Jonah is among the Old Testament’s fully rounded and very believable characters! He is commissioned to warn Nineveh of impending judgment.
Trouble is, Jonah thinks the judgment is richly deserved, and so flees–ending up in the belly of a great whale.
And there, he praises God, and God turns his destiny around from death to life.
Though Nineveh still remains in his destiny, and to Nineveh he goes. And, as he feared, Nineveh repents and God forgives.
Jonah is furious. He tells God off in the familiar tones of one speaking to an intimate, ” “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing 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.”
But God cannot but show mercy. That is his nature.
And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, 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?”
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I think we all have Jonah moments when we ask the age-old question, “Why do the wicked prosper?
When we feel (other) people should reap what they sow. When we are chagrined to see people who have sinned against us, and sinned against others, blessed.
The fact is God cannot but bless. It is his very nature and character. The Blesser could be one of his names, if I knew how to cast it in Hebrew. The One who Blesses. He makes the sun shine and the rain fall and gives his good gifts to righteous and unrighteous alike, because Giver is his name and nature.
Richard Rohr writes, “God’s forgiveness is like breathing. Forgiveness is not something God does; it is who God is. God can do no other.”
Do we forgive our babies and toddlers who wake up crying, and worse, wake us up by crying, spit up on us, refuse to eat the careful meals we prepare, and generally cause havoc and devastation in our hitherto orderly homes and lives? Of course. Wouldn’t occur to us not to.
Motherhood and mother love gave me a bit of a window in God’s heart.
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I guess I am having a Jonah moment myself as I think of a couple who have hurt a lot of people, myself included. Will they be blessed anyway?
And so I need to do two things. Ask God to continue softening my heart so that I can thoroughly forgive. Ask God to expand my heart so I feel and think as he did.
And remember Jesus getting a bit snappish with Peter, when he wanted to know how much John would be blessed. “If I want him to remain until I return, what is that to you? YOU follow me.”
So let me not be the grudging Jonah, Lord, cross when you bless Ninevahites who don’t deserve it. Instead, change my heart till it is a heart of kindness and blessing like yours.
Let me turn my eyes on you, and follow you.