God\'s Great Mercy

From the time I was a little kid in Sunday School, I loved Bible stories. I grew up hearing about Adam and Eve, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, and of course, Jesus… usually all on a flannelgraph board.

One of my all-time favorite stories was Jonah and the “whale.” I was always captivated by the story – Jonah runs away from God, gets caught in a storm, and is eaten by a fish. Wow! As if that wasn’t cool enough, the story doesn’t end there. God makes the fish vomit Jonah back up – yep, it’s gross – and gives him a second chance to do what God asked. And because he does, a nation of people experience God’s love.

As a kid, the story was exciting! But as an adult, the story moves me to tears.
See, the older I’ve become, and the longer I’ve known Jesus, one thing has become crystal clear: God’s mercy is greater than I’ll ever know.

Mercy is showing compassion and forgiveness when you have the ability to show punishment. And what I understand now is that the story of Jonah is full of God’s mercy.

He shows mercy to the lost.

God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh, a people who were known for their violence and wickedness. And He doesn’t send Jonah to condemn them, but to extend mercy. He has the ability to destroy them, yet he chooses to love them instead.

He also chooses to rescue a boat full of pagan sailors on the way. He spares their lives, even though they are calling on false gods to rescue them. And as soon as they experience the power of the true God, they turn their lives to Him.

How incredible that God is willing to do whatever it takes to reach those far from Him (2 Peter 3:9; Romans 5:8).

He shows mercy to Jonah…and those who run from Him.

If there was an award for “Best Prophet,” Jonah wouldn’t even be nominated. He doesn’t just refuse to do what God asks, he runs the opposite direction.

God could have replaced, punished, or destroyed Jonah. Or worse, He could have given him exactly what he wanted – complete separation from God. But instead, God pursued Jonah. He reminded Jonah that He was ultimately in control and that Jonah could not do anything to be removed from His presence.

What a comforting thought! There’s nowhere we can go that we’re out of God’s presence. Even in our darkest moments, He is with us, extending mercy (Psalm 139:7-12).

He shows mercy to us.

Ultimately, Jonah’s story is our story. We’re all lost people, broken by our sin, running from God. But God loves us deeply and he meets us where we’re at with mercy.

Ephesians 2:3-5 tells us:

All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature, we deserved God’s wrath, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so deeply, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

God’s greatest act of mercy happened through Jesus. And when I take time each day to remember God’s great mercy, I can’t help but worship Him.
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