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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Jonah 3:15, 10; 4:111comment (0)

February 21, 2013

By Robert Olsen

Related Scripture: Jonah 3:15, 10; 4:111


Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile

Pursuing Those Who Need to Hear

Jonah 3:1–5, 10; 4:1–11

All People Have an Urgent Need (3:1–4)
After being vomited out of the fish, God spoke to Jonah again, telling him to go to Nineveh to bring a message of divine judgment to the people in that city. 

Finally at this point in the book Jonah is obedient. It is important to realize that even if we disagree with God or do not want to do what God commands, we are to be obedient. Unfortunately, it is easy to disregard God’s message to us and we can rationalize our disobedience. We can tell ourselves that we should not tell others about Christ because they may think we are strange or because we are too busy. We may refuse to go overseas to spread the gospel because it would hinder our retirement plans or make us quit our secure job. But if we truly trust God, we know that He provides for us and that it is more important to trust God than to listen to others or even to our own family. Following Jesus requires complete obedience.

God Acts with Sovereign Mercy (3:5, 10)
When the people of Nineveh heard the message, they repented and God had mercy on them. Just as God showed mercy to the Ninevites, He still shows mercy to us today. This is most evident in the salvation we have in Christ. Because of the mercy God has shown us, we ought to have mercy on others and share the gospel with them. Because so many people in foreign countries have never heard the gospel, it is important for Christians to be involved in foreign missions, going overseas or supporting missionaries financially and/or through prayer.

Salvation Isn’t Just About Us (4:1–4)
This section shows a drastic flaw in Jonah’s thinking. Jonah was correct in knowing that God would show mercy. But instead of delighting in the repentance of the Ninevites, he was angry. Why should Jonah be angry at this news? It seems he should rejoice, but these were the enemies of the Israelites. Instead of seeing these people saved, he would have rather seen God punish them for their wickedness. But what Jonah failed to realize is that we all deserve to be punished by God. Each of us is guilty of sinning against a holy and righteous God. Instead of wanting to see God destroy our enemies, we should want to see them accept Christ and turn from their sin. This is evident in the story Jesus tells about the ungrateful servant in Matthew 18:21–35. In that parable, a servant is forgiven a mighty debt after he pleads for mercy, but then he chokes a servant who owes him a small amount of money. This ungrateful servant is then punished for his lack of mercy. For those of us who have accepted the gift of salvation in Christ, we ought to be merciful to others since God has shown us mercy. Instead of looking down on people who are deserving of punishment or who deserve their fate, we need to remember that we were once lost as well and that God showed us mercy when we did not deserve it. 

Do We Care as God Cares? (4:5–11)
As Jonah sat and waited to see what would happen to the city of Nineveh, God caused a plant to provide him with shade. Jonah enjoyed the plant because of its shade, but the next day God caused a worm to kill the plant. This made Jonah angry, and the heat made him want to die. God confronted Jonah, who was angry about the plant dying, and chastised Jonah for being more concerned about a plant than about an entire city. 

Many of us, like Jonah, become angry over frivolous things like our clothing and possessions rather than being concerned with the eternal destiny of our neighbors. Many Christians need to rethink what it means to be a follower of Christ in the United States, where people have so much and are often concerned about getting more. Following Christ means putting His desires over ours.

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