“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai saying, ‘Arise. Go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it. For their evil has come up before me,’ but Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
– Jonah 1:1–3
Thus begins the Book of Jonah. It all starts with God saying to Jonah, “There is a people, the Ninevites, a great city that they live in and they have sinned against me.” Why is God sending Jonah there? Because God loves sinners. Because God desires to make a way for their salvation. The message God is putting in Jonah’s mouth here is for the Ninevites to repent, to turn from their sin and be reconciled to God, be saved from his judgment. From the first verse in this book we see that God loves sinners. That God desires their salvation, and yet by Verse Three, we find a reluctance in God’s people to proclaim this good news of God’s love.
This Verse Calls Us away from Prejudice
Lord, help us not to be like Jonah. Keep us from prejudice towards any people when it comes to opening our mouths and proclaiming the good news of Christ.
It doesn’t make sense, does it? Why would God’s servant Jonah be reluctant to share God’s love with the Ninevites? Oh, there’s so much we can talk about here when it comes to prejudice against, even hatred for, the Ninevites, among many Israelites, but get the picture, where we, even as God’s people, are prone to prejudice, even hatred, God is prone to love. Not just prone to love, God clearly loves. I want you to think, just examine in your own heart.
Jonah 1:1–3 Encourages Gracious Love towards Sinners
Is there any person or type of people that you have prejudice against? That you are prone to think negatively of? That could be somebody right around you in your work, even in your family, in your community, in the city where you live. Is there any type of person that you’re prone to think negatively about? Then broaden that. Is there any type of person in the world that you are prone to prejudice against? Prone to think negatively about? Step back and realize that while God hates evil, that’s clear here in Jonah 1:1–3, God graciously loves sinners and desires their salvation. So much so that he calls you and me to go to the unlikeliest of people, even the people we’re prone to have prejudice against or hatred for, he calls us to go to them and to make his love known among them.
So God we pray. Help us not to be like Jonah. God, I pray for this in my own life. I pray for this in every single person who’s listening right now. Open our eyes to the prejudice we have. Open our eyes to the hatred, negativity we feel toward people. Certain types of people even. God we pray that you would change our hearts. That you would yes, give us desire for justice and hatred for evil, but God we pray that you would give us love for sinners.
Jonah 1:1–3 Reminds Us that God First Loved Us
After all, we are the first and foremost on that list, and you have loved us. God, help us not to forget that we in no way deserve your grace and your mercy and your love in our lives. As soon as we start to think that someone else doesn’t deserve it, God, help us to see our own sinfulness and to see the glory of your grace toward us and then to be compelled to make the glory of your grace known among others. Even the most unlikely. Even the most hated in a sense.
God, we pray that you would use us for the spread of the Gospel, the people right around us. That we are prone not to like, and God we pray that you would use us for the spread of the Gospel around the world. In every place and among every people group. God, help us not in any way to be prejudiced against, to work against, to be disobedient to your command to make the Gospel known among all the peoples, all the nations, every single type of person in the world.
God, we pray. Give us your heart in our lives, in our families. Give us your heart in your church that we might make your love known in the world, right where we are, and wherever you lead us. May it not be said of us that when we heard your word to go and proclaim your love, we rose and went the other direction. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.