God sent Jonah to Nineveh, a Gentile .city, to warn them of impending judgment if they did not repent. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, a pagan city, which had a reputation for brutality and torture and was nicknamed “the city of blood” (Nahum 3:1 NIV). For that reason, Assyria was a dreaded enemy, not only to Israel, but also to the surrounding nations. Nineveh apparently was as great in wickedness as it was in wealth and power. Jonah wanted no part of God’s deal with them. He headed in the opposite direction, far away from Nineveh. He got onto a ship that was bound for Tarshish, not for Nineveh. He went below deck, lay down, and then fell into a deep sleep.
When God caught up with him, he gave an honest but sad excuse for his behavior. He said to God, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2 NIV).
Regarding salvation, the Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? . . . Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:13-14, 17 NIV). Jonah must have thought if he didn’t declare God’s word, Nineveh wouldn’t know the truth that would lead the people to repentance and subsequently to forgiveness. After all, he did not believe they ought to be pardoned. He wanted them to face the impending doom, and that would have been a blessing in disguise for Israel—obliteration of their enemies forever.
Scripture, however, teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (See Matthew 5:44 NIV). Jonah could not forgive the enemies of Israel, but God could! The souls of our enemies are just as important to God as the souls of our loved ones, and that is why He wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. (See 1 Timothy 2:4 NIV).
You need to answer two important questions.
One: are you neglecting to share the word of God with any particular group of people because you don’t care for them, or because, in your assessment, they are anti-God, terrorists, and etcetera? It is not for us to decide who should or shouldn’t be pardoned. We need to work with God’s agenda, not our own. He came to save all, He died to save all, and He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly! Every soul matters to God!
Two: are you running away from God because you disagree with His ideas or plans? You will not get very far. God knows where you are every second, and he can find you without looking. Learn from Jonah’s mistake, make a U-turn, and go in the direction God is leading you.
God gives second chances. He gave Jonah a second chance, and said to him a second time, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give to you” (Jonah 3:2 NIV). If you’ve been running away from your assignment, stop; God will give you another chance. Running away is just a waste of time, because God’s plans will always prevail!