I am very thankful for the book of Jonah, that we have been studying the last few months in our Sunday morning services. In some ways, I very much relate to Jonah. I don’t always immediately respond in obedience to the revealed will of God in my life and at times I’ve had unhealthy anger in my relationship with the Lord, not always agreeing with the trials that He’s allowed us to endure. I think it’s interesting that the book of Jonah found its way into the Word of God. It is a story of the salvation of one of the Israelites' greatest enemies. Last time we were talking about Jonah’s vision of God which grew out of his knowledge of the Old Testament. As we enter this Christmas season and we celebrate the birth of the one who has come to fully reveal the nature and character of God to us, the Lord Jesus Christ, I thought it would be good to consider Jonah’s perspective on the Lord God of the universe.
Looking at Jonah’s explanation as to why he fled to Tarshish in the first place we read, “He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity,” (Jonah 4:2 NIV). In some ways, Jonah did have a distorted view of God, like when he thought he could avoid God’s call in his life by running away in the opposite direction or he could avoid God’s call by sacrificing himself for the sake of the sailors he was with. Here in the passage before us, Jonah’s view of God is very accurate, and I would like to consider Jonah’s view of what the living God of the universe is like.
First, Jonah says that God is “gracious”. This phrase expresses God’s attitude towards those who have no claim on Him and are outside of any covenant relationship with Him. God has this position of kindness and goodness to those who do not know Him. God’s graciousness speaks of a free and spontaneous willingness to bestow good on those who are destitute and undeserving of His great blessings. Secondly, we see God described as being a God of “compassion”. The compassion of God is expressed by loving and caring for us in an understanding and tender way. Think of a mother caring for her little children and providing for them. A quote that I share many times at funerals that I preach is found in Psalm 116 where we read, “The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion,” (Ps.116:5 NKJV). We see this characteristic of God manifest in the Lord Jesus Christ when we read repeatedly in the New Testament that, “Jesus was moved with compassion”.
Then Jonah describes God as being “patient”. This is a characteristic of the nature of God that all of us should be truly thankful for. All of us have benefited from this aspect of the character of God including Israel, and especially Jonah himself. Remember Peter’s instruction when he writes regarding God’s patience, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some regard slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance”, (2 Peter 3:9 NIV). This verse tells us of God’s patience, but it also tells us why God is so patient with us desiring that no one should perish.
The fourth characteristic of God we see is that our God is a “God of abounding love”. God cares deeply for us as well as for people we resent or hate. He sent His Son to demonstrate His great love for us and to die the painful death that He did. God is interested in meeting the needs that we have in our lives. Like a nursing mother, He needs nothing to excite His love for us as His deep desire is to care for us and be in a relationship with us. God is patient with us as His servants and with those who don’t know Christ because of His abounding love for us.
The final thing we see in Jonah’s commentary about God’s nature is that God is a God of construction and not of destruction. Jonah says that God is “a God who relents from sending calamity”. God is all about being a God of construction, building the image and likeness of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ into our lives. He does this by moving in meaningful ways and just think of how even in this passage God is reaching out to Jonah to try to restore his mindset and to get rid of his anger. God is challenging Jonah that he does not have a correct estimate of the situation and God goes on to put the whole situation into a proper perspective in the remainder of the chapter.
We have been called in the Scriptures to be like the Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord Jesus Christ is like his heavenly Father and the characteristics that we just described of our heavenly Father should also be manifested in our lives as we seek to be conformed into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in the book of Romans, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers,” (Rom. 8:29 NIV). Being transformed into the image of Christ is a lifelong process. How are you doing in your conformity to the image and likeness of Jesus and practicing the characteristics of our heavenly Father that we considered today?
Serving Christ together,
Pastor Rich Sivo