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Tolerance Isn’t a Bad Word July 12, 2005

Posted by mjtilley in Uncategorized.

In the story of Jonah, God reveals that He not only permits the concept of tolerance, it is actually part His character.

  • Jonah 1:2 and 3:2 – Even though Nineveh grieves God terribly, He allows them time – at least 40 days – and even sends them a preparatory message anticipating their repentance. Even Jonah recognizes this in his defiant discourse with God in Jonah 4:2-3. Jonah notes that his own personal experience with God (likely as he lived in the increasingly pagan northern kingdom) revealed tolerance as an aspect of God’s character.
  • Jonah 1:3 – Jonah’s immediate response to a clear and direct order from Almighty God is blatantly disobeying it. To add insult to injury, God wasn’t calling on Jonah to accomplish some great feat (and even if He were, He would surely give the necessary resources); Jonah only had to spread the given message. There was no expectation of results. Even with that clear case for indicting Jonah of the greatest and most inexcusable form of disobedience, God simply lets him go. But what’s more, God didn’t just wash His hands of the errant prophet. No, He simply let Him walk until His greater plan would catch Jonah in His divine net (or great fish, as the story goes) in Jonah 1:17.
  • Jonah 3:1 – In spite of Jonah’s track record for not following orders, God gives a second chance. Even taking into account the fact that God’s omniscience and foreknowledge knew Jonah would accept the mission the second time around, God’s tolerance is still highlighted for God also knew Jonah would disobey the original command.
  • Jonah 3:10 – God withholds His judgment. And as deserved as God’s judgment always is, from a human perspective, it seems Nineveh deserved it so much more (Jonah certainly thought so!). However, God is tolerant of these sinners and provides an opportunity beyond the promised and deserved destruction.
  • Jonah 4:1-9 – While Jonah finally learned his lesson and, at least, went through the motions of obedience, his attitude remained unreformed. In this passage, we read a shocking account as Jonah doesn’t just express his anger at God’s tolerant actions, but he does so as part of a dialogue with God Himself. That means that God’s tolerance wasn’t played out with withholding judgment on Nineveh. It was extended to His bigoted prophet in order to show him a lesson in tolerance (note verses 5-8 in particular).
  • Jonah 4:10-11 – God’s tolerance is finally explained. He isn’t a pushover for someone who cries out pitifully. Cross-referenced with II Corinthians 5:19, we see that He’s in love with His creation and is seeking a relationship with it. And His creation includes not only His called out ones (Israel under the Old Covenant and the church under the New Covenant); it extends to all colors, races, socio-economic statuses, nations, religions and sexual identity (as those who claim more liberal views of Scripture like to say).


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