Monday, 23 November 2020
Should I not have compassion on Nineveh… ? -Jonah 4:11
The book of Jonah can be summarized as the meeting of two hearts – the angry heart of Jonah and the compassionate heart of God! The judgmental attitude of man meets with the kind attitude of God!! It is God who wins – He is compassionate and kind towards each of us and He expects us to extend the same to our fellow humans too. Jonah was angry from the beginning – when he was assigned with the task of ministering to the people of Nineveh, whom God valued and loved, his personal preferences took him to another direction and run away from God.
It was not because of his lack of love for God that Jonah refused to obey what God had told him – rather because he was prejudiced towards the people of Nineveh! In Jonah 4:2, Jonah himself gives a clue as to why he ran away from God and His assignment! That will help us to see ourselves and how our attitudes are shaped from past experiences. Jonah tells God that he knew God was gracious and merciful – but why should that make him run away? Let us look into the past experience of Jonah.
The other reference about Jonah is in 2 Kings 14: 23-25, where God commissioned Jonah to deliver a message to the wicked King Jeroboam II of Israel. Bible says this king “did evil in the sight of God.” Still God asked the same Jonah to go and deliver a message of blessing to that king – to tell him that God was going to expand his territory. For sure Jonah would not have liked it and as per his normal nature he would have reasoned with God about the futility of blessing a wicked person - but contrary to Jonah’s wish, God did bless the King!! However, the King did not get better – he still was wicked. So Jonah concluded that wicked people will only get more wicked by God blessing them! When God asked him (in Jonah 1) to go to Nineveh and preach a message of repentance, Jonah was already prejudiced in his mind. His past experience made him to be prejudiced and his prejudice led him to be presumptuous (arrogant, rude).
Is that not our story too? We become easily agitated over a situation, and without thinking we become angry – even towards God (as Jonah did!). The anger is only the outward expression of a deep emotional hurt within – it just surfaced. Though Jonah had learnt many valuable lessons through his life experiences, he hadn’t change!! So God had to teach him who God is and who Jonah is, in a dramatic way. He appointed a plant, a worm and a scorching wind – all obeyed God and came in to train God’s servant!! Sometimes physical circumstances come against us, to train us – God commanded the worm to attack the plant, trying to show Jonah the decay in his heart – now He reasons out with Jonah: just as he had compassion towards the plant, God has compassion towards people.
The message God was trying to convey to Jonah is that he should be compassionate towards people as God is. We shouldn’t allow our prejudices to get the better of us in how we see people, nations, God’s work, etc; instead a change in our attitude- one of compassion will help us see others as God sees them. There are many perishing in this world – will we be compassionate or prejudiced and presumptuous? Can God entrust us with the duty to deliver His message to the people? Will we be able to carry out that duty joyfully? –Some in-depth questions to answer!
PRAYER: LORD, I confess that I have been prejudiced many times in my attitude and actions. Please forgive me and grant me a heart of compassion to see others as You would see them. May Your mercy triumph over my judgment. Amen.