As Jonah sat on a dry and barren hillside outside Nineveh, waiting for the coming destruction, his worst fears materialised before his eyes. The God Jonah knew showed up just the way he had feared he would.
God came with grace.
When God saw what they did, how they turned away from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. (Jonah 3:10-4:1)
The footnote in my ESV Study Bible informs me that the Hebrew here can be literally translated, "But it was exceedingly evil to Jonah".
Such was Jonah's delusion.
“Jonah didn't fight against God because he was scared of the Ninevites; he ran and railed because he knew God would turn up with healing in his wings, he knew God would show amazing grace—and he did not believe the Ninevites deserved it."
The God who showed up was the God whom Malachi would later describe as the "sun of righteousness who rises with healing in his wings" (Malachi 4:2), or of whom David sang, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (Psalm 103:8). This God came with amazing grace.
From Jonah's vantage point, however, this righteous, healing, merciful, patient, and loving grace, was a revolting evil that did nothing but fuel his anger.
Yet before I let my indignation cause me to point a judgmental finger at Jonah, maybe I too need to learn a lesson.
Jonah didn't fight against God because he was scared of the Ninevites; he ran and railed because he knew God would forgive them.
And he prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was yet in my own country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster..." (Jonah 4:2)
As the blood of thousands cry for justice from the Nigerian soil, doesn't my heart burn with the same hatred toward Boko Haram? Doesn't my heart also cry out at the thought that the Gospel might bring these people healing too?
What about ISIS? Do they deserve God's relenting favour?
What about the mutilators of unborn babies in the American Planned Parenthood organisation? Or are they outside the reach of the redemptive power of the cross?
What about you? Do you deserve God's grace—do I?
This is the Gospel.
There is a world out there full of sheep without a shepherd – people who do not know their right hand from their left. And I, by rights, am numbered among them.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved… (Ephesians 2:4-5)
Jonah ran from this grace. He wanted it for himself, yet not for others.
But the gospel pursues us, captures us, compels us, even obligates us.
As you now see the grace of God poured out on the undeserving, how does it appear to you?