Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse
Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages
“And should I not have concern for the great city of Ninevah, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” ~God, Jonah 4:11
The key to understanding the little book of Jonah is in the final chapter. Jonah ran from God not because he feared the people of Ninevah, but because he feared that God would forgive them!
God asks Jonah to go and preach to his enemies. Ninevah was one of the principle cities of Assyria, Israel’s feared enemy to the north (who would in fact invade in 722). God’s request was rather like being asked to play for the team you hate in order to help them win. As Jonah prefers the Assyrians not repent, he boards a ship heading in the opposite direction. God, of course, pursues him, and the prophet eventually repents and promises to preach to the Assyrians. His anger and bitterness run deep though. In a twist of irony, the preacher who was shown grace is angry when God shows grace to Ninevah.
Jonah is really the story of an angry, bitter preacher. He wants to preach angry tirades and watch the wrath of God fall on his enemies! For all of Jonah’s complaining and anger, however, he is correct that God is merciful and gracious. God loves the world—Israelites, Assyrians, Egyptians, and Edomites. He wants all to come to repentance so that none perish. His heart beats for this world.
Jonah was a bitter, narrow-minded preacher who got more upset over the loss of his little shade tree than he did over the potential destruction of a city full of men, women, and children. How about you? What is your attitude toward the lost world around you? Do you love only “God’s people,” the chosen ones? Or do you long to see the people of this world come to a place of repentance and experience the same grace you have been given. Why should we withhold grace from others when we have been freely given the grace of God ourselves?