It has been a pleasure to study through the book of Jonah in order to teach at the day camps as well as write these articles. It is always so nice to restudy a book of the Bible. The truths that you learned the first time you studied the book are reinforced and you also see things that you did not see the previous time. I pray that these lessons will have a great impact in the lives of the children who are studying with us as well as in our own personal lives. It is amazing how living and active the Word of God is. If we allow It to do so, It will transform our hearts and minds so that we think the way God thinks and see the world through His eyes. It is an awesome experience. Since we are all born into sin then we all need to experience God’s mercy. Since we live in a fallen world full of flawed people, we all need to learn how to have mercy on others the way that God does. This chapter of Jonah will help us.
I. We have to show others mercy because most people do not understand the mercy of God.
Even the “great” missionary and prophet Jonah did not understand the mercy of God. He had an important lesson to learn from this story. He learned true repentance. He learned to be obedient to God, yet he was still lacking in the area of mercy. In order to understand God’s mercy you have to know God personally.
But it was a great calamity in Jonah’s sight, and it kindled anger in him. And he prayed to Jehovah and said, Please, O Jehovah, was this not my saying when I was still in my land? On account of this I fled before to Tarshish. For I knew that You are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and One who repents over calamity. (Jon 4:1-2)
Jonah understood that God is merciful yet he, himself, was not. He wanted the people of Nineveh to “get what they deserved” while he, himself, did not mind appealing to God’s merciful side while in the belly of the fish. What about you, are you one who looks to have mercy from God but you do not want to show mercy to others? How do you view new people who come into the church? Do you see them as people who can and need to experience the mercy of God?
II. God teaches us His mercy through His Word.
And now, O Jehovah, I beseech You, take my life from me. For better is my death than my life. And Jehovah said, Is anger rightly kindled in you? And Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east of the city. And he made himself a booth there and sat under it in the shade, until he might see what would happen in the city. (Jon 4:3-5)
Jonah is such a “wishy washy” person. He is very selfish. He does not care about the coming wrath upon the people of Nineveh because he is too focused on his own needs. He has experienced the mercy of God yet he does not think about the fact that others need to experience it too. God has to come to him again and remind him, “do you not remember what I have done for you?”. God is ready to teach every person about His mercy and He is ready to show His mercy to all who are ready to receive it through repentance and faith. Have you learned about and experienced the mercy of God? Do you take that good news to others so that they can experience it too?
III. God teaches us His mercy through both positive and negative circumstances in life.
And Jehovah God prepared a plant, and it came up over Jonah, to be shade over his head, in order to deliver him from his misery. And Jonah rejoiced with great joy over the plant. But God prepared a worm as the morning dawned the next day. And it struck the plant, and it withered. And it happened when the sun shone, God ordained a scorching east wind. And the sun beat on the head of Jonah, so that he fainted. And he asked for his life to die. And he said, Better is my death than my life. And God said to Jonah, Is your anger rightly kindled over the plant? And he said, My anger is rightly kindled, even to death. (Jon 4:6-9)
Jonah did not deserve God’s mercy yet God blessed him with the plant to give him shade. Jonah rejoiced over something that he simply received without having to put forth effort. God also takes away our blessings with the same purpose, to teach us about His mercy. If we are willing to learn, God is ready to use both positive and negative things in our lives to teach us about His mercy and to show us that He is in control and wants to have mercy on us. We have to be willing to learn and accept His mercy.
IV. A person whose priorities are messed up, cannot understand the mercy of God.
And Jehovah said, You have had pity on the plant, for which you had not labored, nor made it grow, which was a son of a night, and perished the son of a night. And should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than a hundred and twenty thousand men who do not know between their right and their left hand, besides much cattle? (Jon 4:10-11)
Jonah’s priorities were messed up because he cared more about a plant than he did about the lives of over 120,000 people. What about your priorities, do you care about things that are not important and not care so much about the things that are important? Many people have mercy on animals yet could care less about the lives of babies in their mothers’ wombs. Do you have time to take care of a pet yet excuse yourself from serving others with the Gospel by saying that you do not have time? Do you see the difference between Jonah’s understanding of mercy and God’s? God’s mercy has no limits while Jonah’s mercy is manifested in the wrong direction. I am afraid that we easily see Jonah’s fault yet miss our own face in the mirror. May God let us have His mercy with no limits like He has.
V. How do I cry out to God for mercy?
You may have realized that you need God’s mercy yet do not know how to appeal to Him. The Bible gives us a great example of what a person who wants to experience God’s mercy needs to do.
And He spoke this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed within himself in this way: God, I thank You that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice on the Sabbath, I give tithes of all that I possess. And standing afar off, the tax-collector would not even lift up his eyes to Heaven, but struck on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner! I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself shall be abased, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14)
Did you notice the contrast? One man prays to himself and pulls out his list of all the good things he does and why God should be proud of him. He looks down on others and he leaves just like he came. The other man knows his state and cries out to God for mercy. He does not even have the courage to lift his eyes. He leaves a different person than when he came. It is obvious which one has experienced the mercy of God. Which one are you more like? Have you experienced God’s mercy? Do you show mercy to others? May God help us humble ourselves before Him and live as He wants us to live.