Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


9 Consider the Cost and Consequences of Disobedience – Part 7

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?”

Lastly we see that while:

  • Nineveh prayed for deliverance, Jonah hoped for destruction.

After preaching God’s message of repentance Jonah goes outside the city, builds a private retreat and becomes a spectator. This is not what He was called to do, rather it’s what he wanted to do. Because he had predetermined what God should do, he wasn’t really interested in forgiveness, so the message of mercy he had just preached was really nothing more than a formality. Jonah had put God in a box and any outcome that didn’t fit with his wishes would only make him mad. He put more time and effort into building a comfortable retreat than he did in being compassionate. He saw his life as one that was worthy of God’s love and care, that he somehow deserved God’s grace and compassion.  It’s easy to walk away from a wicked world that desperately needs God’s grace and live lives holed up in our hypocritical huts. Jonah was satisfied to sit in his self-righteous man made retreat waiting for the wicked to be wiped out. He desired destruction instead of deliverance and saw God as being too hasty in wrapping these people in a blanket of forgiveness. He didn’t believe that they deserved deliverance and here for once he was right, that’s the whole point of grace, none of us deserve Gods love. What is sad is that Jonah was mad because he ended up with a front row seat to forgiveness. How does God respond to this recklessness, He lets Jonah experience His grace, He provides an additional shelter to Jonah’s. God gives Jonah a vine with broad leaves that provides shade from the scorching sun, a welcome relief from his current circumstances. And as Jonah experiences its comfort for the first time in this narrative we find him happy. Jonah is perfectly happy to be the beneficiary of God’s care and compassion. He is absolutely delighted with God until the worm eats into his comfortable shelter. Now God causes a sirocco to scorch Jonah, leaving him dehydrated and depressed. Once again we see God’s creation obedient to the commands of the Creator, and once again Jonah responds to the Almighty with anger. Yet if anybody has a right to be angry it is God. It is God who hates sin, evil, and violence, more than we ever could, but He exercises patience, providing an opportunity for others to repent and seek Him. Jonah’s problem is that he does not see the world as God sees it, nor does he seeing himself as God sees him. Instead

  • Jonah values a plant over people.

He is angry about the death of a plant, over which he never had any control, while people are on the edge of eternal destruction. Yet he only cared about the plant because of what it could do for him. Here is a man absorbed in a self-centered pettiness, watching a lost nation on a one way track to destruction while he whines about self. Jonah was wrapped up in Me mercy, as far as he was concerned, mercy was all right for him to receive, but not for others in the city. It is here that we see one of the greatest contrasts between God who was into reconciliation and Jonah who was into retaliation. But the story of Jonah doesn’t end with his pity party, no it ends with the presence of God. Jonah and his jealous heart are not to be our last thought, for the narrative leaves us in the presence of God. We are left face to face with God’s love and compassion, it’s as if the writer reveals God and then lays down his pen. The book ends with a question without a written answer, “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh.” It’s a question we have to answer in our own lives, one that involves a humbling lesson about God’s compassion. For it is here that we come face to face with the truth that we don’t deserve God’s mercy. Why do we assume that God would love us more than our enemies? When we do it taints our thinking and we say, “Well, at least we are not as bad as them, God must be really pleased!” But as soon as we fall into the trap of this type of thinking, we misunderstand the heart of God. We don’t see others or ourselves in the way that God does. Not only did Jonah not know God well enough to grieve over sin as God grieves over sin, but he didn’t know God well enough to rejoice over the repentance of a sinner. God wants more than mere obedience; He wants us to value what He values, people. The story of Jonah reminds us that God isn’t satisfied with mere compliance; He wants us to understand His character. He wants us to reflect His mercy and love to all people. So let me ask you some personal questions. Are there people you resist loving and even refuse to care for because their values, beliefs, or lifestyle contradict yours? Who are your personal Ninevites: Maybe it’s the secular humanists, or homosexuals, or those who stand for pro-choice, or advocate a left-wing social agenda? If God called you to take His message of mercy to them how difficult would it be to obey? Jonah was so committed to his predictions of what these people deserved that he took pleasure in their punishment. But God’s concern is for people, and we have to ask ourselves if we share His concern? Do you have a passion for people? Are you willing to act on God’s passion even when you find His calling difficult and distasteful? Do you realize that the people that you struggle with are no more and no less deserving of God’s grace than you? There are many today who are lost and their rejection of the Creator breaks His heart, but does it break yours? Are you willing to reflect His passion for people or are you too stuck in your prejudice to share His passion? Jonah never really received God’s grace with gratitude, and when God sovereignly removed His blessings Jonah became angry. It’s easy to praise when His blessings are bountiful and everything is going good but how do you respond when His blessings seem to blow away? Do you get bitter when unexpected bills come due, or sickness strikes? Jonah’s problem is so often our problem, somewhere along the way, Jonah started to believe that he had somehow merited God’s favor. He believed he deserved God’s blessings, He had forgotten that God’s grace is undeserved. Just like the plant that shaded Jonah, the grace of God comes without any labor on our part. It comes apart from our laboring to earn it, produce it, or make it grow. It happens without our intervention or ingenuity, yet our tendency is to claim it as our “RIGHT” and we complain when it is no longer ours. When God causes the plant to spring up and give him shade Jonah was glad. He was happy with God’s gift at the same time that his heart was unhappy with God’s grace toward the Ninevites. Just like Jonah we too struggle to balance the blessings of God. He provides us with things and instead of being thankful we get so enamored by the things that we start caring more about the stuff than the eternal souls of people. We start caring more about the things than the One who provided them. The book of Jonah forces us to focus on things from God’s eternal perspective, a perspective we desperately need. Because if we are not careful we can end up caring more about our little shaded spot than we do about those stuck in sin. Jonah got upset because he had found his happiness in the created comforts instead of the Creator. The stuff may ease our situation but the truth is that it’s temporary. Satisfaction will never be found in the stuff and when we try to find our happiness and comfort in it God may take it away, to show us like He did Jonah, where our affections really lie.