In studying and reading over the story of Jonah in preparation for D-Teams yesterday, it really struck me how amazing it is that God delivers people from wickedness despite the vessel He chooses to use and their weaknesses. In particular, God summoned Jonah, as a prophet, to go and declare to Nineveh they would indeed be destroyed. He disobeyed and then God brought him through trials to bring him to repentance. He repented, but his attitude didn’t totally change. He then went and preached destruction coming upon Nineveh. The people repented though, and God relented of the destruction He was going to bring upon them. God was extremely merciful, and Jonah hated it. He was so angry and bitter. The very initial reason He attempted to run from God was because He knew God was merciful and would show mercy to Nineveh if they repented. And so Jonah basically hated these people and wanted to see them destroyed. But God had different plans that thwarted Jonah’s.
This story is not about Jonah, but about God’s might and power to save, how unbelievably merciful He is. Most importantly, this story points to where God’s mercy and love climaxed; at the cross. There we see the ultimate display of all God’s attributes. In addition to this though, we see that God works to save and deliver people despite the instrument He chooses to use (namely sinners). Jonah was rotten, and had a terrible attitude. And yet despite that, God used him to deliver the people of Nineveh. Jonah was essentially a racist, a hardcore nationalist, and thought he was better than the people of Nineveh because he was in Israelite, one of God’s chosen people. He basically thought they did not deserve God’s mercy, which is true; but neither did Jonah! And that’s the point Jonah did not seem to get.
So how can this story apply to our lives? We see that God’s mercy toward Nineveh did not in any way depend on Jonah’s skills and techniques to convey the message of judgment and mercy. In fact, Jonah withheld all merciful information from them, and yet God still showed mercy! What does God’s mercy depend on? Him alone. So, brothers and sisters in Christ, what does that mean for our witness to unbelievers? It means that when we preach the Gospel, even if we do not have great arguments or clarity of speech (though we should definitely strive for those things), God can still use the few things we say to deliver people from their sin and His wrath through the cross of Christ. We must remember that it is by God’s grace alone that men are saved. Did Nineveh cooperate with God’s grace? Absolutely not. They were pursuing their own sinful ways, on the verge of total destruction, and yet God’s instrument, albeit an imperfect one, sovereignly came by the hand of God, and they turned from their ways. But why did they turn? Why is they turned while other nations refuse, including Israel at many points? God chose to show them mercy by removing their resistance to Him (their stubbornness of heart), in order that they would repent from their sin and believe in Him. And they did repent and God relented. By repenting, it proved their faith in Him to deliver them. And so God showed a Gentile people mercy through Jonah, despite Jonah. God’s mercy depends on Him alone, not on any human willing or running or faith.
How much does this story mirror what was to come though, after Jonah’s time, namely Jesus Christ’s earthly descent, death, resurrection, ascension, and the offering of God’s mercy, the Gospel, to the Gentile world? God’s mercy toward Nineveh was a foreshadowing of the mercy He would show to the nations in Christ. This story is most importantly a pointer to the cross of Christ. How glorious it is that God shows anyone mercy! And how wonderful it is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came and died upon a cross in order to bring about that mercy! And how wonderful it is that God uses weak instruments such as us weak, depraved sinners to deliver His message, in order that the Holy Spirit alone changes people!? What a wonderful God and Savior! So if anyone thinks he’s really something spiritually special when someone is saved by your witness, know that God did not have to use you but could have used someone like Jonah to accomplish His sovereign work, because it’s God’s power that saves, not yours. It is by God’s grace alone anyone is saved, and it is by God’s grace alone that He uses me or you or any sinner to accomplish any of His purposes.