When I was younger, I enjoyed getting my brother and sisters in trouble. I’m sure none of you can relate to that! I was pretty good at it, too. I knew what buttons to push to get them to react.
As an adult, I don’t try to get people in trouble anymore but there are times I hope they’ll get in trouble: when a car flies by way too fast, when someone cheats in a game or in life, when someone uses their power to take advantage of someone else… the list could go on.
Jonah wanted the same thing I want: justice. He was sent to Nineveh to preach, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). And Nineveh deserved to be overthrown! This would be justice. Jonah preached the same message for three days and then went out “and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city” (Jonah 4:5).
Jonah sat there. For 40 days. Waiting for God to destroy Nineveh.
When God didn’t destroy the city, Jonah got mad! This was the reason he didn’t go and preach in the first place – it wasn’t because he was scared of what the Ninevites would do to him; he knew God would show the Ninevites grace. And he didn’t want that to happen (see Jonah 4:1-2).
Are you like Jonah: eagerly waiting for God’s judgement to fall when God wants to give grace? Jonah was hoping the people wouldn’t repent because he would rather they be punished than be forgiven. Are there people you feel that way towards?
The purpose of Lent, and the point of Jonah, is that we all need to repent and we all need grace. The Ninevites repented of their wickedness and God gave them grace. Jonah needs to repent of a hard heart toward the Ninevites. The book ends without telling us if he does or not.
What do you need to repent of in these last few days of Lent?
When you repent, you will discover a God who is “gracious and compassionate…, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2).