But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” – Jonah 4:1-2
We concur with God’s announcement of judgment against Ahab. He deserves to die. And so we are wholly unprepared for what happens in vs. 27 to 29. Who would have thought that Ahab would show such humility after his arrogant accusation in v. 20? But what is even more surprising is the Lord’s response. He relents. He postpones judgment. Is God gullible? Is He taken in by Ahab’s repentance? It is clear from the next chapter that, like many unbelievers, Ahab’s repentance is like the morning dew that quickly dries up. Many people show remorse for a time before life returns to normal.
And yet God shows mercy to Ahab. How could He? We feel this even more intensely because of the description of Ahab in vs. 25 to 26. It certainly shows that the Lord loves to show mercy. Does that bother you about God, the fact that He is merciful? Jonah hated it. The Pharisees did too. The natural man tends to think that mercy comes to the deserving. God here demonstrates that it doesn’t. Thank God it doesn’t! It certainly is instructive that Paul describes himself in the same way Ahab was described. Paul complains, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14).
No wonder he laments his wretchedness and lauds Christ for His redemption (Rom. 7:24-25).
That is the kind of God we have, one Who delights in steadfast love (Micah 7:18). Just listen to the crucified Lord Jesus asking the Father to forgive those who clamored for His death. Who would have thought?
Suggestions for prayer
Pray that the Lord would humble us so that we would see and rejoice in the fact that our salvation is ‘mercy all, immense and free’. Pray that we might point all sinners to drink from the same fountain of grace that has refreshed our souls.
This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta.