Jonah 3:9 - 4:4
In today’s passage, Jonah’s story features a number of reversals and contrasts between human actions and the divine will.
Whether Jonah liked it or not, he finally he went to Nineveh, not because he had a change of heart but because he knew he had no choice. His only consolation was thinking how delicious it was going to be, pronouncing God’s judgement on all those Ninevites.
Jonah knew how evil they all were, how richly they deserved God’s judgement, and he could not wait to get started, in chapter 3 and verse 4, saying, “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown’”.
That was all, an eight-word sermon, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”
With one eight-word sermon, He has converted the biggest city in the enemy empire. Even the King was there; he ordered a fast and led people out to change into sackcloth and ashes, crying to God.
Jonah should be happy. Right? But was he happy?
No. Jonah was so angry he could die. The last thing in the world Jonah wanted was for the Ninevites to be spared. He could even have hoped that God would decide to destroy it after all, because he cannot accept the possibility that God’s idea of justice might not coincide with his own.
In contrast to the insider, Jonah who heard God’s words repeatedly disobeyed. Ninevites who were the outsiders, foreigners, and even enemies, believed and even more, put their action to repent. The one who already knew the Lord, acted as if he didn’t; the ones who didn’t know the Lord, acted as if they did.
We all may rejoice when undeserved blessings come our way. Even when we know the blessings that come to us have been delivered to the wrong address, there are not many of us who will send them back.
We thank God and quickly carry the blessings inside, but we do not understand a God who carries an identical package to those really unpleasant people whom we judge as our enemies.
We may think we are the righteous prophets and chosen ones, sent to pronounce judgement on the enemy, Ninevites. We may think we are the diligent, sober workers who deserve more pay than the others who show up an hour before quitting time. That is how we see the world, and we make the mistake of thinking that that is how God sees the world too.
God does not keep track of things the way we do. God may not spend a lot of time deciding
who is worthy and who is not, like we do.
If there is still in our heart the dark side of such phrases as “better than,” “greater than,”
or “superior to,” it is time to repent for our Jonah-likeness.
Where is our Nineveh? And who can be Ninevites?
Well, from where God sits, I expect we all look more like Ninevites, the ones who are hurt, sick, and lost children who need to repent, all of us in deep need of God’s mercy.
Nineveh is not somewhere. Ninevites are not somebody.
Every place where a repentance is needed including our greedy, selfish, and angry self,
can be Nineveh, not others. And, each and every one who needs to repent can be Ninevites.
Our calling in today’s passage is for a repentance, not labeling others as Ninevites.