“Therefore now, O Lord, I beseech You, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live. Then said the Lord, Do you do well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city, and he made a booth there for himself. He sat there under it in the shade till he might see what would become of the city.
And the Lord God prepared a gourd and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to deliver him from his evil situation. So Jonah was exceedingly glad to have the protection of the gourd. But God prepared a cutworm when the morning dawned the next day, and it smote the gourd so that it withered.
And when the sun arose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah so that he fainted and wished in himself to die and said, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Do you well to be angry for the loss of the gourd?
And he said, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die! Then said the Lord, You have pity on the gourd, for which you have not labored nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 20,000 persons not yet old enough to know their right hand from their left, and also many cattle not accountable for sin?” (Jonah 4:3-11)
Jonah is known as the rebellious prophet. He absolutely hated the Assyrians. And with good reason! The Assyrians were incredibly brutal and bloody people. Totally godless. They did horrible atrocities to the children of Israel and Jonah was ecstatic when He heard the Lord was going to destroy Nineveh. His joy was short-lived though when God told Him to go to Nineveh and warn them of coming destruction. He knew God was merciful and gracious and he was afraid they would repent and be spared…that’s why He ran away from his assignment.
Let me tell you, when God wants something done, nothing and nobody is going to stop Him! God took Jonah to task and put him the belly of a whale for three days and three nights. Can you imagine how nasty THAT was? Jonah repented and agreed to do what God called him to do and the whale vomited him out on the beach and went on. Jonah must have been a sight and a smell too! Everybody heard about the fish that threw up the guy on the beach…including the people of Nineveh. Jonah went throughout Nineveh shouting that God was going to destroy them if they did not repent.
The leaders of Nineveh decided to repent and the whole city repented and fasted before God…and He of course, decided to spare the city. After all Jonah had been through, he still harbored so much hate towards them that he got really mad. He went out and pouted outside the city. He was sitting there with his bottom lip dragging the ground; furious with God for not destroying everyone there. What does God do? He helps Jonah by giving him a gourd for shade the first day. He challenges Jonah to consider His love for the innocents living in that city.
What amazes me about the book of Jonah is how merciful God is! God looked at all the babies in that great city who were completely innocent and all the animals. God loves ALL of His creation. He loves the animals as well as humans. Wasted lives are tragic to see. Notice the mercy He showed Jonah after all the trouble He caused Him! Jonah was probably suffering from heat exhaustion. The Middle East is notoriously hot.
Today we look at people who do wicked and evil things and think “why do they get away with that?” We even say, “boy are they going to burn in hell!” We have to realize that God sees the big picture. He has the ability to look into the future of each path we take. He looks at the most vile and evil people and He sees what their future is if they continue on this path…an eternity of fire. An eternity of torment with no way out. His mercy demands that He try to reach them before it’s too late. Jesus died for them too. He paid the price for their sins too. He created them for His purposes and His love for them will never waver. In spite of their choices here on earth, He will always love them.
Looking around at the world today, with so many evil and cruel people running around doing horrible things to their fellow-man, it’s easy to despise and hate them. In fact, it’s really hard to pray for people like that. But Jesus told His followers to “pray for those who hate you, and despise you and wrongfully treat you.” Jonah was a prophet. He was on God’s side. We are Christians. We are on God’s side too. We have to make the decision: do I still hate them because of their evil or do I follow Jesus’ example and pray for them? Like the song says “they shall know we are Christians by our love.”
The amazing thing about praying for the wicked and the evil people is that your attitude towards them will change when you begin to pray earnestly for their salvation. Something happens on the inside when you start praying for your enemies or those whom you despise and even hate. God starts moving in their lives and the devil backs off because he doesn’t want God’s attention on them. Prayer really does work miracles and can turn the most impossible situation around if you persevere.