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God’s love for the lost is perfectly summed up in John 3:16: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (NASB).
Christians should make it a priority to embrace God’s love for the lost. We may not actually say it, but oftentimes we convey the message that God loves us who have accepted His Son more than He loves those who have not. The truth is that God loves the lost just as much as He loves those of us who have accepted Christ as our Savior.
Jonah experienced this truth after God sent him to preach a message of destruction to the people at Nineveh, saying that in 40 days Nineveh would be overthrown. After Jonah preached that message, the people repented and God changed His mind concerning the judgment He had intended (Jonah 3:10).
How did Jonah feel about God’s change of mind? “It greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry” (Jonah 4:1, NASB). Perhaps Jonah was angry because when God changed His mind, it made Jonah look like a false prophet, preaching gloom and doom that didn’t occur. Or perhaps it was because Jonah realized that the people of God did not have exclusive access to the love of God. At any rate, Jonah was very angry.
Jonah’s Lack of Love for the Lost in Nineveh
Jonah’s dislike for the people of Nineveh is evident throughout the book that bears his name. Here is how he demonstrated his lack of love for the people of that city.
1. Jonah rebelled against God’s instructions to preach to Nineveh. When God first told Jonah to go east to preach to Nineveh, he went west to Tarshish hoping to flee God’s presence. Note why Jonah said he did this:
“I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity” (Jonah 4:2, NASB).
Clearly, Jonah did not want God to extend those divine attributes to Nineveh.
2. Jonah opposed God’s decision to spare Nineveh. Being a prophet, Jonah was a messenger of God. But Jonah was livid about God’s to spare Nineveh. “Please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life,” Jonah requested (verse 3).
3. Jonah showed more compassion for a plant than he did for Nineveh. As Jonah sat on a booth waiting to see what would become of Nineveh, God raised up a plant to give him shade. The next day, God prepared a worm to destroy the plant. When the sun came up, God also sent a powerful east wind against Jonah. Again, Jonah became so angry about it that he begged to die (Jonah 4:8).
God rebuked Jonah for having more compassion for the plant God killed than he did for the people of Nineveh God spared (verses 10-11).
In a nutshell, Jonah was a servant of God but he didn’t embrace the love of God for the lost. No servant of God like that can effectively serve God. But I believe some, perhaps many, of God’s people today are just like Jonah.
So, here is a question each of us should seriously ask ourselves: Am I guilty of being a servant like Jonah was?
Copyright © 2021 by Frank King. All rights reserved.