Showing Mercy

It’s easy to get angry. 

Rage can flicker in as easy as a missed shot in basketball, a B+ on a paper in your least favorite class, or jamming your foot into something you did not see. 

Anger can start with something simple – from neglect or feelings of abandonment or the beginnings of abuse… and grow into bitterness and resentment that can poison the heart so much that it’s difficult to look past them and see a future.  

A few weeks ago, we explored Jonah chapter three and how the Ninevites were able to be saved from divine wrath (think fire and brimstones) through sincere repentance and by the grace of God. 

However, in Jonah chapter four verse one, someone isn’t a happy camper – the very prophet who finally obeyed God to give the Assyrians a heads’ up, only to be disappointed when God relented from his wrath. 

Granted, Jonah probably hated these people which is why he ran away in the first place, got swallowed by a whale, and was commanded twice to tell the Ninevites that there are consequences and repercussions for violence and evil. 

Dragging his feet, he finally told the Ninevites the news because he probably didn’t want to get swallowed by another whale on the return trip. But Jonah was going through the motions – he selfishly didn’t want the Ninevites to repent and receive God’s grace. 

So, “Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Please, Lord, isn’t this what I said while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster. And now, Lord, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’”

The Lord asked, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’

Moment of truth. Because the Ninevites, the “enemies” of Israel weren’t going to be wiped out, Jonah dramatically says he’s so angry he wants to die. 

God has a one-liner response in the form of a question… Is it right for you to be angry? Is it right?

Jonah doesn’t reply, turns on his heels, and leaves the city to camp out on a hill – hoping to watch the city get taken out, Sodom and Gomorrah style. 

God sees this and appoints a plant to grow up and provide shade, which Jonah appreciates greatly. But the next morning, God sends a worm to eat the plant and it falls over and dies. 

Jonah is now robbed of shade sitting in the blistering sun when God also sends a scorching wind (think sandstorm from Tatooine), and Jonah was near passing out. 

Jonah wants to die again and says, ‘It’s better for me to die than to live.’

Then God asks Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’

‘Yes, it’s right!’ he replied. ‘I’m angry enough to die!’

And the Lord said, ‘You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. So may I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than a hundred twenty thousand people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?’

Let’s mull over this for a moment. First, we see repetition in this chapter – several times Jonah is angry enough to die and God asks if he is right to be angry. 

Jonah doesn’t listen to God’s question the first time, surprise-surprise, and God gets creative and appoints three things to home in on this final lesson (the plant, the worm, and the wind). 

Then, albeit strangely, the chapter ends after God’s final question to Jonah – should He not care about the lost souls of Nineveh (and the animals too!)?

So, was Jonah right to be angry over Nineveh? Over a plant? No. 

But are we right to be angry when it’s easier to cut people off, to not care, and act self-righteous when thousands of people are dying without a savior in this very moment? 

Yes, it’s easy to be angry… It’s easy to get frustrated when we feel like we’ve been wronged, or life is unfair, and to act like the very people who have wronged us. 

But is it right for us to be angry when God, a gracious and compassionate God who is slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, sent his son to die on the cross we might be saved? 

Who are we to be angry or hold hate in our hearts towards anyone else?

For God so loved the world that he sent his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. 

Don’t lose sight of what’s truly important. God sent his son Jesus into the world to seek and save the lost. He is willing to send a whale to swallow his prophet so thousands of souls won’t perish.  

It’s easy to be angry, and difficult to show mercy, especially towards people we may see as “not deserving it’.

But none of us deserve God’s mercy, we all fall short of his glory. And yet, he showed mercy on the cross and he continues to show it every day of our lives.

So show mercy on others.

This is the message of Jonah – God’s love, mercy, and compassion.

In love and truth, 

Melody

Copyright © 2021 by Melody Turner. All rights reserved. Written exclusively for MXTV  (mxtv.org/blog) No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from MXTV.

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