“I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy.” Jonah 4:2
It's a whale of a story.
God speaks directly to a man named Jonah. He is told to go into the cosmopolitan city of Nineveh to preach against it because their wickedness had come up before the Lord. But Jonah mutinied against God. He purchased a one-way ticket in the opposite direction and set sail with the captain and crew for Tarshish. Once on board, Jonah nestled in for the deep sleep of avoidance below deck as a violent storm threatened the sailors above. The terrified captain roused Jonah and questioned his identity. Aware of the nautical tempest, the much more awakened Jonah and the sailors come up with the plan to throw Jonah overboard as Jonah takes responsibility for being the cause of the chaos.
The repentant sailors regaled the story of how the billowing sea calmed as Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a huge fish. He's in the belly for three days and nights. Evidently, while in the belly, Jonah has a change of heart and is then vomited onto dry land. The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. It's funny how the smell of fish guts can inspire even the most rebellious person to actually do what God asked in the first place. But, maybe we're all a little salty that way.
Jonah finally acquiesces.
The Ninevites are saved! As a matter of fact, the entire city was saved from the highest to the lowest including gerbils, goats and geese. They avoided destruction by turning from their evil ways and from their violence. But, to Jonah, this seemed very wrong. He became angry and complained to the Lord. I picture Jonah stomping around like an incensed toddler in an adult male body exclaiming, “I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy!” (Jonah 4:2) God’s missional heart was at the core of Jonah's call to go to Nineveh. The story wasn't about Jonah's judgment of God and humanity. It was about God and his love for all people.
Answer the question.
Jonah is the only book of the Bible to end with a question. Several questions hang in the air for readers to contemplate. Here are some for you to consider:
- How great is the compassion of God?
- In what ways do we deny God’s call?
- What excuses do we have?
- Who else is included in God's plan from least to greatest?
- Who pays the price for our disobedience?
God's mission, vision and values.
Wheatland's mission is at the heart of everything we do. Love God. Love Others. Change the World. We celebrate a long history of having a missional heart. We truly believe it's a heart that flows straight from the heart of God. This month we will hear stories from our own Wheatland friends and family members who said 'yes' to God. Some travelled to Tanzania, India, Poland, Panama or Haiti. Others reached out to those in need in St. Louis and Dixon. I pray none of us has to be swallowed up by a whale to get the big picture God longs for us to see. But, if you find yourself in a smelly situation, be assured that God will most likely give you another chance to show someone his compassion, love and forgiveness because it's not about us. It's about God and his love for all people.
"And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than 120,00 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left--and also many animals?" Jonah 4:11 NIV