Jonah was a prophet who fully understood the lovingkindness of the Lord. But he was a man who could not enjoy or appropriate it. Instead, Jonah turned God's lovingkindness into a burden for himself.
Now God was commanding Jonah to go to the wicked city Nineveh and prophesy its quick destruction. You see, the Ninevites were enemies of Israel. But Jonah ran away in haste when he heard God’s instruction. What prompted his extreme reaction? It was because he knew of the lovingkindness of the Lord. Jonah explained to the Lord, "For I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm" (Jonah 4:2).
In other words: "God, you've commanded me to tell Nineveh they have only forty days before destruction comes. But I can't do that because I know you. You are easily touched. Tears and repentance soften your heart and I know what will happen. When you see the Ninevites crying, you'll change your mind. Instead of sending judgment you'll stir their hearts toward you — and I'll end up looking like a fool!"
Finally, Jonah did go to Nineveh, but only by way of the belly of a giant fish, which spit him onto dry ground. Jonah proclaimed God's judgment to Nineveh and, sure enough, the people repented. The sin-hardened Ninevites wept, fasted, mourned and put on sackcloth, even covering their animals with mourning cloths. It was one of the most sweeping revivals ever recorded in the Bible.
Yet in the midst of all this, Jonah became angry. He actually sulked because God spared Nineveh rather than rejoicing that they were made righteous. In short, Jonah didn't enjoy God's lovingkindness.
Beloved, as the people of God, we dare not make the same mistake. We need to thank God for his merciful lovingkindness to us, his church, and to our nation.