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September 13 – The mercy of the pagans

“Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.” – Jonah 1:13 

Scripture reading: Jonah 1:11-16

The sailors, however, do not quickly act on Jonah’s advice. They do not want to get rid of him and throw him overboard. Why not? They were unsure of his extreme idea. One commentator suggests: “Jonah’s diagnosis is certainly correct, but is his prescription the right one?” They do not want to be guilty of shedding innocent blood, which could only increase their culpability. They don’t want to get Jonah’s God even angrier at them.

There is a contrast and irony here. Or is it compassion and concern? The heathens are concerned about Jonah, but Jonah is unconcerned about the heathens. Their treatment of Jonah is generous and chivalrous, especially after all that Jonah has done to give them a terrible day. Because of him, they lost their cargo and almost died. Even after Jonah confesses his crime, they are unwilling to throw him overboard. The pagans are concerned about the prophet, but he seems indifferent to them, doesn’t he? Isn’t it tragic when God’s people are indifferent and apathetic regarding the plight and future of those around them? Isn’t it ironic that unbelievers show more mercy and compassion than believers?

Earlier, we said that the book of Jonah is a warning to the covenant people of God. We are warned against having indifferent and apathetic hearts toward the lost people around us.

Suggestions for prayer

Pray that the Lord would reveal indifference in your heart. Pray that by the Spirit, you will grow in concern and kindness for others.

Pastor Jeremy Veldman is the co-pastor at Rehoboth United Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ontario, serving as Minister of Congregational Life. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at

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