Most people think the main point of the book of Jonah was that he tried to run from God and couldn’t get away. But there’s more.
What about the reason Jonah ran?
It wasn’t wasn’t simply because he was afraid of the Ninevites.
It was because he wanted them to be punished for their wicked ways. And he knew God was too gracious to punish them if they repented. God wanted to show mercy – He cannot resist a humble, broken soul.
After the whole ordeal with the big fish, Jonah finally obeyed God and told the Ninevites to repent. When God held back His wrath, Jonah pouted.
Actually, it was more like a tantrum.
Have you ever wanted to see someone punished for their sin?
Several years back, someone close to me made some bad decisions that affected many people. He tore apart his family and stopped attending church. Although he lived selfishly, he seemed to get everything he wanted. He was happy, and his life appeared pretty good.
Nothing bad happened to him. Not that we could see. And it made us mad.
We were devastated, not only by his sinful behavior, but because he seemed to get away with it.
Why didn’t God intervene? Why didn’t he punish this man for his bad choices? We just couldn’t understand. Why didn’t God do something?
Now, years later, this man is back in church and mentoring other men. He is a wonderful husband and father. While he does still deal with some consequences from his past life, God continues to bless his efforts at making the most of it.
And now, seeing the full circle, it all makes sense.
God didn’t want to punish this man for his sin. He wanted to guide him back home and show him mercy. Grace. Compassion.
Because no matter how badly he behaved, God still loved him.
All around us people behave badly. Like God, do we want what’s best for them? Do we look for the good in them, hoping they will come to Him, lay aside their sin, and live in forgiveness? Do we pray God’s blessing over their lives?
Or do we tend to believe they don’t deserve grace and mercy? Do we, like Jonah, turn away in disgust and shake our head at God, rather than running to these sinners with love and truth?
Let’s learn a lesson from Jonah – instead of having a bad attitude when God chooses not to punish sinful behavior, let’s smile, thank Him for His incredible mercy, and trust that His response is best.