In my opinion, some of the saddest verses in the entire Bible are found in the book of Jonah. From the point where God clearly directed Jonah to go to Nineveh and he headed in the opposite direction … to the great fish swallowing him and Jonah describing his surroundings as hell … to being thrown up onto the shore … There are a number of bad things revealed in the book of Jonah … but, none of these is the worst. Here it is …
“And God saw their works, that they [the people of Nineveh after Jonah preached to them] turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry” (Jonah 3:10-4:1).
You have heard this preached before, I am sure, but read that first verse of chapter four one more time: “But it DISPLEASED Jonah EXCEEDINGLY, and he was VERY ANGRY.” What a horrible evangelist Jonah was! He preached the message of God (which always carries the power of God with it despite the messenger), and then he was disappointed when God moved in the hearts of men.
Jonah had a problem that I am afraid many of us have today as well. Jonah’s main problem was not that he hated Nineveh so much. The problem that he had that many of us share is that Jonah forgot how wretched he was before God saved him. That’s right, I used the word “wretched.” I have noticed that our modern hymnals and song-books have changed that word in the old hymns to something that sounds much better. The truth is that we are all WRETCHED, and lost in our sin, without hope apart from God’s grace.
Many of us are guilty of the same thing today. We love to look down our spiritually pious noses at the horrible sinners that are all around us today. We have a much easier time praying for the fire of God to come down and consume the sinners around us than we do praying for God to give us just one more chance to witness to those same people before it is too late.
I did not write this today to pound you into dust. I wrote it today to encourage you to ask God to give you the same heart for souls that He has today. God wants all the “Ninevites” to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! He is not willing that any should perish, but that all sinners would repent. Will you have the same heart as God today? It’s your choice.