Bible Event – Old Testament
The Israelites were God’s favoured people and often, because of their own selfishness they didn’t want others to receive a share of God’s mercy, forgiveness and eternal life. Such thinking even twisted the minds of a few prophets, Jonah was one such example!
God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh, rebuke the people for their wickedness and direct them back to his message.
Jonah was not impressed, let the nation suffer God’s just punishment he thought! So, he took a boat in the opposite direction from Joppa to Tarshish, planning to hide from God in the busy mining district!
On the way, “God hurled a powerful wind on the sea” and the ship was in danger of breaking up. (Jonah 1:4) In an attempt to save their lives, the sailors cast their cargo overboard to make the ship lighter but the danger persisted. They then questioned each other to discover whose fault it was for God wanting to punish them. When the blame was levelled at Jonah because he was trying to avoid God’s instruction, they begged for God’s mercy for what they were about to do and they then unceremoniously threw Jonah overboard!
Jonah was swallowed by a huge whale and once inside its belly, he earnestly repented and prayed to God for mercy and forgiveness. God listened to Jonah’s call for help, kept him alive and after three days and three nights, the whale disgorged him on to the seashore.
Jonah, in keeping with his promise, went to Nineveh and announced God’s warning that the city of 120,000 people would be destroyed in forty days time unless they stopped their evil ways. To Jonah’s great surprise, the king of Nineveh and the people listened. They “declared a fast and put on sackcloth and sat on ashes”. God listened and withdrew his threat to destroy the city. (Jonah 3:5)
However, Jonah was still not pleased! It was a hard lesson for him to understand! He still wanted God to restrict his love and mercy to the Israelites and destroy the city!
God’s mercy and love are for everyone, the Nineveh people and all sinners, Jews and Gentiles, you and I.
New Testament: When Jesus was asked for another sign from God by some scribes and Pharisees, he answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here”. (Matthew 12:39-41) (Jonah 1:2-3:11)
“When my life was ebbing away, I called out to the Lord and my prayer came to your holy temple. Those who worship worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs”. (Jonah 3:7-8)
Lord Jesus, show me my selfish and greedy ways. Help me to confront my sinful actions. Grant me a loving heart, one that is open to every nation and every human life. Amen.
Prayer: Jesus, Our True Love (Hildegard of Bingen)
Jesus Christ, the love that gives love,
You are higher than the highest star;
You are deeper than the deepest sea;
You cherish us as your own family;
You embrace us as your own spouse;
You rule over us as your own subjects;
You welcome us as your dearest friend.
Let all the world worship you.