Scripture: Jonah 3
1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
Some thoughts: (I am greatly indebted to the bibleproject.com for some of the insights for today’s devotional.)
The story of Jonah is full of great irony. Normally we think of a prophet as someone who boldly proclaims God’s truth and coming judgment with great urgency and conviction (Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah). Jonah is the exception. As you know he avoided at all costs going to Nineveh because he did not want them to repent since they were not Jews. He did not want God to forgive their sinful ways. Bluntly, he wanted them to die in their rebellion against God. He hated pagans. What kind of a prophet of God is that? That’s Jonah!
More irony. As Jonah fled from God, the pagan sailors on the ship repented and worshiped Israel’s God! God used Jonah’s own rebellion to bring more non-Jews to faith. In his eventual message to the Ninevites, he never even mentions God, yet from the greatest to the least among the people, even the cows wore sackcloth and ashes! You would think a prophet of God would rejoice in the transformation of these peoples’ hearts. Not so with Jonah.
At the heart of this account, we learn that God extends his grace to all peoples and nations, not only the Jews. That concept was hard for the Jewish Jonah to accept. But it fulfills God’s promise to Abraham over a thousand years earlier. “All the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:3)
Now the question for today, are you and Jonah related? Like Jonah, sometimes we can resent God’s mercy and grace to all peoples and sinners. How often have you said or thought, “I hope they get what they deserve” or “those people are so disgusting, I’m glad there’s a hell.”
When you look in a mirror, per chance do you see any distant relative of Jonah’s?
Music: “What Wondrous Love Is This?” –American folk hymn, Fernando Ortega
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of bliss,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul?
PRAYER: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
–Book of Common Prayer