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Jonah's Message and God's Mercy

(Jonah 3:1-4:5,11)

Lesson 11 -- first quarter 1996
February 11, 1996

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1995, Christian Light Publications

"And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time." Perhaps we will tut-tut over the fact that God had to tell Jonah twice. And we are above suffering Jonah's affliction, I presume? How often we fall victim to the line of reasoning that may have snared Jonah! Somehow some think that if God's Word records a precept or command only once, then they are not bound by it. Our flesh feels better when we can find various passages telling us to do or not do something. "Tell me at least twice and I'll believe it." Call this the Jonah Syndrome if you will. Why, if we love God so much, do we not happily take the once-stated command as seriously as the line-upon-line orders?

"Preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." I am amazaed that God apparently didn't require that Jonah agree with the message. Consider these two potential implications: (1) the opinions and preferences of the messenger must not get in the way of the message, and (2) the opinions and preferences of the messenger must eventually be displaced by the message. If we wait until we are in full harmony with God's ways and message, we will never pass on His message. There is nothing hypocritical about faithfully presenting God's truth regardless of our opinion of it. The faithful message bearer will also choose to live the message despite the conflict he initially has with it. As he chooses the route of obedience he will discover that eventually the message will be reflected in his opinions and preferences. Obedience always leads to a change of heart. This didn't happen to Jonah because he refused to live his message. So, like Jonah, I want to deliver God's message even if I don't endorse it. Unlike Jonah, I want to live God's message so He can teach me to love and endorse it!

"Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil." How did Jonah know this? No doubt he had been taught that as a child. Surely he had seen it in his study of Israel's history. But more than that, he had experienced these things in his life! And very recently at that. Hadn't he just been delivered from death? Hadn't he just been forgiven for boldly avoiding obedience? Hadn't he just been given a second opportunity to do God's bidding? No wonder he knew what kind of God he served!

How tragic that Jonah's description of God's character totally lacked the elements of praise, triumph and gratefulness! Jonah's exclamation is uttered in great displeasure and disgust. He who had so dramatically benefited from these attributes now held God in contempt for having them! Imagine human anger so intense that it labels offensive some of the most sublime virtues ever poured out on mankind.

James 1:20 warns us that "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." Again, we have no difficulty perceiving this in Jonah's life, but what about in our own? Anger not only produces immediate evil fruit, it has a very serious long-term effect. An angry disposition snares the soul of the angry one (Proverbs 22:24,25). Somehow the expected-yet-hoped-against turn of events so snared Jonah that he wished to die; logic told him that was best for him! Let us cast aside our own reasoning and disposition in favor of heeding God's explicit command: "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31).

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