“That is why I made haste 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 4:2
Scripture reading: Jonah 3:10-4:3
When we read this passage, we don’t know whether to laugh or cry. We might laugh because what Jonah says is so dramatic and silly. But we might cry because we also see a bit of ourselves in Jonah. Jonah is very angry when he sees that God has relented from the disaster He had planned.
When Jonah describes God’s character, he is quoting from Exodus 34:6. God described himself this way when Moses had come up Mount Sinai after the Israelites had made and worshipped the golden calf. At that time, God had revealed his patience and mercy to a very undeserving people. Jonah knew that! But this was different because these Ninevites weren’t Israelites; they were Israel’s mortal enemies. Jonah was not okay with his God showing mercy to his own enemies. As Hugh Martin notes, Jonah’s sin here is ‘pretending to be more careful of God’s glory, and more qualified to advance it, than God himself.’ Jonah wishes he could tell God what to do. Whereas Jonah was running from God in chapter 1, he now tries to run God!
God is bigger than we can fathom. We only have a limited grasp of His character. It is a marvellous thing to know that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and relenting from disaster.
Suggestions for prayer
Praise and thank God for his character, and for his patience and love towards us. Pray that we might have a right understanding and deep appreciation of his character.
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 NTGDevotional.com.