You know, Jonah really is a fascinating character. When you get beyond the amusing Sunday School story picture of him being human barf, standing on a beach, with seaweed hanging off his head, you see that he really was a man of faith and one who had encountered the glory of God. His problem wasn’t one of unbelief. Rather, it seems to me, that Jonah was trying to manipulate the glory.
After the initial attempt to run to Tarshish . . . and getting tossed off the boat during the storm . . . and getting swallowed by a great fish . . . and praying . . . and getting spit out . . . and then preaching to Nineveh . . . and then Nineveh repenting . . . and then God relenting . . . Jonah is ticked (4:1). He is grieved that a nation such as Nineveh has not been judged . . . He is angry that God has relented from disaster . . . better for Jonah, in his mind, to die rather than to live with the knowledge that Nineveh was given another chance. And what caught my eye this morning was Jonah’s reasoning for disobeying God in the first place and trying to hide in Tarshish . . .
“So he prayed to the LORD, and said, ‘Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.’ ” (Jonah 4:2).
Jonah knew that His God was a gracious and merciful God . . . that He was slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. Jonah knew the glory of God. That’s what Jonah 4:2 is describing — the glory of God. This is what was revealed to Moses when God agreed to hide Moses in the rock and allow him to behold His glory as He passed by (Ex. 34:6-7). Jonah knew the God of heaven . . . Jonah feared the God of heaven (Jonah 1:9) . . . but Jonah had his own sense of justice . . . his own agenda . . . and so tried to manipulate the glory of God . . . somehow thinking that if he didn’t agree to play a role in God’s determination to show grace to Nineveh, that either, it wouldn’t happen or, at the least, he wouldn’t have to be part of it.
But the glory of God would not be derailed by a stubborn prophet . . . in fact, that same glory, that same grace and compassion, that same patience and overflowing love, would be shown to this “fish food.” God could have “recalled” this unwilling messenger . . . taken him home . . . allowed the swim in the sea to be his last . . . and raised up another, more wiling, servant. But God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in lovingkindness . . . and would go to great lengths to teach his servant that the glory of God will not be manipulated according to the will of man. This one who would have suppressed the glory of God in order to align with his own sense of justice would, instead, be a recipient of that grace . . . that he might not just know of the glory, but experience it, and appreciate it, and celebrate it.
Oh, how glorious is grace! Why would we want it withheld from someone . . . why would we withhold it from someone? We might not think they deserve grace . . . yeah!! . . . that’s kinda what grace is . . . unmerited favor. How often do we pass up the chance to show grace and thus display the glory of God? How often do we determine that someone has “crossed the line” and we’re just gonna get on a slow boat to Tarshish because we don’t want God gracing them through us?
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Col. 3:12-13)
Father, thank you for again showing me Your glory in this morning’s reading . . . thank you for showing me Your glory in the grace and mercy extended to me each day, in the patience and lovingkindness that you show as I seek to figure out this pilgrim path. May I not manipulate that glory because I determine to see others with my eyes rather than the eyes of Jesus. May I be an extender of that glory . . . for Your glory . . . amen.