A Measure of Success…

Read Jonah 4

Focus on verse 1-3winners

How we measure success can be a rather subjective matter, making it downright confusing when objectives are not clearly understood. This is complicated even further when competition is introduced to the equation. When two sports teams compete for a national title there can only be one winner. Success for one team by definition spells failure for the other. While they can get some consolation from the knowledge that they made it closer to the title than all but one other team, no team enters a season with the goal of being second best.

In today’s reading the measure of success is not confused by competition, but by objectives. God’s objective in sending Jonah to declare that Nineveh would be destroyed was that the people would repent and turn from their wickedness, so by God’s measure; Jonah’s mission was a great success! Jonah’s objective, once he realized that God was not going to let him avoid the task, was to see Nineveh burn! As result when God chose not to follow through on the judgment and extended His mercy to the people of Nineveh, Jonah was disappointed and angry. He was not going to get to see these evil scumbags burn. How dare God deprive him of that, especially after all Jonah had so faithfully preached such convincing sermons – now God had made a liar out of him. Jonah felt he had every right to be angry.

God demonstrates his grace and mercy in two very important ways here. First he demonstrates his mercy to the people of Nineveh who were living in spiritual darkness, but who responded immediately to the light when Jonah delivered God’s message of judgment. Second, and perhaps more importantly, God demonstrates his grace and patience to Jonah, who just doesn’t get how arrogant and selfish he is being. The real unregenerate heart that is exposed in the book of Jonah is not the heart of the “evil Ninevites”, rather it is the darkness that is in Jonah’s heart that becomes most convicting as we come to the end of the story.

In this regard, Jonah is an important book for those of us who have lived our whole lives in the walls of the church; the religious ones among us, who look upon unregenerate sinners with a feigned outward compassion, but with inward hidden scorn. Like Jonah, we relish the thought of these evil people getting what they have coming in the final judgment, while we imagine ourselves to be God’s favorite among the chosen few. What we fail to realize is that we need God’s mercy and grace as much if not more than the sinners we are looking down our noses at.

I can’t help but think that if Jonah’s heart had been right, he might have been sitting in dust and ashes, dressed in sackcloth alongside the people of Nineveh.

True evangelism is not a righteous person helping an unrighteous person how to become righteous. It is more like “one beggar showing another beggar where to find food.”[1]

[1] Author’s note: Just wanted the reader to know that I don’t recall where this quote came from originally and I was too lazy to look it up at the time of writing. I guess that might be a failure?


About Dented-Knight

Peter Enns (aka - The Dented Knight) is a native of rural southern Manitoba, Canada. He is an ordained minister, the proprietor of LNE Web Services, father of four, grandfather of two, and life long husband of one. 
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