The book of Jonah is great. God’s compassion towards mankind is amazing but at the same time we see what our human hearts are capable of.
In the book of Jonah, God first tells Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and tell them their wickedness is too great but Jonah refuses the call to be a prophet and runs. Jonah ends up getting swallowed by a giant fish and stays there for 3 days and Jonah prays to God from inside the fish and God makes the fish spit him out on to dry land. Jonah goes to proclaimed in Nineveh that God will destroy the city in 40 days, but unlike Sodom and Gomorrah the people of Nineveh actually faithfully repented of their wicked ways and because of it God spared them. They fasted for 40 days, no food or water for neither man or beast, and they all did “pray to God with all his heart, so each person may turn from his sinful way and from the bad things he has done.” And because the people honestly repented of their wickedness, “God saw what they did, and that they turned from their sinful way, He changed His mind about the trouble He said He would bring upon them, and He did not destroy Nineveh.”
And then comes the interesting part - to me at least. In the
last chapter of Jonah, he complains to the Lord about the people of Nineveh
being spared. Jonah complained and said “I knew that you are a merciful and
compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are
eager to turn back from destroying people.” That is the human heart at
its best right there. He was mad at God for having spared people who repented.
He was mad that God made him preach about destruction when there was no
Many people in today’s world have a heart of Jonah. They are quick to say others will be going to Hell and be destroyed even after they’ve fully repent. Sadly many of us still cling on to the past wickedness of others. If you tell a drunk, gay, thief, murderer, adulterer, porn addict, etc, they are going to Hell if they continue on that sinful path but at some point in their lives they repent and stop chasing after their sinful nature, why should you shun away such a person?
The people of Nineveh reminded me of Hezekiah. The LORD told Isaiah to tell Hezekiah he’s going to die and instead of accepting his fate Hezekiah earnestly prayed to God and for that God granted many additional years to Hezekiah. Our God is a God of second chances, we just have to earnestly come to Him.
In Luke 9 the apostles James and John wanted to call forth fire from Heaven to destroy a town because they wouldn’t want to receive them, but Jesus rebuked them. Instead of destroying someone just because they don’t want to accept Jesus and the Gospel, we are simply called to “shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them” rather than wishing them harm as Jesus said.
Always fascinates me that in the very first chapter of Isaiah the LORD says “Come now, and let us reason together.” How can you possible not be at awe that the Creator of the universe, the Creator of all life is talking to a mere mortal, someone who is but dust, in such a loving and kind way? How can we sinful creatures possibly reason together with Him? By Isaiah 55 the Lord reminds us that His ways are “higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” There is one possible way that we, mere mortals, can reason with such an amazing God and that is by following His ways and not ours. He is kind enough to point that out to us. His way is the way which leads to everlasting life in Heaven while our way leads to death in Hell.
God sent Himself in the form of flesh to live like us, be hindered by the same issues we have and die on the cross for daring to speak the truth and live a perfect life. All this so that we can be reconciled back to God Himself. God knows our spiritual destiny is determined only by our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, so He made it possible for all people to make a choice, because He has given us free will.