Photo by Anuar Patjane named, "Whale Whisperers" National Geographic Traveler Photo - 1st Place Winner
The book of Jonah reveals a familiar story of a prophet’s disobedience to God. This story is familiar to both believers and non-believers because it tells the story of a man that was swallowed-up by, what we believe to be a whale although the Bible identifies it as a great fish (And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights – Jonah 1:17).
This story is not just about Jonah being swallowed-up by a great fish, nor is it about Jonah’s new residential address being that of the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights. Although those components of the story detail a picture of God’s deliverance it also paints a picture of God’s grace and compassion.
Jonah rejected God’s message to travel to Nineveh to deliver a message to the Ninevites because of their long history of wickedness (– Jonah 1:1). In Jonah’s self-righteous mind, he believed the Ninevites did not deserve to experience God’s goodness, His grace or His compassion because he was well aware of who they were and he himself judged them harshly. During the four chapters of this book, we encounter Jonah perched inside a self-made fort with a front row seat far away from Nineveh to capture the wrath God was sure to bring on them.
But, what Jonah did not count on was their response of repentance to God’s message and God’s response of compassion towards their repentance (When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it (Jonah 3:10). He became angry.
In Priscilla Shirer's book “Life Interrupted – Navigating the Unexpected,” she pens this as it relates to Jonah’s anger – she writes:
“Enter anger. Enter silent treatments. Enter childish decisions not to speak, to pray or have anything else to do with Him until He comes around to seeing things more in line with our perspective, until He does something appropriately judgement toward the people we’re most angry with. And as sad and unattractive as it looks on Jonah,
it looks the same on us."
WOW! How many times have we gotten angry, upset or displeased with God because He showed compassion or grace to someone we believed did not deserve it or because we knew what they had done (to us) and we internally yearned for God to “get them”. We want God to avenge us especially because Romans 12:19 tells us “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”
We wait like Jonah, perched on the front row seat (with our popcorn) to ensure we have a perfect view to witness and record the wrath we want God to inflict on them because we believe they deserve it – just like Jonah did. Jonah became angry at God’s lack of judgement towards the Ninevites (But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry – Jonah 4:1).
In his anger, he failed to remember that in his disobedience God showed him compassion and grace by delivering him from the belly of the great fish despite his act of disobedience when he fled from God. He failed to remember God provided provisions to him by way of a tree to provide him with shade of comfort as he waited in the scorching heat for Nineveh to be destroyed.
The very next day, God appointed a worm to eat the tree and he caused a scorching wind to consume Jonah leaving him exposed to the hot elements. In his physical-heat-related-distress, Jonah was more compassionate towards the tree that brought him comfort than he was to God’s compassion towards the Ninevites.
Personally, this story was convicting to me and it should be to you too. We all have had moments where we have longed for God to “get” someone for us. We did not want him to show compassion to the person who we believed did not deserve God’s compassion or His goodness because of their wickedness. But what about our own wickedness? No we may not complete or participate in an act of wickedness but we’ve thought it (sidebar: God is not concerned about our morality – He is more concerned about our righteousness – in other words as I’ve stated, we may not have done it but we’ve thought it.)
This study of Jonah has me in a state of repentance because yes, I’ve thought it. Yes, I’ve wanted God to bring his judgement on a person that I believe did not deserve his goodness, His grace of His compassion. How dare I, from my saved by grace lips talk to God about how he should discipline another child of His. I have no right.
God expects us to show the same compassion to others that He’s shown to us. We have all been infected by the curse of sin by way of Adam. God’s provision for our infectious state was made through the death, burial and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ – and it was done for all (as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one;" - Romans 3:10).
As we walk through this life God has so graciously provided for us, we must remember that God has in His love for us shown us grace, compassion and his goodness through his Son! With this great gift He’s given us, comes a great responsibility for us to show compassion to others as well, even when we feel they don’t deserve it. We must not be quick to wish judgement on one another.
We, unlike Jonah initially, must remember that very moment God showed us His grace. The condition we were in begged for less but He saw beyond our condition and saturated us with His grace! Yes, we deserved His judgement – Yes, we deserved His wrath – but as John 1:16 reassures us “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace...” and for that I am eternally grateful.
 Priscilla Shirer, Life Interrupted, p. 185
Terrie Thomas, A NEW ME Blog Contributor
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