Summary: Jonah provides us with a picture of the love, forgiveness, and compassion that God desires to bestow on each of us. We catch a glimpse of the second chance that God is longing to extend to all people through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.
Notice how verse 3 says that Ninevah was such a large city that it took three whole days just to walk across it. Jonah preached to the city of Nineveh for three days straight. His disobedience had taken him three times the distance away from God; however, the Lord revealed that His mercy was three times greater than Jonah’s disobedience. Once again, we are being reminded that God’s mercy is three times greater than our sin. The Lord wanted to make sure that the Ninevites heard His message and had the opportunity to repent.
I want you to notice how there is a stark contrast presented here between Jonah and the Ninevites. God spoke a word to Jonah, who was an Israelite and one of His own chosen people, and yet he became immediately disobedient. However, after the Ninevites, who were foreigners, had heard God’s message they were immediately obedient. They had forty days to think it over, but it appears that their repentance was immediate; and because of their immediacy in repenting of their sinful ways, God spared them His wrath. The Ninevites called out for mercy and they were saved from death and destruction. Remember, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
Jonah Protested Their Second Chance (4:1, 4:5-6)
4:1 – 1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.
4:5-6 – 5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant.
We see here one of the saddest accounts in the Bible. Jonah was hoping the Lord would destroy the Ninevites, and we read here that he was displeased that God had spared them. Therefore, he left Nineveh pouting, and he journeyed to a safe vantage point so he wouldn’t get singed when God rained down His fiery judgement on the city; and there he sat, watching and hoping for their destruction. God had shown Jonah mercy for his disobedience, but Jonah didn’t feel like anyone else deserved it. The Lord had extended compassion and rescued him from drowning at sea; however, Jonah didn’t learn that he needed to show compassion on others in return.
Jonah’s heart wasn’t right with the Lord and at this moment he was in sin; but God still showed him compassion by causing a plant to grow up and shade him from the burning sun. You see, God loves us even while we are still in sin, for we read in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God’s mercy is unlimited. We saw that His mercy is three times greater than our sin; however, that number is only figurative. In Matthew 18:21-22, we read, “Then Peter came to [Jesus] and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’.” God’s love and forgiveness towards those who have sinned against Him is unlimited; therefore, our love and mercy should be unlimited as well.