Jonah didn't like Assyrians. He probably didn't know any of them personally, but they had a reputation for being violent and profane. They were his enemies. Jonah didn't like Assyrians.
One day, God told Jonah to go preach in Nineveh, the Assyrian capital (located where Mosul, Iraq, is today). Jonah didn't want to go. Not because he was scared, but because he didn't want God to warn the Assyrians before punishing them. Jonah was afraid the people would repent, and God would spare the Assyrians.
Jonah didn't like Assyrians. So he tried to run away from God, making a run to the coast and heading out to sea. God sent a storm that almost capsized the boat Jonah was in, and Jonah convinced the sailors to throw him overboard to save the ship. They reluctantly did so, and the storm stopped.
God didn't let Jonah drown. He sent a big fish to swallow Jonah and bring him back to dry land. Then God again told Jonah to go preach in Nineveh.
This time Jonah went. He announced God's judgment against the city, and the people believed him. They responded by turning to God, seeking his mercy. God listened to the people and spared the city.
Jonah was mad. He didn't like Assyria. He didn't like Assyrians. And frankly, he didn't care too much for God's mercy. He told 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. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live (Jonah 4:2-3).
Amazing. Jonah was so mad he wanted to die. Why? Because God spared the people he didn't like.
When Paul wrote Timothy about the need to pray for all people, he said,
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Take some time today to pray for everyone… especially the people you don't like.
To know more about the God who wants all people to be saved, write to me at Join our conversation at firstname.lastname@example.org.