Summary: God is so merciful, he draws us back even when we run away.
God Stories – Attributes of God
The God of Mercy – Jonah May 25, 2003
Last week – the God of Justice – we are thankful that he is the God of Justice, that he does not let evil deeds go unpunished, but we are also thankful that he is a merciful God because we find it easy to say with the psalmist
“If you, O LORD , kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?” – Psalm 130:3
When we take a good look at ourselves we recognize that it is so good that
“he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.” - Psalm 103:10
Let me tell you a story of God’s mercy
I did a series in Jonah just last year at this time, but I wanted to return to it to speak about God’s Mercy
Jonah was a prophet of God whose job it was to speak the very words of God to his people. At the beginning of the book, the word of the Lord comes to Jonah: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up against me.”
Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria. And Assyria was a very powerful and significant nation. Assyria was Israel’s enemy, and Nineveh was the capital city. The Assyrians were a cruel and heartless people the stories of their violence would curdle your blood. Assyria eventually invades and destroys Israel in 722BC.
Jonah hears the word of the Lord and hops on a boat – going in the opposite direction. Have you ever done that? You know what God wants – you know what the right thing is, but you do the opposite
The Mercy of the Storm
God doesn’t let Jonah go far – after the boat has put out to sea, God sends a great wind and a huge storm. The sailors are terrified, but Jonah is asleep below deck. The Captain is so terrified that they’ve given up bailing, and stated praying – so they wake Jonah up and tell him to pray to his God – maybe one of their Gods will hear and rescue them. They draw straws to figure our whose fault this storm is – Jonah pulls the short straw, they ask him what’s up, and he tells them that he is running from the God of heaven and earth. The sailors are amazed that he would do such as stupid thing!
Jonah tells them that in order to be saved they need to throw him overboard – he may be rebelling, but he is still a prophet, and he knows the solution to the problem. They don’t want his blood on their hands, so they try to row back to shore, but the storm gets worse and they throw Jonah over into the raging sea.
As soon as he hits the water, the storm goes calm. The sailors are totally amazed and change their religion and start to serve God.
When we are trying to run from God, often times he sends a storm to bring us around. Sometimes the troubles that come our way are just the stuff of life – the troubles that are common to everyone. Other times they are persecution for doing the right thing, but there are times when troubles come because we are not following the voice of God in our lives. There are times when we are going through troubles and we want to blame the devil, but it might not be the devil that is sending troubles our way – It says that God sent the storm on Jonah!
This what I like to call “harsh grace” – it is harsh because it hurts, but it is mercy because the intention is that the storm stops us from running from God.
We see this when Peter denies Christ in the courtyard of the High Priest – Peter is trying to fly under the radar and he denies that he even knows Jesus three times. On the last time, the rooster crows, and Jesus turns around and their eyes meet. Peter recognizes what he has done and runs from to courtyard crying. The look that Jesus gives him is one of the most painful experiences of Peter’s life, but it is mercy because it wakes Peter up to what he is doing, and it stops the downward spiral of denial.
God did not have to chase after Jonah with a storm – he could have just let him go, to live out a Godless life in Tarshish, separated from the one who created him, and the one who called him. God could have got another prophet to go, but because he has mercy on Jonah he chases after him.