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Who deserves mercy? – Part 2

Updated: Oct 23, 2021

Description: Are we merciful? Prophet Jonah was angry that God had showed mercy on the wicked people of Nineveh. He needed a second lesson.

Having delivered his message of impending disaster to the people of Nineveh, Jonah went off to an area east of the city. Once there he made himself something of a shelter and waited to see what would happen. Of course nothing did. The Ninevites had paid attention to God’s warning and genuinely repented – the exact situation Jonah didn’t want.


Jonah Asks to Die

This unwanted situation made Jonah very angry. In his judgement, God had made a huge mistake. For such a brutal people to escape their just deserts was utterly wrong. He took out his anger on God, telling him that he’d run away precisely because he'd feared that God would be merciful and relent if the Ninevites showed contrition. He was so upset that he asked God to take away his life. Being dead seemed a better option than continuing to live.


After asking if it was right for Jonah to be so enraged, God provided a leafy plant to help shade the prophet’s head and make him more comfortable. This rather pleased Jonah, but his pleasure wasn’t to last.

Jonah's Second Lesson

By morning the plant was dead. God had sent a worm to chew it so that it shrivelled. But God did more. He also sent a blisteringly hot wind to intensify the sun’s heat. As Jonah grew faint, he once again implored God to let him die and – once again – God had a question.


He asked if it was right for Jonah to be so enraged about the plant – and Jonah was enraged. He repeated his wish to die.


God then challenged Jonah about his angry despair at having lost a very short lived plant that he’d neither tended nor made grow. God pointed out that a hundred and twenty thousand people lived in Nineveh along with many animals. Some people were innocent; others had lost their way yet had repented.


Who Decides?

For us, God’s mercy on the Ninevites illustrates an amazing characteristic: his capacity to forgive people who don’t deserve it.


Jonah thought he had the competence to decide who deserved mercy, but he was wrong. It simply wasn’t his job to decide such things, and it’s not ours either. As Jonah’s story makes clear: some jobs belong to God alone. Our task is to do as Jesus commanded: to show mercy and forgiveness, even to our enemies.



Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Picture attribution: Sweet Publishing and FreeBibleimages.org

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