Unmerited Favor and Undeserved Grace.
“This change of plans upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the LORD about it: ‘Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. I knew how easily you could cancel your plans for destroying these people. Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive because nothing I predicted is going to happen.'” – Jonah 4:1-3 NLT
Jonah had not wanted this assignment from God. In fact, he had attempted to run away when God had told him what he was to do: Go to the people of Nineveh and preach a message of judgment. Now we see why Jonah didn’t want to go. It wasn’t that he disliked the message of doom and gloom he was to share. It was that he feared the people would repent and God would spare them. Jonah hated the people of Nineveh. In his mind, they were idolatrous pagans who deserved to die at the hand of God. He didn’t want to call them to repentance, because they just might do it, and then God might extend mercy to them. That is what drove Jonah to run from God. Pretty revealing, isn’t it? Jonah’s will was that Nineveh be destroyed. And his greatest fear was that God might show mercy and allow them to live. He knew that a message of judgment was a possible precursor to repentance.
And that is exactly what happened. Once Jonah got to the city, his only message was: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” And we’re told “the people of Nineveh believed God’s message” and repented. They were so serious, they even made their animals wear garments of mourning. They prayed, fasted, and waited to see what God would do. And what He did was relent from His plans to destroy them. He extended mercy. He was, as Jonah knew, “eager to turn back from destroying people” (Jonah 4:2b NLT). But God’s unfailing love and mercy angered Jonah. He wanted destruction and wrath. He hated the people of Nineveh. When Jonah was in the belly of the fish, he prayed to God for mercy. He counted on God’s unfailing love. And he received it. But there is a certain degree of spiritual pride and arrogance in Jonah’s prayer. He said, “Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows” (Jonah 2:8-9 NLT). Jonah seemed to think he was special because he somehow deserved God’s mercy and grace. He somehow earned God’s gracious favor and deliverance. The people of Nineveh didn’t. And he was right. Except that he failed to understand that neither he or the people of Nineveh deserved God’s mercy and grace. God says of Himself, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy” (Exodus 33:19 NET). No one deserves God’s mercy and grace. We can’t earn it. God simply extends it. And He chose to extend it toward the people of Nineveh. He also chose to extend it to Jonah, in spite of his rebellion and running away. Yet Jonah was more upset about a plant that died than the 120,000 residents of Nineveh who were destined for destruction. Jonah had been extended mercy and grace, but he was unwilling to extend it to others. What about you and me? Who do we know that we would love to see destroyed because of their sin? Who out there do we wish God would wipe off the face of the earth because of their evil and rejection of God? Do we have the heart that God has? Do we see the world the way He does? Are we merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love? Are we eager to see God turn back from destroying those who probably deserve it? The message of the book of Jonah is one of redemption and forgiveness. It is about the compassionate heart of God. He is righteous and just and must deal with sin, but He also longs to redeem and restore. Which is why He came up with the idea of the cross. He had a plan for restoring mankind that would allow Him to remain just and still extend mercy. Because we could not pay for the penalty our sins deserved, He came up with the only way to satisfy His righteous demands and pay in full the price our sins required. He gave His only Son. He sacrificed Jesus on our behalf. He showed us mercy and grace when we deserved death. We have benefited greatly from the mercy of God. Now we must extend it to others. We should want them to know what we know and to experience what we have experienced. Regardless of who they are and what they have done.
Father, thank You for showing me mercy. Now help me to develop a heart of mercy toward others. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men