It is fascinating to listen to how many ideas, schemes and strategies people tend to come up with. So often you listen to a person whose thoughts are so rational, sounding so great only to hear the next speaker coming up with ideas or thoughts that tend to be even better that the previous speaker. In Heaven, God laughs at man’s wisdom.
Ps 2:4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
The reason being:
Isa 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
1) Jonah believed he had better ideas than God had!
Jnh 4:2 “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.
See if you can see yourself in these words Jonah prays … verse 2 … “I” is used four times and verse 3 has “my” and “me”. Even after everything he has been through he would rather die than acknowledge God was right and he wrong! After everything, is he trying to justify himself?
(1) Was Jonah Xenophobic? We have mentioned this before … he wanted Nineveh punished! Was he so short sighted? God saved Jonah when he was extremely rebellious … and he was happy because God heard his prayer and saved him … but to save pagan Nineveh was another matter! After all salvation was only for Israel … he thought! Think of how wayward and rebellious and wicked Israel were, even at their best! Should God have left them who were His people to His wrath like He did Sodom and Gomorrah and those living in Canaan? No … they are heathen … God must destroy them. No mercy at all. We need to be very careful we are not like this! It is easy for those who are pro-apartheid to want God’s wrath to fall upon those who were and still are anti-apartheid. Or it is easy for those who suffered much because of apartheid to want God’s wrath to fall upon those who persecuted them most violently. In the same way it is easy for followers of the Lord Jesus to want God’s wrath to fall upon those into African, Asian or Eastern Traditional Religion or any other religion or those falling into the bracket of Christian yet decidedly not Christian like the Jehovah Witnesses or the Liberals or the Mormons. It’s also easy to want God’s wrath to fall upon those in political parties opposed to your political ideology … but what does God want? A perfect example would be the apostle Paul. He wanted grace to fall upon Rome and not wrath. Rome was a political tyrant. She exercised Caesar Worship amongst all the other forms of paganism collected from all the nations she conquered. No … Paul wanted grace to fall … why? Because he understood the magnitude of God’s wrath … it was not just a three day experience in a fish’s belly or a prison sentence of solitary confinement for 30 years. Wrath is eternal damnation were the pain never ends, the fire never burns out, the separation from God remains eternally, the punishment is full weight forever! As you think about the magnitude of wrath … in the ear of your mind are you able to hear those suffering souls shouting and screaming in agony, spewing forth vulgarity that describes their ghastly experience? No beloved … the person who has experience true saving grace (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense) will never want the soul of his or her worst enemy to fall to God’s wrath. This is the reason we ought to be passionate about a resurgence of Gospel Ministry … evangelism and missions … to the ends of the earth.
(2) Had Jonah forgotten that grace was and is not because of human effort? Who was Israel to start with? What had she done to deserve God’s attention?
Dt 7:6 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
God chose them. That was grace. What they experienced at the hand of God Almighty was not deserved. Just as we cannot understand why He chose Israel, we cannot understand why He chooses this one or that one today in Jesus. Human reason cannot fathom calling, election or choosing out. It is not just a spiritual matter … it is a Divine matter that is secretive to the Triune God. You and I might be astounded that God saved that gangster who murdered, raped, stole and behaved most cruelly towards innocent people. The same would be true of freedom fighters, apartheid or Nazi killers. We might feel it unfair that God takes people who were cannibals and saves their souls.
“Though many early accounts of cannibalism probably were exaggerated or in error, the practice prevailed until modern times in parts of West and Central Africa, Melanesia (especially Fiji), New Guinea, Australia, among the Maoris of New Zealand, in some of the islands of Polynesia, among tribes of Sumatra, and in various tribes of North and South America.”(https://www.britannica.com/)
Closer to home is that ugly man down the road who beats his wife and children endlessly … who repents and is found in Church. No we can’t understand Divine Grace because such mercy does not have a reason … all that is happening is that it shows the way God is!
3) Surely God has the right to be what He is? Gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity … Jonah says … I knew that you are. He had a religious understanding of God … a head knowledge … but it was not in the heart. He did not understand that God is and will always be what God is … and Jonah could not take that! He felt, like many today, that there are those outside of the scope of redemption. He was saying … “I don’t understand or approve of what God did with Nineveh!” Do you want God to be what God is or do you want Him to be what you want Him to be?
God of grace, God of mercy, God of forgiveness, God of salvation and God of Divine love, help me to understand that you are merciful to whoever You chose. Amen.