Getting Their "Just Desserts"?

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them, and he did not do it. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning, for I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from punishment. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah 3:10-4:3 NRSV

Devotional for November 13th through the 19th


We love to see people get their "just desserts" (what they deserve). One can turn on the television during the weekday in the early afternoon and see different channels with judge shows. One of the most popular judge shows was "Judge Judy" and viewers loved to see her put plaintiffs or defendants in place depending on who was being the most outrageous and out of line; while still being an arbitrator of their disputes. Great shows and movies usually center around an idea that justice will be served, or the bad guys will be conquered. We are on the edge of our seats as we wait for the plot to develop to its climax where the good guys win, whether that took seasons of a show or even multiple movies to come to. We live for these stories.

But what happens when we see that the bad guys don't get their "just desserts"? What happens when what we thought was the just outcome for the bad guys of the plot don't receive what we think they should? Some may call it bad writing, and it may even cause fans of the show or film series to go onto blogs and forums to write out their frustrations. This I think is what we see in the story of Jonah with his prophetic mission to the Assyrian city of Nineveh. The Assyrians had the reputation of being the evil empire in the minds of the Israelites. Assyrians were brutal conquerors and crushed any resistance against them harshly. To see the destruction of the Assyrian Empire including the city of Nineveh would have been a cause for praise in the streets for the people of Israel, Jonah included.

Can you imagine his reaction when he is given a prophetic task by God to go to Nineveh and ask the people to repent so that they would receive mercy from God! Well, we know his reaction, he ran away. Jonah knew in his heart the character of God, because unlike shows and movies, God is working in reality with his creation and is interested in providing salvation to all people if they will repent. God promised to take on the "just desserts" punishment for the wickedness of people if they would repent and have faith. While God does enact judgment, his mercy is available, and His preference is for people to repent. Jonah knew this and wanted to avoid giving the opportunity to Nineveh for them to receive mercy instead of judgment because he already had in his mind a vision of what justice would look like for the people of that city. His plot was different than God's plot, his plot was from a human perspective, while God's was from a salvation perspective.

Eventually Jonah went to Nineveh (after contemplation inside a fish) but even there we see him still complaining about God's character in dealing with people Jonah deemed evil. In reality, all of us are sinners, all of us have fallen short of the glory of God, and while we can create hierarchies of who is worse than another, in the end we are all in need of the saving merits of Christ in our lives. We should rejoice when others we deem as evil choose to repent rather than praying for their total destruction.

Today, is there a person or group that you may view through the lens that Jonah viewed Nineveh? Is God working on your heart to tell you to spread the gospel to them, but you feel a resistance because you don't like that person or group? Are you even running away from God to avoid potentially keeping that person or group from receiving their "just desserts"?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, I implore you to take a step back from your own perspective of how you feel the plot of their lives should be and look at your own plot. Where would you be without God's mercy today? Did you really receive your "just desserts" or has God given you a new life and story to tell? How beautiful is it then, when God may ask us to be part of the process of giving that person or group we don't like, a chance at a new life and story to tell as well!

If you're given that opportunity, don't follow the example of a Jonah, running away or begrudgingly going about the work because you don't think God is being fair, but rather follow the example of be Christ who choose to mingle with those people, show them sympathy, meet their needs, win their confidence, and then ask them to follow Him for their salvation. Embrace being a herald of God's mercy and salvation to anyone (even people we may not like) and pray that the climax of their life story will be a life changing relationship with God, rather than receiving their "just desserts".

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