Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

8 Consider the Cost and Consequences of Disobedience – Part 6

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Jonah 3:10-4:11

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing 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. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” 5 Jonah had gone 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. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 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.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” 10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Have you ever been disappointed with God’s decisions? Jonah’s response to this radical repentance was not one of rejoicing but regret. Instead of celebrating God’s mercy he was mad. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh and preach God’s message of peace because he believed that they deserved death. He would have been perfectly content to see them condemned, because he didn’t want peace he wanted payback. But the they responded to God and repented, they took God seriously and fasting in sackcloth and ashes. When God saw that they had turned from their evil ways He had compassion on them. Mercy triumphed over judgment and the grace of God was displayed in all its glory. God was no longer angry with Nineveh but Jonah, the one who knows personally the grace of God, still was. Even though he had just been rescued from his own grave, in the belly of the fish, because of God’s grace he still didn’t get it. Jonah like many of us was great with God’s grace as long as it applied to him. It is in the closing chapter of Jonah that we realize that the story of Jonah is not really about Jonah. We might think that this is the story about Jonah and the whale, his rebellion and Nineveh’s repentance, but that is just the surface story, the deeper story describes the heart of God. This is where we discover that God possesses a passion for all people, even those we would be tempted to label wicked and worthless. It is here that we see the contrast of two hearts, one filled with compassion the other callous.  “1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing 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. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” For only the second time we see the prophet of God in prayer, but this time instead of a prayer of repentance we see one of regret.  Once again we see the prophet of God AWOL, not absent without leave but angry without love. It’s a condition that seems to have contaminated and consume the church today. It’s the pharisaical poison that deludes and destroys our thinking, hardening our heart as it calluses our compassion. Jonah’s reaction to the repentance of Nineveh is ridiculous; one would think that he of all people would be leaping for joy and full of thanksgiving. Prophets often preach messages that fell on deaf ears and were dismissed, they rarely saw revival. This is the kind of revival that preachers pray for, to see over a 120,000 people surrendering to God’s plan of peace. So why isn’t Jonah excited over their repentance, because there is no room for rejoicing in revenge. Revenge always leads to ruin, this is more than just a pouting prophet having a poor me pity party this is the kind of darkness that results in depression and even a desire for death. Revenge desires and demands death, fooling us into thinking that there are some things that cannot be forgiven. We end up living miserable lives, limiting the love of the Lord. But revenge doesn’t just rob us of joy it ruins our relationship with God, because it causes us to call into question His character. Instead of celebrating God’s compassion Jonah complains about God’s perfect character. Revenge causes our rationale to border on the ludicrous, and just like Jonah our statements become laughable. His rationale was simply, “I knew it that is why I ran away. Because I was afraid they would repent and you would have mercy but they don’t deserve it!” So Jonah tries to justify himself, and his ironic argument is that he, Jonah, is the consistent one. But what Jonah is actually trying to do is to lock God into his own theological box. But it will never work because God is simply too big to fit into our narrow minded belief system. The problem with our belief systems is that they revolve around and serve self. When we follow our own belief system the basis for fairness becomes our feelings instead of an all knowing Father. Jonah’s belief system actually deceived him into trying to displace the deity. He believed he knew better than God. Taken to the extreme we become the judge jury and executioner.  In our delusional thinking we try to dislodge the deity and ultimately take God’s place on the throne. It comes from a desire to be in control, but the writer of Jonah makes it clear who is really in control. For It is in the book of Jonah that we see that everything that happens, happens because it was appointed by God. God appointed the storm, the fish, the plant, the worm, the scorching heat and wind. Only God is in control of His creation, He alone is sovereign. It is here that we come face to face with the truth that God doesn’t take orders from anyone. May be today you are mad at the Messiah because things have not gone according to plan, your plan that is! There are many today who are trying to dictate to the deity because they are disappointed with His decisions. Their faulty belief system has distorted their thinking into believing that they know better than God. And while Jonah was mad at God’s compassion to the point that he asks for death God in His mercy doesn’t give him what he deserves. There is no thundering rebuke just the reasonable and reflective question, “Have you any right to be angry?” It is here that we see the gracious heart of God and the true depth of his goodness. This is a lesson in love, a lesson we all need to learn, that God’s love is not based on what we like but on His unchanging character. Today you may find yourself angry at the Almighty, because from your perspective He failed to follow your plan, but when did the deity become subject to your desires, when did your God start having to walk according to your will? And if God actually fit into your limited description of love He would be nothing more than a lie, a figment of your fantasy. You don’t really have God you have a gene, trapped in the bottle of self-belief. God’s direction is not set according to your desires, or dictated by the beat of your drum. For the created is not in control of the creator. Are you AWOL today, Angry Without Love? Have you bought into a bogus belief system, where fairness revolves around your feelings instead of the Father? Don’t let your disappointments deceive you into being mad when you should be glad. Where are you really at today, are you a pouting prophet or a praising one?

2 thoughts on “8 Consider the Cost and Consequences of Disobedience – Part 6

  1. So while I was still in massage therapy school we talked about, “belief systems,” almost on a daily basis. We referred to them by another name though…B.S. Funny how most of our B.S. stinks!

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