Jonah and the City of Nineveh
Read: Jonah 4:1-11
The story of Jonah is fascinating in its entirety, however the exchange that we read between Jonah and God in chapter 4 may be the most significant in revealing the character of God in the narrative. If we were to cut to the chase, from Jonah’s perspective, he is angry at God’s compassion, and he balks at the mercy of God. Jonah felt this way because he believed Nineveh didn’t deserve the mercy and compassion of God. It was the worst of cities with the worst of people so why should Jonah be inconvenienced to go to that awful city, with those horrible people, to warn them to repent before they receive the proper due punishment- when they were not even Israelites? Well, God made himself pretty clear with Jonah; He called Jonah to go to Nineveh because that is the true extent and depth of God’s compassion and mercy.
The story of Jonah, though it seems to be fanciful, is this epic story of the lengths God will go in order to reach those who are far from him. What this story also tells us is that he calls us to be his hands, feet, and voice to those who are far from God. Which means that God calls us to go to great lengths in order to share His good news to the lost. However, we may find ourselves to be like Jonah, running away from that call or even becoming angry or frustrated at God for his compassion and mercy on those who we don’t think deserve it. We may even have more compassion on say a plant, like Jonah, that provides us something and is then taken away than we do for our neighbors. God has an endless love for everyone, including those who are far from Him, whereas Jonah was more concerned about his personal comfort and nationalistic superiority than he was for the repentance of Nineveh. May we be willing to put aside our comfort and preferences and grab hold of the endless love God has for those far from him so that we may be instruments of redemption in their lives.
- What sticks out to you the most in the story of Jonah?
- Did any of this story seem confusing to you as a child? Does any of it still confuse you or “mess with” you?
- Something interesting about this story is that in any other place in the Old Testament, God’s character of being “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” was something celebrated or prayed for, yet Jonah is frustrated and angry about it. Why do you think this is?
- Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the same country that invaded Israel and carried them into exile. How do you think Israel felt when they read this in the midst of exile and the years that followed?
- Is there anyone you struggle to love as God does? Is it difficult for you to imagine God’s compassion over anyone in your life?