The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.”
We all have likely heard the story of Jonah at some point in our lives. In summary, we find that God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh to ask them to repent. Jonah says no, because the last place he wants to go is a place like that…let alone to offer them grace. (In my mind, for some reason, I always imagine Nineveh is a synonym for Las Vegas.) As we know, Jonah says no, gets swallowed by a fish, gets spit out by said fish, tells Nineveh the good news, they accept it, and that makes Jonah furious. He ends up moping around in the desert, and God gives him a large plant to give him shade. That’s where the story picks back up:
But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
The end of this story is always the most interesting part for me. God seems to destroy the one thing that is giving Jonah peace in life, which obviously makes Jonah upset. Have you ever been mad at God for taking something that He gave you in the first place? It’s heartbreaking. I can only imagine how Jonah feels at this point in his journey. But what God says next amazes me. God tells Jonah, “Are you the one who raised up this city? Why should it upset you that I offer grace to my people?”
God loved Nineveh, just like he loves the worst of us. What’s it to us what He does with His people? Not only should we celebrate when God gives grace to the world around us, we should go spread this good news to the people who God is pursuing. God loves His creation in a radical, unexplainable way. This week, be challenged to do everything you can to show the world the grace God has for us, and then celebrate when people see heaven.