And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city. ..? – Jonah 4:11a
One of the hard things Jesus calls us to do, as His disciples, is to show love to our enemies. This was and is not a new command. God had asked Jonah to do this many years before Jesus walked through the land of Israel.
The people of Nineveh were great enemies of the people of Israel. The Ninevites liked hurting, killing, and causing great fear in the hearts of their enemies, including God’s people. Jonah ran from bringing a message to Nineveh the first time because he wanted God to destroy this city and not show pity to them. God redirected Jonah back to Nineveh because He cared for this wicked, rebellious, idol-worshiping people.
Jonah knew that his own people, the people of Israel, were also wicked, but thought they deserved God’s mercy instead of those wicked Ninevites. In sending Jonah to Nineveh, God sought to teach Jonah and all His people three great lessons. The first lesson has to do with who we are. If our hearts have been changed and we are part of God’s people, it is not because we are so good. The second lesson is that if we are God’s people, we are not to see ourselves as trophies to sit and be proud of who we are. We are to see ourselves as instruments in God’s hands to show that God does care for people like the Ninevites and people in our communities. Thirdly, God can change the heart of anyone to repent, so we should be willing to bring God’s words to anyone.
Suggestions for prayer
That we would have the heart of God and care for the people around us and so be willing to get to know people in our communities to tell them the good news of Jesus Christ.
This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life. The painting is “Jonas and the whale” (circa 1552) author unknown.