When it comes to stories that depict the mercy of God in the bible, there is none like that of Jonah. Although we read of him in 2nd Kings 14:25 as a prophet of God and how he predicted the restoration of the northern kingdom’s boundaries, he is most noted for the story which we read of in the Old Testament known by his name. Interesting to note that the name Jonah signifies a dove. The story is one about mercy, not only for those lost, but for Jonah himself, a servant of God.
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh,
that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
We first find Nineveh mentioned in Genesis 10:11 where we find that its start came from Nimrod, the son of Cush. At the time of Jonah, we learn that its population was at least “one hundred and twenty thousand” (4:11). The city, filled with wickedness that had come up before the Lord much like it did Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:20-21. Jonah was to go and “cry out against” this wickedness. Jonah’s problem was, he did not like that idea, for the city of Nineveh was their enemy filled with Gentiles. So, he tried to run from the Lord only to find himself in the belly of a great fish. God, rich in mercy, bears with His rebellious prophet and frees him from the belly of the fish. Once again, God told Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2). Jonah does so, saying, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). You Gentiles are doomed!
So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast,
and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.
Remember, mercy is God not giving us what we deserve and that is what God did here. We read, “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). Jonah then revealed his deep-seated issues with this gentile city. We read in Jonah 4:2-3, “So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” From this point forward in the story, God extends mercy towards His prophet Jonah.
God works with him to help open his eyes to the glorious hope of God’s mercy that was displayed by His relenting on destroying Nineveh. The only evidence that Jonah came around is the fact that we now have this letter. And what we glean from it is simple. God is merciful and His children need to proclaim it to a lost and dying world. Praise God for His mercy.