Today we come to the fourth and final chapter in the Book of Jonah.
It all began when God called Jonah to go preach to Nineveh, and Jonah flatly disobeyed, heading nearly 3,000 miles in the opposite direction aboard a ship to Tarshish. And just when he thought he’d gotten away, God hurled a great storm to stop him in his tracks. Jonah told the sailors to throw him into the sea as a sacrifice to appease the wrath of God. But in His mercy, God rescued Jonah from the watery grave with a great fish that swallowed him whole.
And after three days, Jonah finally repents and calls upon the mercy of God. In response, God has the fish vomit Jonah up on the shore and recommissions him to go preach to Nineveh. And this time, Jonah obeys. He cries out judgment against Nineveh and the whole city responds in repentance, crying out to God for mercy.
Chapter three ends with this beautiful crescendo: “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”
What a magnificent moment! A marvelous display of God’s mercy! Repentance has come to the city!
So, when we turn the page to chapter four, we’re expecting triumph. But in fact, what we find is quite the opposite. Instead of applause, we find anger. Instead of rejoicing, there’s rejection. Instead of gratitude, we get griping.
It’s a shocking ending—one of the most shocking in all the Bible—that once again highlights God’s unrelenting grace for undeserving people.
- The Indignation of Jonah: Jonah finds God’s grace to be scandalous. Jonah is made because God is acting like Himself, and Jonah can’t stand who God is! At his core, Jonah wants a God of karma not grace. See, Jonah hasn’t yet fully realized that God’s salvation is always by grace alone. Jonah doesn’t yet realize that all his righteousness is but filthy rags before a holy God, and that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Takeaway: Grace is our only hope.
- The Instruction of the Plant: God gives Jonah space for heart examination. Takeaway: Self-righteousness is deadly.
- The Intention of God: God invites Jonah to share His heart for the city. Takeaway: Should we not pity this great city? Like Jonah, we have been called to this great city. And at times this city might feel like it’s full of enemies: Political enemies. Economic enemies. Moral enemies.
How do we share God’s heart for this great city?
- Don’t run the other way.
- Don’t call down condemnation.
- Don’t make it “Us vs. Them”.
- Do serve with sacrificial love.
- Do speak grace and truth.
- Do prioritize mission.
The most important thing we’re called to in this life is to join in the mission of God to redeem this lost world one soul at a time. We’re ambassadors for Christ, sent to this great city, and we must keep our focus.
Because God is unrelenting in His grace for undeserving people.