Like the salty spray can wear away rock, so can bitterness erode love in the heart of a child of God.
Jonah was a prophet of the Most High. 2 Kings 14:25
The Lord gave him a specific prophecy.
Jonah 1:1-2 NKJV — Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
Unfortunately, Jonah choose disobedience.
Jonah 1:3 NKJV — But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
The Lord was merciful and sent a storm, then a fish. Jonah 1:4-17, 2
For the Lord corrects His children.
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
Proverbs 3:11-12 NKJV
Then He speaks to Jonah again.
Jonah 3:1-2NKJV — Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.”
This time Jonah obeys and his message is a difficult one.
Jonah 3:4 NKJV — And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
These pagan people turn and repent, including their king.
Jonah 3:7-9 NKJV — And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?”
God was merciful.
Jonah 3:10 NKJV — Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
Jonah not only experienced God’s mercy himself, he saw God extend mercy to an entire city which had previously been enemies of His people.
With such incredible works of God, one would expect His servant to rejoice.
But that’s not what happened.
Jonah 4:1-3 NKJV — But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”
Jonah couldn’t rejoice in the saving of the city, because he didn’t want it saved.
In Jonah, we see what happens to a child of God who allows bitterness to take root.
Bitterness, towards these enemies of his nation, had robbed him of his ability to love and trust God knew what was best.
In his heart he knew God’s character, but he wanted judgment not mercy.
The human heart is often at odds with the Word of God, for at the same time we want mercy and grace for ourselves and our loved ones, but we want judgment and punishment for those who have hurt us.
But that is not what God calls His people to.
James 3:9-10 NKJV — With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
Matthew 5:44-45 NKJV — “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Jonah is a warning for us, to not allow bitterness to override our love and devotion to God.
Rather, we need to be quick to forgive those who have wronged us, placing our trust in God, who sees all, even the depth of each heart.
For we can not truly love God if we are holding on to bitterness.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Romans 12:19-21 NLT
Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for Your Word. Thank You for the story of Jonah. Lord, I am amazed at Your mercy and grace throughout. You use Jonah’s disobedience, You save an entire city of wicked people, You even teach Your stubborn hard hearted servant a lesson. Thank You! Lord, please help us to learn from these things. Help us to be quick to forgive, honest with ourselves and You when we are hurting. Lord, please teach us how to love our enemies. Please shine Your truth into this dark world and let those who have yet to know You come to a knowledge of You, Lord. Please work through Your children to bring the message of hope to this world. Thank You. Amen.