And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10–11, ESV)
The people of Nineveh had repented and been restored. Jonah’s mission was a resounding success. But Jonah was not happy. In fact, it says he was angry. Why?
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. This was a nation that was seen as a threat and an enemy to Israel. These were not Jonah’s favorite people. He did not hold much compassion towards them. His heart was filled with more hatred towards them than anything else. So when God spares them and offers grace, Jonah is upset.
Jonah’s heart did not match God’s heart. The things that broke God’s heart did not break Jonah’s heart. Jonah wanted vengeance. He wanted God to punish these people who were far from the Lord.
But God is not like that. He seeks to draw all people to himself. He seeks the people who love him. But he also desires to reach those who are indifferent towards him and even those who hate him. He is a loving God who desires not that people be condemned, but that they would receive salvation. This is the reason he sent Jesus into the world. Not to condemn the world, but to save the world (see John 3:17).
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a penitential season were we reflect upon our sinfulness and our need for God’s grace.
But we easily lose sight of grace. We begin to think that we are accepted by God because of what we do for God. We go to church and volunteer on a committee. We try not to cuss or swear and we do kind things to others. We start to hold an idea of moral superiority. We start to think that God loves us because of what we do for him. As a result, we start to look at others with contempt who don’t walk in such a straight and narrow line as us.
I reckon this is where Jonah might have been. He saw his favor from God as something he deserved. This was in spite of the fact he had showed himself to be disobedient to God’s calling. Still he felt himself more deserving than the people of Nineveh. As a result he resented them for having done “less,” but received just as much from God.
As we enter into this season of Lent, may God give us a humble heart. May he help us to recognize our own need for mercy that we would have compassion and love towards others.
- Do you ever find yourself holding an air of moral superiority over others?
- How is the grace of God recaptured in our lives?
Lord, I seek to honor you. You have given me salvation and I desire to serve you. Forgive me where I look down upon others for not living up to your expectations when I cannot live up to those same expectations. Give me a humble heart filled with compassion and love. Amen.