Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who did not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” Jonah 4:10–11
The story of Jonah began with God’s call for Jonah to go to Nineveh, in the hope that the people of Nineveh would repent from their evil ways. God wanted to save the great city of Nineveh from itself. God’s central act in this story, however, was an effort to save Jonah from himself. Jonah was a lost prophet. He had lost his way, his perspective, and his appreciation of God’s mercy. The story ends with Jonah wishing he were dead and God making a case for love and mercy. While we have no final response from Jonah signaling a change in his perspective, we are drawn to recognize that God has the last word . . . and there is a lingering sense that the debate will continue until God’s point is taken to heart by Jonah.
When it comes to the business of saving souls, God’s ambition is boundless. God desires to save both great and small alike. God works as relentlessly to rescue an ill-tempered prophet as a thriving metropolis—in fact, even animals don’t escape God’s interest! It is as if God will not give up until everyone in the family is saved.
Do you need to be saved from yourself?
Lord, when I think about “being saved,” images of pushy and pompously pious Christians come to mind. I am put off by the idea that there is an in-group and an out-group. But what if we are all part of the out-group: prophets, population centers, and pets alike? I may not like being told I need to be saved, but I know I need saving all the same. Save me…save us, I pray, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.