Swimming With Jonah: God has Mercy
This…is…the…week!!! School begins! Are you excited? Are you scared? Are you nervous? Are you not wanting to go back to school quite yet? I can’t believe that this week has arrived…. In a blink of an eye, summer vacation has ended, backpacks have been filled with crayons, markers, binders, folders, notebooks, pencils, pens, and clothes have been bought, hair has been cut, teeth have been cleaned, and doctor visits have been completed. It’s official: school is in session!
In a way, you are like Jonah–going to a place that you have avoided for some time now. Also, like Jonah, some of you are excited to be there. In our story of Jonah today, we walk with Jonah into the great and wicked city of Nineveh where people are found asking God for forgiveness. They know that their summer vacation has ended and it’s time to return to what really matters in life: learning from a great and mighty teacher, who reminds them that they have a purpose in life.
Jonah 3:1-3, Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Phew! I was worried about Jonah! I was afraid he’d try to jump on another boat, but instead he uses his second chance wisely and goes to Nineveh. Now what do we know about Nineveh. Let’s see: “Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in length. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey” (Jonah 3:3-4). When he gets there, it’s time to get down to business:
Verse 4: And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” He warned them that God wasn’t happy and God was going to judge Nineveh and it wasn’t going to be pretty. And do you know what the people did? “And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). They believed! Jonah didn’t have to show them a miracle or preach a lot or really do much at all. God moved their hearts and they immediately believed him. Then the news reached a pretty powerful guy.
Let’s see who in verse 6-9: “The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” Wow! The King heard that God wasn’t happy and he immediately warned his people to shape up and change from their sinful ways! The people fasted (didn’t eat) and put on sackcloth–this was their way to show they were sorry and wanted forgiveness. They prayed to God asking for mercy. And what do you think God did?
Verse 10: “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” In another translation it says God “changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.” The Ninevites knew they deserved God’s judgment. They repented, changed their heart and God showed them mercy. Mercy is a kind and forgiving treatment when we deserve much worse. God always wants us to repent, he doesn’t want to punish us, he wants us to turn to Him and have him forgive us.
God showed us mercy. The Bible says that we are all sinners in Romans 3:23 –for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We should be judged and punished for our sins. In Romans 6:23 it says For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. When we sin that means that we deserve death, but God showed us MERCY. How did he show us mercy? Through his son Jesus. He sent Jesus to come to earth and be our Rescuer. Jesus lived a perfect life and then died on a cross as a sacrifice for all of our sins. Then he rose again three days later. Through God’s mercy, we get the gift of salvation in Jesus.
God just asks us to do one thing, the same thing Jonah asked the Ninevites. Repent! Turn away from all the sin and bad stuff and turn to God. He loves you and he wants you and he’s got lots of mercy. When we do that and believe Jesus is the only one who saves us, then we won’t be punished by death. We’ll get eternal life with God!
Isn’t God so cool? He showed Jonah mercy last week, he showed the Ninevites mercy this week AND he shows us mercy now! Next week we’ll finish the very last part of Jonah, this isn’t the end of the story and I think the ending will surprise you.
Your Friend, Holy Spirit
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