Friday, August 16, 2013

jonah: wait... there's more? (part 5)

Hasn't it been great to study the book of Jonah? I don't know about you, but I learned a lot of lessons from this book and was greatly blessed to see that all of Nineveh repented and turned to the Lord. What a wonderful testimony to those people. What a great reminder of our God's mercy and grace. Ahhhhh.

What? There is one more chapter, you say? But how can that be? The city was saved - didn't Jonah complete his mission for God? What more is there to talk about? Let's see...

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.

Wait, why is he still angry? Didn't a whole city just turn to God? If I had witnessed that, I would have been jumping for joy, but the scripture says he was "greatly" displeased. Why so upset, Jonah?

He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

Did I read that correctly? Jonah is upset because he knew all along that God would be gracious and compassionate to Nineveh? He is actually disturbed by the fact that these people were saved - and saved for all the right reasons? Also, is it me, or is Jonah being a drama queen over it - begging God to take away his own life? Oh, Jonah. What happened to you, man? Whatever it is, it must have been devastating. It must have changed your whole outlook on life. What turns the heart of a child of God to be so angry and distraught that they would actually wish for a whole city to go to hell as well as pray for death themselves?

But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"

This fourth chapter is more like an addendum to the rest of the book and it contains many lessons for us. One main point is that both God and man can be in disagreement. We can choose to be angry with God and others. We are free moral agents with free wills and can choose our own viewpoint - even if it is against God's viewpoint. However, God knows that His viewpoint is correct and healthiest for us. He made us to be in agreement with Him. That said, He will not force us into any issue... he will, however, try to teach us. Here, we see that Jonah has the choice to love or not to love others. Unfortunately, the backslidden prophet with a very strong will has decided not to love. His heart is so hard against Nineveh that he cannot rejoice in their redemption.

It is clear that Jonah was quite familiar with the ways of God. He knew God was merciful. He knew God well enough to surmise that anyone... ANYONE who repented to Him would indeed be saved. He hated that this included the Ninevites. So much so, that he'd rather be dead than witness it. Wow... that's an angry, bitter Christian.

It is clear that poor Jonah had been through the mill. Think about it. He had likely seen great devastation in his home town from the Assyrian army. He then is asked to do something by God that he is absolutely against... so he runs away. Then the whole fish/lost at sea experience. Then, he finally does what God asks and sees the people he hates more than anyone saved from destruction. This is a man overwrought and overstimulated. He is emotionally exhausted. He is consumed with disappointment. He is someone who is ready to just give up because life is too difficult to accept. Have you ever been there? Have you ever been so angry with how life has gone that you are just ready to give up and throw in the towel? Have you ever been wronged in such a way that you can't bring yourself to love?

Notice how graciously God deals with the festering heart of a defeated Jonah...

Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.

But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint.

He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live."

It is amazing how attached we can get with other living things that are not human - such as a dog or cat... or in Jonah's case, a vine. Sometimes people love their pets more than other people. They talk sweetly to them and spoil them with unconditional love while treating others in their life with disdain and hatred. We see this example in Jonah. He is alone and out of fellowship with God. He has no friends in Nineveh or anywhere else mentioned. His life is lonely. So, what does God do? He gives Jonah a vine to get attached to. And boy, does Jonah love that vine!

Just as miraculous as the great fish in the sea, God brings a worm to chew on Jonah's favored little vine. The vine dies. Then, the hot sun beams down upon poor Jonah. So what does he do? He gets more and more angry with God and again becomes dramatic, wishing to be dead because life is so unsatisfying. Forgetting all the blessings that God continues to give him... forgetting all the miracles that God demonstrates before him, Jonah sulks about his horrible life and is consumed by hatred and bitterness. Then God gives the lesson.

But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"

"I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."

But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" (Jonah, Chapter 4)

God teaches Jonah that a vine is nothing in contrast to the soul of a human being. Furthermore, you don't necessarily need to be emotionally attached to someone in order to demonstrate love to them. No, you don't need to be moved by a picture of an orphan or a country suffering from famine to express love as God has called us to love and minister to the world. Yes, those people are indeed important... but so is your grouchy next door neighbor who you avoid rather than pray for. So is your ex-husband who cheated on you, your mother in law who sabotages you, your co-worker who throws you under the bus, your arch enemy who talks behind your back. Emotions are not a prerequisite to our sharing the gospel and loving these "others". We must choose to love them. We must live it out every day in order to glorify God's name.

Yes, love is a difficult, but godly choice. Knowing what is best for us, God commands us to extend love to ALL people, even our enemies. Irrespective of how they have treated us, we are to forgive and view every person as valuable. Why? Because that is how God views them. We are to go and share God's Word with them and pray for them regularly. Why? Because that is what God calls us to do. In short, we are to be busy following God's viewpoint and not our own. His ways are always good and healthiest for us - whether or not we agree with His plan is secondary. God's word is correct for our lives. We must believe Him and follow His way. Period. This is His righteousness.

The lesson here is to always follow God's Word and not our own emotions or feelings. Otherwise, we can easily deceive ourselves with our own stubbornness, hatred and anger. We each are capable to oversee predominant miracles and be blinded by our own self-righteousness. This is because we are corrupt and need God's guidance to find real truth. We can waste valuable time by getting lost in our own bitterness and disappointment. So, in order to live godly, we must choose to love and forgive those we dislike and wisely use our time as God's Word advises. We must spend our days ministering to everyone we know and meet. We must live seeking and sharing the Kingdom rather than swimming in a sea of discontent. We must love... because Christ loved us!

Ladies, God wishes for us to enjoy His fullness, but we cannot do so if we are lost in our own way. This is the last lesson we learn from Jonah. I pray that it motivates you to seek after God's heart so that yours may also be changed toward those you disdain or avoid. Nothing is more important in this life than people finding and reconciling with Jesus. Lay down your life and choose love. Minister in Jesus Name, and He will in turn continue to minister to you. Blessed be His Holy Name forever!

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27)

Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

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