Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah…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 (Jonah 4:6-8).
A vine, a worm, a scorching wind.
Wow, gee…thanks God.
Notice the repetition. God provided…God provided…God provided. Delightful vine and icky worm and painful wind, it all came from Him.
And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, it time for the “Truth You Didn’t Wanna Hear Show.” And here’s your host…Michael!
Provision isn’t about what you think you want.
It’s about what God knows you need.
I know you didn’t wanna hear that…hence the name of my imaginary show.
But it’s true. Again…the name.
Do you trust God, Beloved? Do you believe that what he provides will be good and right and exactly what you need, even if it looks like a worm?
I hope so, for both of us.
Happy Friday, Beloved.
But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)
Leave it to God to get right to the heart of the issue.
I mean, seriously. Who was Jonah to get so self-righteous and uptight? I love the fact that God does not engage Jonah on the relative merits of the Ninevitian repentance, because that’s not the issue.
The issue is the nature of God.
Is God responsible to us? Is he required to answer our questions or fulfill our expectations?
Or is he Lord of the Universe, Almighty God, creator and ruler of all, beholden to none?
How easily we forget.
And by “We,” I mean, you know…me.
Beloved, when it comes right down to it, we are a lot closer to the Ninevites’ level than to God’s. If we really push for justice over grace, we will not be pleased with the outcome.
Trust me—if the Justice rock drops, we are all in the splash zone.
Happy Thursday, Beloved.
He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said…? 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, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:2-3)
He knew the words.
He just didn’t live them.
The words Jonah uses here should be familiar—they’re used over and over again in the Scriptures to describe God’s character. These were probably some of the first verses Jonah memorized in Sunday School.
Yes, I know it wasn’t Sunday School at that time—just go with me here.
I’ll bet that, over the years, Jonah had recited these words with joy, with hope, in supplication, applying them to himself and to his people. He rejoiced over God’s forgiveness—for himself and those he loved.
But…the Ninevites? The oppressors of Israel? Deniers of the Most High God? The wicked ick of the world? It was unacceptable to Jonah that God could apply the same mercy, the same compassion, the same love to them that he so often gave to Israel.
So, Jonah knew the heart of God.
He just didn’t share it.
And you, Beloved? And I?
All those verses we’ve memorized…do they apply to those people out there?
Do we share the heart of God for these people?
Do we even want to?
Happy Wednesday, Beloved.
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry (Jonah 4:1).
I know it’s wrong
but…I love this.
I’m so glad we have Jonah. He’s a real person, not a cutout character from a Sunday School felt board. Jonah feels angry because he knows that the Ninevites don’t deserve God’s mercy. They deserve a serious smackdown, and Jonah was looking forward to a front row seat.
Been there, Jonah.
Every time I’m in heavy traffic.
You know, there’s a way out of a Jonah mood. It’s kind of dangerous, though. You can look closely at those Ninevites, and you can pray that God would allow you to see these people as he sees them. God will grant your request, if you really mean it.
And you will lose your capacity to hate them, no matter how badly they drive.
Like I said, though, it’s dangerous. You may begin to see a lot of things as God sees them, and that’ll change you.
Are you up for that, Beloved?
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened (Jonah 3:10).
They didn’t deserve it.
Mercy, I mean.
A little sackcloth and a few skipped meals hardly make up for generations of wickedness.
And yet, that is the very nature of mercy. God was willing to see beyond their sin, to look at hearts that, however briefly, recognized their evil and turned to him.
He sent Jonah because he wanted to forgive the Ninevites. He was looking for a reason. I don’t know why he would want to forgive them.
But then, I don’t know why he would want to forgive me.
And forgiving me cost him ever so much more than forgiving the city of Nineveh.
You know what I mean, Beloved?
Yes, you do.
The Ninevites believed God. (Jonah 3:5)
Believing God—that’s always a good idea.
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Gen 15:6)
Anyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. (1 John 5:1)
For God so loved the world that he gave his Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
There’s no better place to start—or end—than simply believing God.
So…do you, Beloved?
Believe him, I mean. His Word says so much about who he is, and his attitude towards sin, and how much he loves us, and our relationship with him, and our eternity—do you live as though all of that were true?
but sometimes I forget. Sometimes I believe what the world says. That seldom works out well for me.
There was a whole lot riding on Nineveh’s choice to believe God.
There’s a whole lot riding on your choice today.
Happy Friday, Beloved.
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time…Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-2).
A God of second chances—that’s who we serve, Baby.
After all the grief that Jonah caused, after the arrogance he showed, after the downright in-your-face disobedience he displayed toward the Lord of the Universe, God gave him a second chance. And not just forgiveness—a second chance to serve, to be His instrument on Earth. God could have ditched Jonah and called someone else, but he didn’t. Because Jonah was every bit as important to God as the people he was sent to warn.
Frankly, I probably would have left him in the fish.
Call it reason #3,874 to be glad I am not God.
OK Beloved, so maybe you’ve messed up along the way. You’ve been disobedient, you’ve had to face God’s discipline.
That does not mean that you are through. Your mission still awaits you. Your Lord still calls.
There’s the road, kid.
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land (Jonah 2:10).
Lovely image, don’t you think?
I wonder why we don’t hear more worship songs built around this verse.
It isn’t always pretty, the way God works. It isn’t always glamorous. Sometimes it will leave you humbled, disheveled, and smelling of fish innards.
And yet…he’s still working.
May I make a suggestion, Beloved? As you embark on your Wednesday, be on the lookout for the ways in which God is providing for you and protecting you. It may not be apparent at first glance. That minor illness may be God’s way of allowing you to rest. That undesired overtime may be his way of paying the rent. Be assured of this: if you’re his, then he’s working in, through, and for you.
No matter what it looks like.
Wipe the fish goo out of your eyes and look around. He’s doing amazing things.
Because you are his Beloved.
“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jonah 2:8)
What do you cling to, Beloved?
Who do you trust?
God, of course!
Yeah, it’s the “And” that gets me, too.
Look, I know you don’t worship stuffed animals or pray to little porcelain figurines.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t have idols. And those idols, those things that you trust instead of trusting God, they get in the way. You see, you have to choose who you’re going to trust. The Lord of the Universe is not big on sharing power. If you insist that you can make it on your own, he’s likely to let you.
And you’ve been down that road before.
Your strength, your money, your intelligence, your looks, your ability to make a really great chicken salad—enjoy them. Use them wisely, and glorify God with them.
But don’t cling to them.
Don’t forfeit grace.
Happy Tuesday, Beloved.
“When my life was ebbing away I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you…” (Jonah 2:7)
You’ve tread water for as long as you could, but your strength is now gone.
The water closes over your head.
You look up and see the light that you can no longer reach. It grows dimmer as you drop down and down, away from light and air and warmth and life.
But as you drift down, your prayers rise up.
And he hears you. And he sends a fish to swallow you, which I gotta say is a really weird part of the metaphor, but it represents the whole rescue thing.
Sometimes God’s the only hope you have, and that’s when you remember:
And then some.
And then some more.
Happy Monday, Beloved.