S172P2 – Lost opportunities: sharing in God’s compassion
And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
They were a tight group who followed the Lord devotedly. The world around them was anything but holy, but they knew their job was to reach it and effect change in it. There was one village, however, where they never did any work. That was the place everyone recognized as the town of darkness. Others had tried to shine some light there but failed, so they had given up hope for that place long ago. Then, one of their group felt that God was calling them to try again. They met, they talked, and they prayed, but the nays trumped the yays. With so many other people groups who seemed like fertile soil for planting, that town looked too far gone. Little did they know that one God-directed word would change the hearts of that place and make it the county’s seat of light.
Jonah had a hard road to Nineveh, but it seemed like he had learned so much in the belly of that fish. He said the right words in repentant prayer and looked to be on a mission to fulfill God’s will. Yet, there was something about Nineveh that made him hate the work he was asked to do. He simply did not want to see those evil people turn toward the Lord. The problem was that God so desperately wanted that very thing to happen. As much as Jonah confessed to be on the same page as God, his desire diverged from that of the Lord’s. Jonah could have enjoyed the blessing of sharing in God’s compassion, God’s emotional love, at the sight of these people repenting. Instead, he let hate rob him of that blessing.
I read the story of Jonah and Nineveh, and I think of my own story. My life was as dark as theirs, and God called two of his children to try and break through that hard heart of mine. They could have looked at my iniquity and turned the other way, but they actually wanted what God wanted. They were excited for the challenge and could not wait for me to say yes to Jesus. Had they turned their noses up at me in search of more apparently fertile soil, they would have missed the chance to share in God’s joy at my transformation. That would have been denying themselves a blessing God wants us all to enjoy. Father, give us the desire to share in your happiness when the most evil of the most evil turn to You for salvation.