READ: Jonah 3-4
THINK: The ending of Jonah is, I think, the saddest ending of any book of the Bible. Even after all of the incredible experiences that Jonah has had and the amazing things his eyes have seen (the inside of a whale’s stomach!!!, an evil city turning to God and repenting after hearing him preach!!!!) he just doesn’t get it. He obeyed God but his heart never really lined up with God’s. The book ends with him sitting alone, grumpy that the Ninevites have been saved. And along the way Jonah reveals his true heart. He tried to run from God at the beginning of the mission precisely because he knew God’s heart. He knew that God wanted to save the city of Nineveh and call them to himself and he harbored so much hatred deep inside his heart that he didn’t want that to happen.
I think it’s really easy to lament the ending of this book in a judgmental way. For me anyway, it’s pretty simple to shake my head at Jonah and feel like he’s just a disappointment and feel like I never would have acted like that if I had been in his place. I mean, how could I? If I’d seen what he saw and been used how he was used I would be rejoicing! Wouldn’t I? Would you? I wanna believe we all would. But I know better. I look inside my own soul, and I get the privilege of looking inside the souls and hearts and thoughts of a number of people in my church. You know what’s in there? Anger. Hatred. Selfishness. Bitterness. Grudges.
I think that we are all prone to have a little Jonah in us. We desperately seek to be rescued from our own failures and shortcomings. But we don’t seek the rescue of others with nearly the same passion – especially when we’re the ones they have hurt. We tend to cry out to God and ask him to forgive us for the awful things we’ve done that hurt others and ask him to bring justice and judgment to those who have done awful things that hurt us. There’s more than a hint of irony there.
There is a place for justice. God is just. And there’s a place for forgiveness. God came and died for us so that we could experience it fully. And I think the key for us, the thing that Jonah missed and that sometimes we miss too, is really experiencing forgiveness. It’s remembering that like Jonah we deserved to be swallowed up and to die because of our disobedience but that like Jonah we have been liberated from the depths. When we sit back and marvel at just what it is to be forgiven – how terribly unworthy we are and how mind-blowingly incredible it is that God emptied himself for us – then it is so much easier to forgive those around us. To release our hatred and bitterness, line our hearts up with God’s, and pray earnestly that he would use us – our love and our lives – to call and reconcile them to himself.
Let’s all take time today to remember just how huge the gift of our salvation is. And then, in light of that, to release anything and everything inside of us that hinders us from wishing every person on this planet the same experience.
PRAY: Ask God to forgive you for the times when you’ve been like Jonah. Ask him to help you release any hatred and bitterness that keep you from being fully leveraged for the gospel in the lives of those around you (and feel free to admit to him that it’s not easy and you need his help if you’re gonna do it). Ask God to line your heart up with his and use you however he wants to reconcile the world to himself.