The Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow…but Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:10-11)
Sometimes, it’s just too much for me.
The heart of God, I mean.
My world is so small, the things that affect me so close, I forget that God cares about the whole world.
All of it.
Even the cows.
I am important to him, yes.
So very important.
But so are the others.
There are, quite literally, millions upon millions of people out there who are living without Christ, who don’t know right from wrong because they have never been introduced to Truth.
And my biggest worry today is how I’m going to get to Costco and the DMV after work and still have time to deal with the pile of tree branches in my yard.
I’ve always wondered what Jonah’s response to God’s question was. Did getting a peek into the scope of God’s love change his perspective?
Does it change mine?
Happy Friday, Beloved.
But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”
“I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” (Jonah 4:9)
Look, I’d love to say that I can’t identify with Jonah at all here, that I’ve never been whiny and self-righteous and small before the Lord.
But He knows better.
And, probably, so do you.
What amazes me at this point in the story is God’s reaction. He reasons with Jonah, talks him off the ledge. Frankly, after all of Jonah’s lip and disobedience I would likely say, “You got it, kid!” and reduce him to a pile of fish-smelling ashes.
Let’s call it Reason #8635 to be glad I’m not God, and give a loud Huzzah for mercy.
Happy Thursday, Beloved.
But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” (Jonah 4:9).
God has asked Jonah this before.
It’s a good question…and a good reminder.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised. “
That quote was from Job, a man who knew a thing or three about suffering.
Jonah, not so much.
And what of you, Beloved of Christ? Do you have a right to be angry over the wrongs, the slights, the misfortunes and mistreatments of life? Or do you recognize that everything–everything–has its place in God’s design?
Trust and Obey–two of the toughest tasks we’ll ever encounter.
But the reward is pretty nifty.
Happy Wednesday, Beloved.
Jonah wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:8).
Have you been there, Beloved?
Before we write Jonah off as overly dramatic, can you identify with him? Have you ever been in a place where your outward circumstances and your inward turmoil were just too much, and you wanted it all to be done?
I don’t know what got you out of that place, or if you are out of that place. All I can point out is that the more Jonah focused on his circumstances, his desires, and what he saw as the proper outcome, the more frustrated and disappointed and angry he got. In fact, the only time in this narrative that Jonah seems truly at peace is when he abandons any sense of his own righteousness or understanding and focuses entirely on the mercy of God.
And that happened, oddly enough, in the belly of the fish.
Happy Tuesday, Beloved.
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.
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 Monday, 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 whale drops, we are all in the splash zone.
Happy Friday, 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 Thursday, 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 flannel 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 Monday, Beloved.