When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.
Justice or Something More?
God is supposed to be a God of justice—right?
It’s no wonder Jonah called God out on the carpet like he did. The people of Nineveh were truly evil. They had made a name for themselves in violence and bloodshed so that much of the ancient world was disturbed and anxious. Even women and children were not spared from their violence.
Wasn’t Jonah right that they deserved to receive at least a portion of the violence from God that they so freely meted out to those less fortunate? That would be justice, after all.
So Jonah was angry when Nineveh repented and was not destroyed.
Yet we see something in Jonah that we see in all our hearts. Jonah didn’t want justice; he wanted destruction. The difference between Jonah and the Ninevites was not that the Ninevites loved violence, and Jonah loved peace. No, Jonah had his own version of violence and destruction, which is why he sat on his hilltop waiting for Nineveh to be destroyed. In fact, it seems that if Jonah had the same army and strength as Nineveh, he might have taken justice into his own hands. The only difference between Jonah and the people of Nineveh was that Jonah didn’t have a powerful army at his disposal.
God gave something better than justice to both the Ninevites and Jonah; he gave mercy. He sent the people of Nineveh a prophet to tell them to repent. God spared Nineveh from the fate they deserved. He caused the great fish to spit Jonah back up on the dry land instead of letting him drown. Even as Jonah sat on the hilltop, God sent a message instead of judgment to Jonah. While we might content ourselves with justice in this situation, God had something more for all involved.
We have a God who is more than just; he is merciful.
Father, help me to see beyond my own pettiness to your great mercy. Make me trust that your will is where justice and mercy meet. Amen.