This year continues with a new version of My Grace-Full Life, and this month, we’re talking about “My Mercy-Full” Life. God’s mercy can never be underrated.
Scripture is full of examples of God’s mercy, but perhaps one of the most poignant examples is found in the book of Jonah. If you were raised in the church, this might have even been a favorite Sunday School story. Unfortunately, over the years, way too much emphasis has been placed on the whale (or fish—the Bible doesn’t say it’s a whale). But to make sure everyone’s on the same page–here’s the highly condensed summary of events: God tells Jonah to go to Ninevah. Jonah says no and goes the other way. After learning the hard way that he cannot outrun God, Jonah spends three days in the belly of a fish, before repenting and being spit out. Then, he goes to Ninevah and spends three days telling the Ninevites to repent.
And they do. In what is called the greatest revival in human history—the entire population of Ninevah repents—all 120,000, from the king down to the poorest, most insignificant citizen. And in His mercy, God sees that they have repented and does not destroy the city (Jonah 3:10).
Can you imagine the celebration that took place in heaven over THAT revival?? Jesus says, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). If there’s a celebration for one—what kind of heavenly party was there for 120,000 in three days?!?!!?
But one person was not so happy: Jonah. There’s no easy way to say it—Jonah was a jerk. Our Sunday School version of Jonah has him skipping along to happily tell others about God. Yeah, he eventually obeyed, but Jonah wasn’t happy about God’s mercy for the Ninevites.
In Chapter 4 of Jonah, we see Jonah’s temper tantrum over God’s mercy and even his complaints about a plant that God grew and then let die. In the last words recorded in Jonah, it says, “But the Lord said, ‘You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?’” (Jonah 4:10-11).
God’s mercy is what sent Jonah to Ninevah. The Bible tells us that it’s not God’s will for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-10). So, God made a way for the Ninevites to get the message of His mercy.
And while Jonah ends as a bit of a cliff-hanger, I’m of the opinion that in His mercy, God made a way for Jonah to get the message, too.
The thing is—as Christians, we often make assumptions about who is deserving of God’s mercy. We’re not that different from Jonah. We look at people we disagree with…people we don’t like…those who are making decisions that make them seem to be the least likely candidates for God’s redemption and mercy. And we assume they aren’t candidates to hear about God. Genesis 1:26 reminds us that we are all made in God’s image. Therefore, if He has given life—it has value.
So, who is deserving of God’s mercy? None of us. But He offers it anyway and gives us the option to choose whether we accept it. Then, when it comes to those we think would never choose to turn to God—that’s not our call to make. The Ninevites were unlikely candidates, too. But it’s incredible what God can do with a humbled heart.
Verse of the Month: Hebrews 4:16
Song of the Month: “Mercy is a Song,” by Matthew West
Recommended Reading: The Prodigal Prophet, by Timothy Keller, Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted, by Priscilla Shirer, I Can Only Imagine, by Bart Millard