Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mercy.

photo source via Pinterest
I haven't heard much talk about Jonah.  He only takes up 48 verses in the entire Bible.  I have to say, though, the times that I have read it, God always seems to pack a punch within the few words contained within its pages.

At first glance, it seems the main lesson is this:

Do what God tells you to do the first time, lest you want to get eaten by a big fish.

While I think this is an important lesson, I think the bigger reason why Jonah's story is included in the Bible is because it is a story of mercy.

Sure, God shows Jonah mercy by giving him another chance to fulfill his calling, but God also teaches Jonah the importance of being merciful.  Sometimes we are quick to receive mercy, but hesitant to give it away.

The whole reason that Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh is because he knew what would happen if he went there, opened his mouth, and let God's words tumble out.  He knew that Nineveh would repent and that God would then spare them.  He cries out to God,
"Didn't I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD?  That is why I ran away to Tarshish!  I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and rich with unfailing love!  You are eager to turn back from destroying people!"  Jonah 4:2
It all sounds kind of silly to my ears at first.  Who would blame God for being compassionate and merciful?  Would not we sink into this truth instead, filled with gratitude that we serve a God that will not turn away from our desperate repentance?

But then, Fr. Mike goes on, comparing Jonah to the elder brother in the story of the prodigal son.  It is at this reference that I understand the heart of Jonah in that moment.  It's a heart of pride.  It's a heart that says:

I'm better than them.
My works are more meaningful.
It's not fair that he..., when I have...

It's a heart that cultivates a false image of myself for a myriad of reasons -- self-protection, self-elevation, self-image.  The key word is self -- when I neglect to extend mercy, I choose myself.  When Jonah wanted an entire city of 120,000 people to perish so that he could feel good about his own life, his own culture, his own people, he chose himself.

I wonder if Jonah got the message.  I wonder if it pierced his heart so much that he couldn't help but allow God to free him from the worldview that so consumed his life?

I want to be pierced.  I don't want to go through life living for myself.  I don't want to bind myself in chains of comparisons and judgement.  When God says go, I want to go freely, ready to embrace the amazing qualities of God that daily transform my soul.  Plus, I don't really want to spend three days in the belly of a fish, or some sort of equivalent.  

What about you?  Have you had times when it was hard to be merciful?

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12 comments :

  1. I find it is much easier to talk about grace than to actually show grace. talking about it and reaching an understanding is of the head; giving grace or mercy comes from the heart. I wonder how many of us Christians are really more like Jonah than we would like to think? There is a lost world out there that God really wants to save! Great post to make us think how we are doing showimg mercy.

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  2. okay, let's pair THAT lesson with the favoritism lesson of james 2:1-7 and i am so very guilty. i like ot play god and show mercy upon whom i will show mercy.

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  3. I like the lesson of mercy in the story of Jonah. I also find comfort that God had mercy on Jonah himself - even though Jonah found himself inside the belly of a fish, God kept him safe in there, and made sure he stayed protected until it was time for him to come out. God's compassion was with Jonah, even in Jonah's "time-out." Our God is so good.

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  4. Too many to count. Kendal's comment just shot an arrow through my heart.

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  5. You are right on. Not only the great image about being eaten by a big fish, but the part of so readily accepting mercy but so hesitant to give it. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Would like to have heard the whole sermon. A great way to start the week and completely in line with my own devotions. Blessings.

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  6. Wow. I got the same message last week. Did he really think he could run away from his call? God's definitely the God of second chances. We should take note.

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  7. Jonah has so very much to teach us in just a few verses. I know I have gotten smacked in the face by Jonah sermons before. We are so willing to take, take, take, all that we don't deserve, but oh, to give a little back? Ouch. Great post. :)

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  8. As a gal who's lowest ranking spiritual gift is mercy/compassion, the answer to your questions is a big ol' YES. As Christians, I know we are all called to be merciful, but sometimes it is a struggle for me... from extending grace to my beloved drill sergeant husband, to being merciful with our church volunteers, it is something I am praying God will grow me in. Thanks for bringing this to the surface of my heart! I needed it :-)

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  9. Never thought of mercy being Jonah's lesson nor related to the prodigal son. Interesting. To be honest, I read Jonah sometimes being very self-righteous and judgmental - traits I am not proud of. His story hold lots of lessons.

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  10. Why are we often so willing to receive mercy, but so hesitant to give mercy to others? I've never thought about the correlation between Jonah and the prodigal son's older brother, but I clearly see it now. I want God to do whatever work is necessary to allow mercy to flow in and through me.

    Many blessings!

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  12. "...when I neglect to extend mercy, I choose myself." Wow, this is so true.

    Our pastor is doing a series on Jonah right now, so this is interesting timing. And you are so right, there is so much to learn from these mere 48 verses!

    Great post!

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