Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.
– Jonah 4:5, NIV
And so, Jonah built himself a shelter to watch God, hopefully, smite the Ninevites. He made a “Smiting Shelter,” so to speak. Jonah wanted to watch God punish the Ninevites for their wicked deeds. He had bought front row seats to the show. And he was ready for God to perform with the fullest of justice.
But God didn’t.
He had mercy on the Ninevites.
Because they humbled themselves and repented of their sin (see Jonah 3:6-10).
Forgiveness means we do not build “Smiting Shelters.” We hand over our grievances and hurts to God fully. Then we “walk” away.
And we do not build proverbial places to observe our cheating exes and company until God brings down hell fire for what they have done to us (and our kids). The example of Jonah reminds us that such building is improper for God’s people.
Another part of the story that encourages me–and I hope you as well–is that God is not so hard on Jonah. He does not strike him dead on the spot for building a “Smiting Shelter.”
He uses the situation to teach Jonah a lesson (read on in chapter four to see this). God is very patient with the ones He loves. And He dearly loves us, faithful spouses. So, my point from that is to cut yourself some slack if you spent time building your own “Smiting Shelter.”
God is patient.
He does not condemn the ones He has redeemed.
God lovingly corrects His children.
Finally, I want to point out that God’s wrath is adverted only because the Ninevites humbly turned from their wicked ways demonstrating such with action (see Jonah 3:6-10). My point in this is repentance is still needed to avoid judgment. This isn’t cheap grace.
It will be a fearful reckoning for all who have not sought and obtain God’s forgiveness on the Judgement Day. And when God forgives, He calls us–like the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11b)–to go and sin no more!
***A version of this post previously ran on the blog.