Have Mercy

Have Mercy

Jonah was not happy. God had just spared the people of Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria, the arch-enemy of the Israelites, from the judgment that He had planned for them. For Jonah, because he was an Israelite, the right thing for God to have done would have been to wipe the Ninevites off of the face of the earth for their idolatry and oppression of Israel. But instead, after they repented, God forgave them and did not judge them. Jonah explained exactly why this made him angry when he said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That this 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 loving-kindness and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:1-2 ESV). So the reason Jonah did not want to go preach repentance to Nineveh was because he knew that God would have mercy on them. Jonah did not want this to happen because he had no mercy in his heart for the Ninevites. After Jonah said this, God spent the rest of the chapter rebuking him for his lack of mercy.

I believe that the main point of the book of Jonah is that God is a merciful God. So let’s take a look at the book of Jonah and some cross-references to answer the what, why, and how of mercy.

What is Mercy?

Mercy has commonly been defined as “not giving someone the punishment that he/she deserves.” The book of Jonah gives three examples of God showing mercy. First, even though Jonah tried to flee from God’s command and deserved to be drowned on his way to Tarshish, God spared his life by sending a great fish to swallow him and spit him up back on dry land. Second, God spared the sinful, but repentant, people of Nineveh even though they had done atrocities against God’s covenant people. Third, even though Jonah complained against God’s mercy and asked to be killed, God did not kill him but instead taught him a lesson about mercy. In all these cases, God forgave them their sin and did not give the rebellious people the death they deserved.

Why should we have mercy?

Because we have been shown mercy. Whenever we do not show other people mercy, we are forgetting that we have already been shown great mercy by God. Jonah should have shown the people of Nineveh mercy because he had already been shown the exact same kind of mercy through God’s sending of the fish. In the same way, Paul tells us in Ephesians that while we were enemies of God and dead in our sins, God, being “rich in mercy,” made us alive together with Christ (2:4-5). We deserved to stay dead in our sins and separated from God forever, but in His mercy, He gave us new life and has seated us with Christ in heaven. How can we not show others mercy when we have been forgiven such a great debt?

Because if we show mercy, we will receive mercy and vice versa. In Matthew 5: 7, Jesus says “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” But in Matthew 6: 15, Jesus also says that “if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” In the same way, James tells us that “judgment will be without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (2:13). If Jonah had considered these verses, then maybe he would not have been so quick to wish for death. Only the merciful will receive mercy in the kingdom of God. The ones who show no mercy will not receive mercy.

Because it reflects God’s character. This is the most important reason. Last month at the Transform Student Conference, we learned that when we practice “true religion,” we display God’s character for the entire world to see. It is no different with mercy. In Jonah 4, Jonah calls God “a gracious God and merciful” and in Ephesians 2, Paul says that God’s nature is “rich in mercy.” As Christians, we know that God is making us into the image of His Son and that we are the light to the world to show them the things of God. So showing mercy is not something we do simply because we are commanded to do so, but we do it mainly because when we do it, we are displaying God’s character in a worshipful way.

How do we cultivate a heart of mercy? 

To answer this question, I have just three points:

  • Preach the Gospel to yourself daily.
  • Earnestly pray that the Holy Spirit would do a work in your heart.
  • Do it with Joy.  




If you happen to know Richard you know that he lives with purpose! Richard has been around the Precept Ministries for years and has most recently served as one of our summer interns. Richard attends Lee University and hopes to someday be a college professor.



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