Ticked Off Jonah

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.

Nope.

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

Wait, what?

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.

And remember,

. . . Salvation is from the Lord. – Jonah 2:9b

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Running From A God You Know

The first chapter of the book of Jonah simultaneously shows us how prone we are to sin and running from God. Yet, it also shows us in stark clarity how gracious and great God is.

If you look at every time Jonah is mentioned in this first chapter (this is not an exhaustive list), you get a portrait of a despondent runaway who knows how big God is yet continues to run:

The word of the Lord came to him, telling him to go to Nineveh and preach the gospel (v. 1)
He fled to Tarshish instead, which if you look at a map of this time period, was in the completely opposite direction (v. 2)
In the midst of a huge storm that was the result of his sin, Jonah slept in the hull of the ship (v. 5)
Despite all the stupidity that he exemplified, he was able to articulate to the other sailors that God was both the maker of all land and all the seas (v. 9)
Jonah knew that he was in the wrong. He knew that he was clearly disobeying the orders of God, yet he was more willing to face death than to face Nineveh (v. 12)

All of this paints a picture of a man who knew God yet wanted nothing to do with God’s salvation of a people that he himself hated (see Jonah 4:2). It’s easy for me to look at this story and say wow what an idiot, if I had a word from the Lord to go share the gospel with a specific person, I would NEVER run from that, subconsciously or otherwise. Yet, if we’re super honest with ourselves, this happens more than we’d like to admit.

You see, God has called us to our community. The one we’re in right now. The one you’re in right now. It’s easy to push aside our calling to share the love of God with our community by just saying that command is for a later date.

What I mean by that is it’s easy to say “okay, once I graduate high school, then I’ll live missionally.” That leads into ‘after college’, ‘when I’m more rooted with a family and job that I enjoy’, ‘when I’m not as busy with my family and my job’. There is always an excuse to be like Jonah and not be faithful to what God has called us to.

If we’re being honest, it’s easy to know a whole lot about God, just like Jonah, and still not live into the mission that God has called us to.

So I am encouraged that we see the story of Jonah in Scripture. Maybe one reason it’s in the Bible is to encourage us that sometimes we’re stupid and yet God is still good, great, and gracious.

Let’s look at how God shows up in this first chapter of Jonah:

He desired Nineveh (a wicked place full of wicked people) to be saved (v.1)
He’s aware of the wicked rulers and nations in our midst, so don’t lose heart (v. 2)
He controls the seas, powerful enough to bring a storm that scared seasoned sailors (v. 4)
He made all the cosmos, as testified about by Jonah (v. 9)
He is faithful to those who call on His Name. The sailors, though pagans, were saved from the storm because they put their faith in the Lord (v. 14)
He appoints everything in our lives (this may be a stretch to say from this one verse, but it was definitely intimately involved in Jonah’s life since he brought a big fish to this exact spot at this exact time (v. 17)

I am encouraged by the greatness and graciousness of God on display in this chapter.

His greatness. God heard the cries of the nations rising up to Him regarding the vile wickedness of Nineveh. This is encouraging to note given the fact that we live in a world saturated with evil leaders and governments. God hears the cries of the oppressed, and as followers of Jesus we are called to uphold those who are being oppressed as well, regardless of political leanings (I know current issues are complicated, but let us not become complicit in wickedness, our devotion is first and foremost to our God and King not whatever country you are reading this from).

God also shows His greatness via the storm that He sends to grab Jonah’s attention. Now, side-note here. I don’t believe that every storm and trial in our lives is a result of disobedience to the commands of God in our lives. Life is not black and white like that. That being said, sometimes that is the case. Let us be mindful of where we have run from God’s call, and let us be repentant (something we don’t see Jonah do in this chapter)

His graciousness. The grace-giving nature of God is all over this text. First, He doesn’t obliterate Nineveh off the face of the earth. Instead he sends a prophet to warn them of His coming wrath if they do not repent. God is slow to anger, abounding in love. What a wonderful picture of His mercy, just below the surface of this text.

Secondly, God saves the sailors. Sure, they all came into this encounter with the storm with their own gods. That being said, they respond in what I believe to be reverent, right fear of God after Jonah proclaims who he serves (again, hilarious since he’s blatantly running from Him). In verse fourteen they offer up what I believe to be a heartfelt and legitimate prayer to God, and then in verse sixteen they put their complete faith in the Lord.

Lastly, God saves Jonah. Now there’s far more to the story of Jonah then just what we see in chapter one, but it is clear to see that God was kind, patient, and gracious to Jonah by appointing (v. 17, NASB) a big fish to swallow him up.

When I look at the story of Jonah, I see myself. When I look at the story of Jonah, I see a great and gracious God.

In His Name,

Nate Roach