Remembering God’s Mercy
God delights to save people.
When God commanded His servant Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against it because of its wickedness, the reluctant prophet recognized that the people might repent of their evil ways and that God would respond in mercy (see Jonah 4:2). He knew that God is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6-7). He knew the truth that God would one day speak through the prophet Jeremiah: “If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it” (Jeremiah 18:7-8).
Jonah knew that God’s heart is a heart of mercy—so Jonah refused to obey God’s command. Why?! Apparently, he simply didn’t like the people of Nineveh, and understandably so, for the Ninevites were aggressive, vicious, and violent pagans and were feared enemies of Israel. Jonah did not want the Lord to spare them—so later, when the people of Nineveh turned from their wickedness, “it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry” (Jonah 4:1). Jonah felt they were deserving of God’s judgment. And he was right! But thankfully, God’s ways of dealing with nations and cities and individuals are not our ways. God’s desire is to show mercy, and not to bring judgment.
God’s compassion on Nineveh is a reminder to us that He does not wish that any should perish and that He delights in saving people, especially those who appear least deserving (2 Peter 3:9). Jonah wanted to preach only where he wanted to preach and to whom he wanted to preach. But the gospel message is for everyone, everywhere. Today the good news of Jesus is not limited to “nice” people, to people who look and act and think like us. Indeed, Jesus commanded His followers, “Go … and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, emphasis added).
What immense mercy! God is passionate in His pursuit of the proud, the stubborn, and the defiant—people just like me, people just like you. He calls us to be zealous to “rescue the perishing, care for the dying,” to “tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.” The triune God desires to save sinful people—He desires their salvation enough to come and die for them. Do you share His heart? If you do, you will desire the salvation of those around you—whoever they are and whatever they have done—enough to go and share Christ with them.
19For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
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