Jonah 4:5-11 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Jonah was brooding outside the city of Nineveh because God had decided to spare the city. He knew that it would happen if he preached to the city and he was very unhappy with God: "“O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster" (4:2). To help Jonah understands how silly his attitude was, God caused a plant to grow over Jonah to shield him from the sun. The next day, God caused the plant to wither and die. Jonah was angry that the plant died. And God's reply was: "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Jonah knew that God's priority and preference for humankind is to bless, not to judge and inflict pain. He is like all good parents who want only the best for our children. But when they become defiant and rebellious, we would have to inflict discipline so that they would recognize their wrongdoing and turn from their wickedness. God has created this beautiful Universe of suns, stars, and Planet Earth in order to bless humans with abundant provisions. So when humans deliberately undermine God's moral universe and turn it into a disaster zone, God's priority is to put things right by removing evil from this Universe. There are two ways he could do it: firstly, He could purge His Creation of the source of the evil (unrepentant sinners, the Devil and his angels would suffer that ultimate fate in the lake of fires). Or He could transform these sinners into saints by forgiving their sins and cleansing them from sins. Either way, He restores His Creation to His original pristine moral condition, which is His ultimate goal and glory.
But He could not just forgive human wickedness without any penalty. Since, God wants to spare us, He has to find a substitute to take that penalty, So, God in His great love and mercy sent His own Son to be that Sin-Substitute, so that humans can be spared. At the Cross, Jesus took upon Himself our punishment. So, when Jesus cried out at the Cross, "It is finished!" he declared that the foundation for mercy has been laid. Now anyone--whether he or she lives before the Cross or after the Cross--can be forgiven of their sins and be cleansed when they repent: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Not just forgiven, but cleansed. The Universe can be purged of all traces of sin through faith in Christ's done deal on the cross!
And that is not the end of the story: God puts His Spirit within every believer so that we can be transformed from sinners to saints and become new moral persons in Christ. He does not forgive us to leave us unchanged. He clothed us with Christ-like character and disposition through the indwelling Spirit.
Thank You Father that You rather bless than curse. Thank You that You not only forgive us in Christ but You also cleanse us and transform us to become like Christ in this life. Amen.