1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
A great storm arises and Jonah admits to running from God. The sailors, as Jonah instructed, threw him overboard into the raging waters and the storm is stilled by God. Jonah is scooped up out of the ocean by a whale and deposited by God on the dry land and told to go to Nineveh. He does and preaches to the people of that great city. They repent, from the greatest to the least, and cry out to God for help.
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
4 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.”
Jonah would rather die than see God’s saving and compassionate love transform the people of Nineveh. They were enemies and adversaries of Israel and at this time Israel was booming and prosperous. Jonah understood God’s will and had no interest, intent, or desire to do what God asked. Instead he fled in the complete opposite direction.
It’s amazing to see God be gracious to both Jonah and Nineveh. Can you think of a time or times when you disobeyed God and yet God was gracious to you? You knew what God wanted and yet you did exactly the opposite, but God still loved you. How good it is to be called by the God who is “abounding in love,…who relents in sending calamity.” I believe God wants us to extend that same love to those around us.