I enjoy studying the Bible. If you know me, you know that. Let me clarify however. I enjoy observing and interpreting the Bible, I do not enjoy the application part of the Bible. It is much more fun to see what the Bible meant back then than it is to see what the Bible is confronting in me and is calling me to do.
The book of Jonah confronted the mess out of me. As horrible of a man as Jonah was prone to be, I see myself in him. Unfortunately it is unavoidable, there is no way of getting around it.
Many know the story of Jonah. He runs from God’s call and finds himself in the belly of a big ol’ fish. After prayerfully turning from his rebellion, the Lord has the fish spit him up on dry land and then recommissions Jonah to Nineveh.
However, most of us, including myself, have never really dug into the second half of the story after the fish blew chunks.
Jonah chapter 3 recounts what happens in Nineveh. Jonah walks in and proclaims that destruction is coming. The people of Nineveh believe in God, repent in sackcloth and ashes, and the king of Nineveh decrees a city-wide fast in hopes of God relenting from the impending doom that Jonah said was coming. The final verse of chapter three tells of how God saw them turn from their wicked ways and how He chose thus to save the city at that time. Wow. Miraculous repentance. City-wide repentance. City-saving repentance. Brought about by God’s mercy and grace through the proclamation of His servant Jonah.
You would think such an awe-inspiring act of repentance and subsequent mercy would lead Jonah into a grateful and thankful proclamation of praise.
Instead, we read:
But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was in still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. – Jonah 4:1-2
Jonah witnesses the salvation of a city and gets ticked off. He cries out to the Lord and says that God’s kindness and mercy and compassion is the very reason he didn’t want to come to Nineveh in the first place. He’s so angry that he tells God to just kill him already (verse 3).
Later on in the chapter, Jonah will leave the city and wait to see what would end up happening. God brings a plant to give him shade and comfort, but the following day God removes the plant via a small worm and Jonah is wrecked by a scorching eastern wind. In verse eight he hilariously (or sadly) gets so mad that he tells God to just kill him yet again.
The book of Jonah concludes with the following:
Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” – Jonah 4:9-11
The book of Jonah runs all up on me and doesn’t take it easy.
At first, it didn’t. At first, I was ready to put the Bible study I had finished on Jonah back on my shelf and move on to whatever was next. But I lingered. I read the narrative again and got a face full of conviction.
I am like Jonah.
At first, I didn’t think so. I would never, I mean surely would never, be unwilling to share the goodness of Jesus and be angry at God when He saved.
My mind however goes back to Phoenix, AZ (I know that I write a lot about this chapter of my life, so forgive me for going back there again. I will say however that it’s simply a fact that it is in the deserts of life [this time a literal desert] that God teaches us the most).
Leading up to my departure, I regularly listened to and belted out “Thy Will Be Done” by Hillary Scott. It was my anthem. I shouted it out and I meant it. Thy will be done Lord. No matter what. Thy will be done, no matter the cost.
Yet then I caved into fear and let the trials of my life break down my faith. I was in a place that was foreign to me, loud, busy, full of people and most of them were not like me.
A couple weeks into my Phoenix season that song came on the radio. I distinctly remember turning it off. I did this each time it played the whole time I was there. I didn’t want God’s will to be done. Because I knew it would cost me. I knew it would cost me my comfort, my security, my ideal life. I wanted my will to be done instead.
It really is no wonder that that was the worst year of my life because of that fact.
God had commissioned me to a people that needed to hear about His Son, and although I did share and serve, my life was never wholly surrendered to God.
I really am like Jonah.
Maybe you’re like Jonah too. Maybe you are more concerned with your comfort than the salvation of those around you.
Don’t wallow in this. Pray for the ability and strength to change.
Cry out to God.
. . . Salvation is from the Lord. – Jonah 2:9b
In His Name,