Jonah’s disobedience has led him from depression to despair. He’s ready to die rather than follow God. Now we all know God could have sent a bolt of lightning to strike Jonah for his disobedience. He could have let Jonah and the sailors drown. He could have let Jonah die a slow painful death being digested by a giant fish. Now aren’t you glad that God shows mercy to Jonah? I know I am. Because I need the sort of God who lovingly pursues me. I need the sort of God who will be merciful towards me. In spite of Jonah’s disobedience, God uses this situation to make His name great. God could have used someone else to witness to the Ninevites but God’s actions here would seem to indicate that God desires Jonah. This is good news. Even if we give up on ourselves, God doesn’t give up on us.
I wonder if Jonah had just gone back to Israel and been truthful. What if he had just gone back rejoicing with his crazy fish-story? What if he had gone back with his God-told-me-to-prophesy but-it-didn’t-come-true because-God-is-merciful and that’s-awesome-because-they-repented story? Jonah could have celebrated God’s mercy! Jonah could have celebrated gentile believers! Instead Jonah chooses to be selfish. Jonah chooses to pity a plant more than people made-in-God’s-image. Jonah reminds me of the prodigal son’s brother who is focused on himself and fails to love the people (even his own brother) around him. He whines about himself and wonders why his father doesn’t pay more attention to him. His own self-righteousness impedes his ability to love those around him. How often does my own selfishness or self-righteousness block my ability to love those around me?