Jonah 3:1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2 “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”… 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth… 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. 4 But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish (by ship) at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. 3 And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
God sent Jonah to speak to the people of Nineveh so they might repent of their evil ways and be saved. Jonah didn’t like that idea because, in his estimation, the people of Nineveh were unworthy of God’s grace. So Jonah fled by ship in the opposite direction of Nineveh, trying to run from God. Didn’t work. Jonah ended up tossed overboard in a storm, but God saved him by commanding a fish to swallow him. You can see at the beginning of today’s passage that Jonah finally relented and went to Nineveh.
The good news is that the people of Nineveh did exactly as God had hoped – they repented of their sinful ways and were spared God’s wrath. The bad news is that Jonah didn’t want the Ninevites to be saved. They were “bad” people deserving to die! Interestingly, it’s Jonah (the prophet of God) who comes off as hard-hearted while the “wicked” people of Nineveh demonstrate the more faithful response to God.
The bible has many stories in which the ones expected to be “good” have hard hearts while the “bad” people repent and turn toward the Lord.
Who is right and who is wrong? The bible challenges many of our assumptions in this regard. It’s not always the person who appears to do the right things. It’s more about one’s heart. Who is proud and self-righteous? Who is humble, recognizing their brokenness before God? This morning I’m wondering if I’m more like Jonah or the people of Nineveh? What about you?
Lord give us contrite hearts that might humbly seek your mercy and grace each and every day. Amen.