Beautiful Messes: Jonah
“When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: ‘Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people’… The Lord replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about this?’”1
A good ending is one of the biggest reasons why people like a movie, but have you ever watched a movie where the ending leaves you wondering what happened next? This is what happens in the book of Jonah. It is a short book with only four chapters, but it is packed with so much action!
Jonah was a prophet chosen by God to speak God’s message to others. Therefore, you may wonder how he ended up on my “beautiful messes” list! Well, if you have heard about Jonah, you more than likely know that he got swallowed by a big fish after trying to run from God’s assignment which was to go to Nineveh. Jonah’s life was messy because of his limited, and faulty, perception of who God was. In today’s passage we read about his reaction in response to the Lord’s mercy, compassion, lack of anger, and unfailing love. God had said he would destroy Nineveh because of the great evil in it, but when the people listened to the message and stopped their evil ways, the Lord changed his mind. Most of us might feel relieved at the fact that God wasn’t going to destroy all those people, but not Jonah! Instead, he was disappointed by God’s actions. He complained to God and in other words said, “See! I knew you wouldn’t go through with it! This is why I didn’t want to come in the first place! You are just too good!!”
Wow. Our human minds are just so limited. Even a prophet of the Lord struggled to wrap his head around the wonders of God’s ways. God has always been more interested in people coming to repentance and changing their ways than seeing them destroyed. It was true for the people of Nineveh, and it is true for us today. God will always open his arms, even at the last minute, for a soul who comes to him. But our limited understanding might misinterpret this and say that God is unjust, or his ways are unfair. Why should evil people get so many chances to change their ways? Why doesn’t God just destroy them for the hurt they cause others? Why do good things happen to bad people? Have you ever asked these questions? Just as the Lord replied to Jonah, I can hear him saying it to us as well… “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”
If you read the rest of Jonah 4, you see the Lord’s last words to Jonah, “But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”2 This is how the book ends. You might wonder what happened next, but in my opinion, the unfinished ending is a great reminder that God is not done yet. His conversation with Jonah is one that I am sure many of us have had with him as well. But just as God chose Jonah despite his judgmental attitude and messed up perception sometimes, God wants to use all of us as well. He knows we are not perfect, but he can use our messes to make something beautiful. Even when we don’t understand his ways, we can always trust that he is working something good.
Suggested prayer: Lord, I trust that you know best. I may not always understand the plan, but I know that you are working on something amazing! I feel honored to be part of it. Thank you for choosing me despite all my questioning and doubts. I feel so grateful to know that you are not done working in me yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Jonah 3:10-4:1-2,4 (NLT).
All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.