Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Vengeance versus Mercy

What would you do if God came to you and said, "I need you to do something for me.  Pack up, hop on a plane to X, walk through the city, declare that I, the Lord God, have seen their wickedness, and I'm going to destroy them in 40 days."?

This is what happened to the prophet Jonah and he was sent to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. first he ran away, there was a big storm, he was purposefully thrown into the sea, then swallowed by a great fish (often depicted as a whale), spit out on dry land, God said a second time, "Get your rear to Nineveh!"  God can be rather compelling.  

Today's first reading is from Jonah 3:1-10 and it is all about second chances.  Jonah gets a second chance to obey God's call and Nineveh gets a second chance.  The Lord tells Jonah to walk across the city and declare that in 40 days they will be destroyed because of the evil they have done (they haven't been very nice to the Israelites).  Nineveh is a huge city and it should take Jonah three days to spread the news, but before the end of the first day the news has spread.  Do they think Jonah is a nut-job?  Not a bit!  We are told that a fast was declared that very day - even the king and the nobles put on sackcloth and sat in ashes.  The king tells the people, perhaps the Lord will forgive them and relent.  After seeing the response from Nineveh, God did not carry out the destruction.  

Continuing on in the story, Jonah gets angry that God relented because Jonah wanted Nineveh destroyed and since God wouldn't destroy the city Jonah wanted to die.  Ahhh...the difference between God and us.

There are two interesting points in the book of Jonah.  First, the people of Nineveh didn't proclaim a fast in the hopes of manipulating God into changing his mind because that wouldn't have worked.  They fasted because they believed what Jonah said.  They had remorse.  Second, Jonah was given a second chance to obey God and yet did not want Nineveh to receive a second chance.  

Is there someone in your life who has shown remorse?  How have you responded: are you like Jonah or have you shown mercy?

p.s. If you've never read the Book of Jonah, then I recommend it.  It's very short and there is a lot packed into four short chapters.  

No comments:

Post a Comment