Nineveh.
What a story! How amazing; how wonderful for a people, an entire city to repent and experience the compassion of God! But Jonah wanted to die when God had mercy on his enemies.
And we read, 4:1 “But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He 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. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
We serve a God who is “gracious and compassionate…,slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” And didn’t Jesus say, (Matthew 5:43-48) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Today let us pray for our enemies and ask God to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ. Today let us pray for our enemies even though deep down inside we don’t want to do such a thing. Perhaps God will have mercy on them and mercy on us.
I am not fond of this message but we see that God was Nervous for Nineveh. And Jesus died, even for his enemies, saying “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” May God enlarge our hearts and spirits towards mercy and compassion this day.