2 He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3 “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.”
Jonah had a hatred for the people of Nineveh. They were his worst enemies. I would not be surprised if he prayed for their total destruction. Then God came to him and told him to go there and to the people to repent or God would destroy the city. Jonah loved the second part, but not the first. He knew the character of God. Look at verse 2. He calls God both gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and full of love and second chances. These are words and adjectives we use to praise and worship God. Yet, Jonah found them to be depressing, when God was reaching out to Jonah’s enemies.
He ran the opposite way, trying to flee from God. He got a boat sailing west, when Nineveh was to the east. David in the Psalms (Psalm 139) that there is no where we can go that God is not. God was with Jonah on that boat. God is with you where ever you are, no matter how glum it might seem. God raised up a big storm and tossed that boat all around. Jonah tells the crew their only hope is to throw him overboard. They reluctantly agree and the storm ceases. Jonah is swallowed up by a big fish and for three days he lives inside of it. On the third day he prays for God to forgive him and the fish vomits him out on dry land. God tells Jonah to go for a second time and he does.
When he gets to this great city, a city that took three days to walk through it, he preaches the worst sermon ever for revival. We see his message in chapter 3 verse 4. In forty days the city will be destroyed. He is still stuck on the second part of God’s message. Notice the word repent or change or turn is not there. His message does not give the people any hope. You do not need a great sermon, if the spirit of God is working in the hearts of listeners. The people repent, big time. All of the people, starting with king, humble themselves before God and God forgives them and relents.
Jonah leaves the city and sits down and whines about the whole thing. This where the verses above come in. He describes the character of God really well, but instead of being encourage by it, he is depressed. He just gave the worst sermon ever and got the greatest amount of converts ever and he is depressed to the point of wanting death. The point the matter is Jonah had hatred in his heart for this people and needed to repent from it. God graciously included Jonah in His work and yet Jonah was more concerned with his own prejudice over the greatness of God.
In the end all we see is a grumbling Jonah. We do not know if His was ever turned. Do you have hatred for a people group in your heart? If so, you need to deal with it. God calls us to show love for others not hatred. The hatred will blind you to the needs of these people. God can use you to reach to them. Many of people have turned their hatred into love and graciously brought the Gospel to their former enemies. And unlike Jonah their hearts are now filled with love. Go to God and confess that hatred. Ask Him to change your heart, to be more like His.
Dear God, I confess my heart is sometimes filled with hatred of others. Forgive me. Help me to repent and have a love for others. Help me to not depressed by your characteristics, but filled with praise and worship from them. Help to me pray for my enemies and love them. May you just be working in their hearts as You are working in mine. For everyone is need of You. Amen.