“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 4:11 NKJV)
Sometimes I don’t get God and His grace. Take the book of Jonah, for example. The last verse of the book, quoted above, explains what God was doing. He was showing grace to the whole city of Nineveh because of the kids who were too young to know left from right, and because of the livestock. He sent Jonah to warn them of impending doom. Jonah did what any self-respecting legalist would do: he decided that God’s message to him must not have been clear so he took off in the opposite direction. Either that or he was scared of what the Ninevites would do to him. God brought Jonah back on mission in a unique way, and Jonah showed up preaching one of the most intentionally lackluster sermons ever. According to what Jonah said earlier, he did that because he was afraid that God would show grace and mercy. I have no doubt that Jonah had prayed for God to take care of the Assyrians. I also have no doubt that God’s plan was different from what Jonah expected. God showed them grace. Even though they would go on to conquer Israel in later years, God sent His messenger to proclaim the need to repent.
The scary part of this whole story is that God can still show that kind of mercy to the worst people imaginable. If we were being honest with ourselves, most of us probably have “zap lists.” Those are the lists of people that we want God to zap with lightning and utterly destroy. If you’re like me, you’ve probably prayed for God to take care of them, but not charitably. The horror of reading Jonah is that the real possibility is that God love them just like He loves us and would rather see them repent and turn to Him than destroy them so that they have no hope. If our greatest enemies came to Jesus for mercy and forgiveness, we’d probably rejoice outwardly and seethe inwardly. We’d remind God that we had prayed for their destruction, not their exaltation. Yet, God loved them and brought them into fellowship with Him. The more I ponder God’s grace and how He expresses that grace, I’m beginning to suspect that the problem is that I don’t understand God’s grace like I ought to. Perhaps the problem begins with me thinking I deserve God’s grace while others don’t. And, if that’s my sneaking suspicion, it’s obvious that I don’t get grace. Perhaps I should let God’s grace take me into uncharted territory so I can learn to depend on Him in every situation. Perhaps, I should love the people who seem unlovable so I can experience what it is to show God’s grace.
Lord, Your grace is amazing and far beyond my comprehension. Help me to stop analyzing all Your decisions and plans and to start experiencing the joy of walking with You daily.