Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

“At Cross Purposes With God”

Categories: Congregational Bible Reading


“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the 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 1.1-3a)

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. They brutalized Israel (see Nahum 3.1-4), and he believed Nineveh deserved everything that was coming (Jonah 4.1-2). So, when God called, Jonah went the complete opposite direction. God also saw the evil in Jonah’s world, but had a different response: “Go,” he told Jonah. Instead of crushing Nineveh in immediate judgment, God sent Jonah to warn them.

God and Jonah, looking at the same people with the same information, have two completely different responses. In fact, they find themselves at cross purposes. Why? When Jonah looked at Nineveh, he saw a bunch of people who deserved to die. But God looked at Nineveh and saw people in desperate need of mercy.

A few things we learn:

  1. God sees the evil in this world. When evil persists in our world, it causes some to not only question if God cares, but even if he exists. This reminds us that God is actively working to address the evil in the world. The challenge we experience is the timeline on which God operates. Much like Jonah we would like to see God work swiftly against the unrighteous. But often God’s timeline does not align with ours.
  2. God is slow to anger as he offers mercy for everyone. He wanted Nineveh to repent and be right with him. Jonah’s personal vendetta against Assyria blinded him to his own need for mercy. God’s patience with Jonah is especially telling. He doesn’t just want Jonah to do what he told him to do; he wants him to understand what mercy looks like.
  3. God always works in the best interest of humanity. God wanted Nineveh to be right with him. God also knew Jonah had an attitude problem that needed to be addressed. The events in Jonah uncover the purpose of God’s mercy. Like Jonah, even when we are at odds with him (Romans 5.6), “[God] wishes that none should perish but all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3.9). The book of Jonah will demonstrate that not only Nineveh, but also Jonah needed mercy, and God is more than willing to offer it (Jonah 4.11).

For this reason, we need to be careful how we judge others. Maybe we don’t share the gospel with others because we don’t think they will change. Maybe, like Jonah, we don’t want them to change. We need to remind ourselves of God’s mercy towards us (Ephesians 2.4-8). When we were enemies to him, God allowed us to be reconciled to him (Romans 5.6). Like Jonah, God has commissioned us to share a message that will bring people back to him. Are obeying the voice of God or are we running away?

“…God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” (Romans 11.32)