Showing Mercy

Key Verse: “He prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD , was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee
of the evil.”
—Jonah 4:2

Selected Scriptures:
Jonah 3:1-5, 10;
4:1-5, 11

AFTER JONAH WAS vomited onto land by the great fish, the word of the Lord came unto him a second time, telling him to go to Nineveh and to preach unto that city. This time, Jonah went as bidden by the Lord. The city was very large and to walk around its perimeter took three days. It was possibly an eighteen mile by eighteen mile square in area. As Jonah started walking around the city he cried, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”—Jonah 3:4

The people of Nineveh worshipped a fish god. Jonah was a sign and his experience with the great fish became well known. Hence, the people of Nineveh believed his message, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth. Their king not only followed suit, but made a proclamation calling upon all the people to turn from their evil ways and from violence. When God saw the reaction of these people to Jonah’s message, he did not cause the evil to come upon them as he had planned.

This action by God displeased Jonah, and he became very angry. Nineveh was a city of ruthless and cruel people who invaded other nations and showed them no mercy. Jonah prayed to God, and revealed that he had concerns about the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness towards Nineveh and balked at going to Nineveh the first time. The Lord, however, asked Jonah if he had any right to be angry.—Jonah 4:1-4

Jonah did not reply. Instead he went outside of the city and sat in a high place east of the city so that he could observe what was happening. He may have thought that when the Lord saw the true nature of these people, he might still destroy the city.

The weather was hot and dry. The Lord made a vine, or gourd, grow quickly over Jonah to shade his head, and Jonah was glad to have the relief from the scorching sun. The next morning God permitted a worm to chew the vine, causing it to wither and die. At the same time, a scorching east wind brought unbearable heat, so that Jonah wanted to die. God then asked Jonah, “Do you have any right to be angry about the vine?” Jonah had not labored to bring it forth; it came up quickly in one night and perished quickly the next night. It was strictly God’s doing. So also, the Lord pointed out to Jonah, the fate of the people of Nineveh rested strictly with him.

Mercy is a wonderful quality. It belongs to God. The proclamation made by God to Moses concerning himself was, “Yahweh, Yahweh, A God of compassion and favour, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and faithfulness: Keeping lovingkindness to a thousand generations, Forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, Though he leave not utterly unpunished, Visiting the iniquity of fathers Upon sons, And upon sons’ sons, Unto a third and unto a fourth generation.”—Exod. 34:6,7, Rotherham Translation

The contrast between God’s lovingkindness and his punishments are as a thousand generations to three or four generations. A wonderful testimony given by Jesus of his Father said, “Love ye your enemies, … Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”—Luke 6:35,36

Dawn Bible Students Association
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