So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah. Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, One who relents from doing harm. Jonah 4:2. (NKJ)
The story of Jonah is a colorful portrait of a man avoiding his calling, who held the unsaved masses in disdain. He was so bent on avoiding God’s call to preach to the sin sick city of Nineveh that he boarded a ship bound to Tarshish instead. We all know what follows---Jonah being thrown overboard during a terrible storm, followed by being swallowed by a whale.
It took prayer and supplication for him to be coughed up on shore and make good on his promise to God to go to Nineveh. After he finally obeyed his call and was instrumental in converting the Ninevites, instead of being jubilant and praising God, he retreated to a hill overlooking the city to sulk. He knew God was as good as His word and would give the Ninevites a reprieve if they would but repent once called to task by God’s prophet. This did not sit well with the proud and self-righteous Jonah.
In response, God allowed a plant to grow over him and provide shade. Jonah was pleased with the outcome until the next day, when the Lord sent a worm to cause the plant to wither. To further make his point, God sent a fierce wind to add to Jonah’s misery. Only then did God address him directly for the second time, calling him out for showing more concern over a withered plant than he had over the one hundred twenty thousand souls in jeopardy in the city of Nineveh.
How many of us when faced with complying with God’s will for our lives book passage on our own trip to Tarshish? And how many of us secretly harbor resentful thoughts as well as prideful feelings of moral superiority towards those who struggle with the sins so prevalent in today’s society? You don’t have to be of Jonah’s station as prophet and statesman to find yourself outside God’s favor due to the self-inflicted sin of pride. What a sorry world it would be if God patterned his graciousness after ours.
Prayer: Dear Lord, Please instruct us to follow your example and be gracious towards all those whom you have called.