Last week the girls and I read the book of Jonah. It is a pretty short book, only four chapters, but such a beautiful picture of God's love for the Gentiles.
I have wondered in the past why God ever chose Jonah for the job of missionary. He was in fact the first missionary to the gentile people. But he wasn't the guy with his hand up.
In fact, it seems pretty clear that sheer enthusiasm for the job was not a requirement in God's book.
We read what may be the key in chapter four, where Jonah said:
I know that You are a gracious
and merciful God,
slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness,
one who relents from doing harm.
- Jonah 4:2
God may have sent Jonah, not just to show us the lessons we often pull from it-- that we should be merciful to those we do not like, or that we cannot run from God-- but because Jonah knew God's forgiving nature which actually made him a really good representative.
He believed God and took Him at His Word.
In fact, God used him to lay out the truth of the One true God "who made the sea and dry land" on his way to the sailors who were likely followers of Baal, the sky god.
And following Jonah's early exit from the ship, the men offered sacrifice to God and took vows-- indicating that Jonah told them more than was recorded for us.
God has always wanted clear representation.
You remember when Moses was told to speak to the rock in the wilderness, but chose to scold the people and smite the rock instead? That did not go over too well.
What God said: "Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield water..." Numbers 20:8
What Moses did: "And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, 'Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock? Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out..." Numbers 20:10-11
Hear now, you rebels? Not the representation God wanted.
God chose to make his servant Moses the example instead (Numbers 20:12: Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.").
We must believe God and represent him as Jonah did.
God is merciful. God is gracious. He is slow to anger and He relents when we repent.
Jonah needed some heart correction to become more like God (just like you and I do all the time!), but he knew God. And he knew that God is merciful. Pass it on!