[Westmister Theological Seminary] 1998-06-08 - The Mercy of God

We all have callings, this was the calling of Jonah. The city of Nineveh was ruled by a wicked king and God sent Jonah to that city to admonish the people to repent. How great the love of God is manifested here. God could have sent a plague, an earthquake, or fire from heaven, but rather he sent a prophet to warn them. Is not God just as merciful to us today? We rebel against him, we blow our stack time and again, or any various sin we find ourselves falling into, and yet God preserves us. We are not utterly destroyed, and He has given us His Word, prayer, fellowship, confession and the Sacrament of communion to aid our walk with Him and to help restore our fellowship with Him when it is out of kilter.

So it was with Nineveh, Jonah was sent to the city rather than judgment. Jonah, the prophet sent to Nineveh, had other ideas. He headed to Tarshish rather than to his appointed destination. Again the greatness of the mercy of God. He spared Jonah, the mariners on the ship Jonah was fleeing on, and used a whale to bring Jonah to Nineveh to spare the whole city. How many times has the Lord re-directed our paths in order to spare us, someone we loved, or maybe a city? I imagine the number would surprise us.

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient to you..." (2 Peter 3:9)

Nineveh was a very ancient city (Genesis 10: 11, 12). It was known for its beauty and in the time of Jonah it was known for its wickedness. Is it any wonder that Jonah did not want to go there. He probably felt the task was beneath him. I wonder if he was thinking, "God says, 'Go to this city, speak against it, because I am going to destroy it'. Well, this world will be a better place without it, I'm off to Tarshish."

We are prone to think the same. If the situation seems helpless, or without hope, it is easy to toss in the towel and move onto a more promising endeavor. The experience of Jonah and the city of Nineveh shows us that not every situation is without hope, maybe even the ones we have recently given up on. Sometimes the city will be spared, sometimes God will work in wonderful ways and do the very things we now think impossible.

May a reminder of this story be an encouragement to many of you who long to see God do the incredible. His Word reminds us that He is in that very occupation.

"Without faith we are not fit to desire mercy, without humility we are not fit to receive it, without affection we are not fit to value it, without sincerity we are not fit to improve upon it." Stephen Charnock

"God hath in Himself all power to defend you, all wisdom to direct you, all mercy to pardon you, all grace to enrich you, all righteousness to clothe you, all goodness to supply you, and all happiness to crown you." Thomas Brooks

Soli Deo Gloria,