Scripture: Jonah 4:1-11
Key verse: (4) And the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Reflection: There’s really no way to select a passage from the book of Jonah. You have to read the entire story! Jonah, called by God to proclaim a message in Ninevah, ran away. The story of his unsuccessful escape is full of adventure (a ship, a mighty storm, puzzled sailors, and a large fish). God was relentless and came to Jonah a second time with the call to go to Ninevah. Jonah relented, proclaimed judgment on Ninevah and all of Ninevah repented of their evil ways. Good news, right? Not for Jonah! He was mad. How dare God forgive the undeserving people of Ninevah! So Jonah sat down and pouted. God wasn’t through with Jonah though. God tried to teach him about the power of gracious love. The story ends with God speaking and we don’t know how Jonah responded.
I don’t remember many sermons from my childhood but I remember one in which the pastor asked each worshiper to envision someone they just couldn’t stand. It might be a real individual or it might be “type” of person. He gave us a little silent time to conjure up the person in our minds. Then he proceeded to tell us that when we arrive at the kingdom of God, that person will be the greeter at the entrance door. Yikes! I don’t think the pastor was preaching on Jonah but the message was the same. How do we handle it when God’s mercy is shown to someone we don’t think deserves it?
Jonah pouted. So did the elder brother of the prodigal son when he learned that his father was hosting a huge celebratory party for his undeserving brother (Luke 15:11-32). And I pout too sometimes. God’s mercy is a gift when I receive it and it’s a challenge when I see mercy given to someone else. In trying to teach Jonah, God appointed a bush (v. 6) and God appointed a worm (v. 7) so it looks like God can use all sorts in the kingdom. Even worms. Even me. And even the person who is my enemy. That is the good news, and the challenging news, of God’s mercy. God made us all, God loves us all, God is merciful with us all.
Prayer: O God, you have poured your grace out on me. You have forgiven me and you have welcomed me in spite of my mistakes. Soften my hard heart. May your powerful grace make my heart more gracious, and may your mercy shape me with a merciful spirit. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].