God’s story is fixed. His characters and the roles they play are up to His people. When I think of the book of Jonah, I think of the story of God’s plan to save and redeem His people. God wanted Jonah to warn Nineveh, a city of sinners, that they had forty days to repent, or their city would be destroyed. But Jonah felt intimidated by the role he was given, because he knew this city was powerful and could harm him if they didn’t like what he said.
Jonah was instructed by God to go east to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, but instead he booked a ride headed west to Tarshish. Because Jonah was on the ship to Tarshish when he should have been in transit to Nineveh, God caused wind to stir so strongly that it nearly ripped the ship apart.
On the way to Tarshish, Jonah was found sleeping, but then a storm hit and alarmed the sailors. When the sailors learned that Jonah was the cause of the storm, they confronted him. Jonah’s disobedience to God not only put himself in danger, but it also risked the safety of the others on the ship. Jonah told the sailors that since he was the problem, they could throw him off the boat and into the sea. The sailors were reluctant to do this, but finally they threw him off of the boat and the storm calmed.
Though Jonah was thrown into the sea, he didn’t get the death he seemingly wanted. Instead, he was swallowed by a big fish and was trapped inside its belly for three days.
Again, Jonah was forced to face his disobedience. In the belly of the whale, he prayed for God to save him. He gave God a psalm of surrender: “I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation belongs to the Lord.” And with that, God caused the fish to spit Jonah out; God saved Jonah and gave him a second chance to do His will.
Finally, Jonah went to the city of Nineveh and spoke what the Lord told him to speak. The people actually listened and obeyed.
But Jonah was unforgiving. He was upset that the Ninevites turned from their wicked ways and repented. Jonah felt like they deserved to die. He didn’t think they were worthy of receiving God’s grace. That quickly, Jonah had forgotten how God rescued him from the fish’s stomach. That quickly, he forgot that he himself was a beneficiary of God’s redemption and grace.
The Bible says that we are to rejoice when a sinner repents. Jonah did not rejoice when the Ninevites turned to God, but instead he maintained that they were not worthy to receive God’s mercy. He sheltered himself just outside the city of Nineveh to look at them from afar, perhaps hoping they’d fall in sin again.
In our own righteousness, we can feel so timid to speak out against mighty people. We can also be judgmental against them, and think that powerful sinners are not worthy of God’s goodness.
God doesn’t desire for anyone to perish or live in sin, and if we want to banish our timidity, we must reflect this same passion in our hearts.
In loving God and ourselves, we must love others enough to pray that they turn away from their sin. We are to pray for their repentance. And when they accept Jesus, we are to rejoice. Salvation belongs to God and is free for all who repent and receive Him. This is the unprideful light we must carry inside of us.
God, help us to be mindful that You are not just our God, but you are the God and Creator of all, and You love us the same. Help us to remember how salvation costed you your son’s life, but it was a free gift for us. We can never boast or say we deserve Your goodness. Thank You for loving us in our sin. Help us to reflect Your love when dealing with others. We can never withhold salvation from others, because salvation is not ours to give. Salvation belongs to You. We thank You and praise You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.