No doubt God is long-suffering in winning sinners. He does not despair from anyone no matter how deep his wickedness is.
He did not despond of Nineveh the corrupted wicked atheist city which could not discern between its right and its left. He did not despond of Jonah, the severe, the hardhearted person who resisted God's will, adamant to his word, so unconcerned about the salvation of more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons but his word should not fall to the ground. God did not despond of the mariners who used to worship many gods.
God is enduring in winning sinners, and sees that he who does not repent today may repent tomorrow, and he who does not repent now may repent later.
Jonah refuses to go to Nineveh and takes a ship and flees. But God is patient with Jonah: "I will be patient with you, Jonah, until you go in the end. If you do not go to Nineveh this time you will surely go to it a next time even if you flee from Me. I will continue to pursue you until you return. If you enter into a ship I will enter with you and encompass you all around. If you go down into the sea, I will go with you. If enter into the belly of a whale, I will enter with you. My eyes will be on you everywhere until you return. Do not think that the world can succeed in making you flee from Me, nor that your obstinacy can keep Me away from you nor can keep you away from Me.
Indeed, how beautiful is the saying of David the Prophet:
"Where can I go from Your Spirit? And where can I flee from Your presence?" (Ps. 139:7).
Man is very harsh in his dealings. We sometimes become easily angry with our friends and from the least behavior cut our relation with them, forgetting the former love between us. We become intolerant quickly and cannot endure. One action from people makes us unjustly judge their whole life and not change our minds.
But God is not so. He does not forsake His beloved quickly no matter how much they err.
If one of us were asked by God to give an opinion on Jonah, he would probably have said: "Why do you keep Jonah, Lord, when he is like that? You have tried him and found him disobedient, esteeming his word. Use another person. Do You not have someone else? Undoubtedly You have many. You are able to raise up children to Abraham from stones (Matt. 3:9). Leave this Jonah who disobeyed You and who could not even obey You like the worm which obeyed when You ordered it to smite the plant, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. The worm was better than him! But he stood against Your order. Did he want to impose his own will on You? What is the meaning of his persistence that You should kill more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who repented and returned to You? Do not look at such a person. There are many who are more obedient than him, and more submissive and faithful to You than him."
But God endures Jonah the disobedient and the obstinate. He endures him until He reforms him, convinces him and makes him understand the right way, raises him a great prophet and makes him a symbol of His death and resurrection, and names a holy Book after his name, and designates for him an everlasting commemoration in His Church, and antiphons and hymns to venerate him. This is God's work with His children. Blessed be His name.
God's long-suffering is also manifested in the respite of forty days which He gave to Nineveh. He did not take them by their wickedness abruptly but He gave them a chance to repent.Another lesson we take from the Book of Jonah is that God is for all.
God Is Prepared to Relent
H. H. Pope Shenouda III
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