Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, Salvation comes from the Lord. Jonah 2:8,9

The Ninevites were not deserving of grace in Jonah’s mind. In fact Jonah could not understand the nature of his grace based mission in the first place. These people should die, God needs to eliminate them.

That is often our default position it seems. God good, bad people don’t do what God wants them to do so God punishes them. This punishment based theology is deeply ingrained in us. In the world of fear, we end up relying on a God that can instill more fear, not less. It’s like nuclear MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. My God is bigger and badder than yours, so look out.

Was Jonah the best God could find for such a mission? Perhaps God chose Jonah for this very reason, to demonstrate that God has a side that offers grace more than punishment. I would call this Consequential Theology. Your view of God has certain consequences.

Were the Ninevites changed by straight up fear or did they learn a new kind of fear? Fear of a God that could love them so much that instead of killing them He could save them. Knowing how wicked they were, and how loving God was, that kind of new found fear would drive anyone to a new agreement with God. Where could you hide from, run from, or escape this God of grace? Why would you run at all with all the power He has? This new fear would drive you to your knees.

A whole new perspective on God took hold in the minds of the Ninevites. He went from Punisher in Chief to Chief Shepherd. They heard His voice and listened to His guidance.

At this point, I worry more about Jonah than I do the Ninevites. He is still stuck in Punishment Mode when God shows Himself to be in Grace Mode.

God ups the anti with love, not fists. To be sure, there are still consequences to ignoring God, even after monumental overtures of grace. Evil can still choose to ignore God.

But Jonah has yet to learn this theology. He is as much the student here as the prophet. It’s too bad that the book of Jonah does not give us more detail of how Jonah changed after this evangelistic crusade.

Fortunately Jesus Himself makes mention of Jonah in a righteous context, implying that Jonah was changed as well. It’s subtle but substantial I think that Jesus would even quote or refer to Jonah.

We too can benefit from learning what this mountain top fear is. The same fear Moses came to that burnished his face but did not destroy him, in fact it well may have saved all Israel.

These Jonah sized lessons need not be lost on us. Our Shepherd/God still acts toward us full of grace. Thank God. Fear God. Praise God