Reading through the book of Jonah in the Bible, we see it neatly packaged into four parts.
Chapter one records the refusal of Jonah to accept the call of God for the people of Nineveh, and his subsequent punishment.
The second chapter deals specifically with the repentance of Jonah and his prayer in the belly of the “great fish.”
Chapter three summarizes the fulfilled ministry of Jonah in Nineveh, and the great revival that followed.
Finally, the fourth chapter helps us understand the true heart of Jonah and God’s rebuke for his lack of compassion for the lost city.
Even though Jonah ultimately followed the will of the Father, his own will got in the way of being pleasing to Him. His heart was based on the value he himself placed on the city.
He wasn’t willing to go to the people until God made him do so. Then, even after he was successful in his task, he later blamed God for not destroying the city.
His quote in Jonah 4:2 reveals his heart, “He complained to the Lord about it: ‘`This is exactly what I thought you’d do, Lord, when I was there in my own country and you first told me to come here. That’s why I ran away to Tarshish. For I knew you were a gracious God, merciful, slow to get angry, and full of kindness; I knew how easily you could cancel your plans for destroying these people.’” (The Living Bible)
One of the beautiful truths in this book is the steadfast love of God toward the human race. Even though Jonah saw no redeeming qualities in the city, God never changed his willingness to rescue it. He saw beyond the sin to a city and people who would repent if given the opportunity. He never gave up on them.
At times, we may feel like giving up on the ones that the Lord has put on our hearts to minister to. We may find nothing we think is worth the effort of investment. We may even be bitter toward God when He shows Himself mighty on their behalf.
It becomes apparent that it is possible for our own agendas to take precedence over God’s plan for someone else when ministering for Him. That is what happened to Jonah he couldn’t see God helping a people that he had already given up on.
The encouragement we can apply to our own life is that God looks at us the same way. Even when others may have been ready to “throw in the towel” regarding our life, God still maintains His love for us.
That is why the Word says so plainly in 2 Peter 3:9,” The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
Let’s all do our part to share the Father’s steadfast love to this unloving world.