Jonah Part 6: God Is Merciful and Does Not Want to Punish Us posted by Yuen Woh Voon on Jan 16, 2012
When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. (Jonah 3:10-4:1 NLT)
The good news of salvation to the wicked people of Nineveh turned out to be bad news to the evangelist! Why was Jonah “greatly upset” and “very angry”?
The answer is found in the next 2 verses: So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” (Jonah 4:1-3 NLT)
Hah! There you have it! Jonah was more concerned about his own pride (“if what I predicted”) than about the eternal destinies of the Ninevites. What a shameful record of the pride of a man of God. He would rather people perish so that he can be proven right in the words he had spoken. What a shallow reason for the preaching of the gospel of salvation. Looks like he would have been happy to see hail and brimstone fall on the city and its people so that everyone will know that Jonah was a powerful man of God. What arrogance!
Lest we be too harsh on Jonah, many of today’s evangelists (including our EE trainers) are not very different. We, who want to “do EE” on people, are more concerned with personal statistics of souls saved rather than to celebrate the joy of a transformed life and the change in the eternal destiny of a wayward soul.
We have much to understand about the nature of God and the eternal value of the soul. Did not our Lord say “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?’ (Mark 8:36 NKJV) And did not the Sovereign LORD declare, “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.” (Ezekiel 18:23 NLT) God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked.
The Evangelist tells us that “there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” (Luke 15:10 NLT) Or as someone else puts it, “Heaven throws a party whenever a single sinner repents.”
Our pride often stands in the way of our experiencing joy when sinners repent in response to the good news. Like Jonah we have much to learn. Like Jonah, we need to learn that God is merciful and does not want to punish us.