Do you know about Jonah in the bible…
A couple of months ago my church preached a sermon on Jonah. It’s been a while since that sermon, but I still have the story ringing through my head. And, like it or not, I have been seeing myself in parts of the story of Jonah. Mainly in Jonah’s stubbornness and unwillingness to rejoice in God’s goodness. I know, a great character to relate too…
After trying to run from God, being thrown into the sea, swallowed up by a fish, and then given a second chance by God, Jonah finally makes his way to Ninevah. He delivers a short and to-the-point sermon to the Ninevites and then he smugly makes his way to an outlook to watch the city receive God’s judgment. We look at this story and we shake our heads at Jonah. Johah just didn’t get it, we say. He didn’t understand God’s character and grace. But in reality, when you read chapter 4 of Jonah you will see that Jonah did have a right understanding of God;
“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 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”Jonah 4:1-2
Jonah was upset and admitted that the whole reason he didn’t want to go to Ninevah in the first place was because he knew God’s character and He knew God would show them compassion. This really paints a whole different picture of Jonah’s heart as he ran away. And as much as I try to hide it, I can see parts of my heart reflected in this.
How often have I been too scared to pray a certain prayer, take a chance with a certain person, or say yes to opening a new door because I know deep in my heart what God’s character is and what God is going to ask me to do. I know that what God wants for me is going to be differant then what I want and I just don’t want to go there.
When following after God means showing grace and love to those we don’t like, going outside of our comfort zones to reach the lost, and forsaking our flesh and choosing the path marked with pain instead of pleasure, wouldn’t it just be easier to stay where we are. Or to run away in the opposite direction.
But as we see with the story of Jonah, running from God doesn’t help us. In fact, it’s impossible because God is everywhere and he is sovereign over everything. And when Jonah finally obeyed and went through with it all, He still did not have his heart in the right place and he wasn’t able to share in the joy of seeing God show compassion to sinners. The compassion and grace God gave to the wicked people in Ninevah is a beautiful thing, but Jonah was blinded to it by his pride and discontentment.
When we are so focused on our pride and our life not being where we want it, we miss out on the good things God has for us now. Just like Jonah, we sit under our own tree, angrily waiting for the thing we think we deserve, when in reality, God has already given us more than we could ever need and His plan for us is to stay in this season a little longer.
When we are discontent, we will complain and grumble to God about all the things we don’t like and we miss out on seeing all the good things he has given us. But on the flip side, if we are content where God has us, we can rejoice in all God has done for us and all the grace he has shown us.
I don’t know about you all, but this story of Jonah has been hitting home for me a lot. I keep saying to myself, “Wow, I am a lot like Jonah as he sat on that hillside waiting for God to give him what he wanted.” I can so easily fall into the habit of complaining about my life more than praising God for it. But when I remind myself of God’s character and how God is sovereign, I begin to see things better. I see that this life, is not about me and making the things I want to happen, but about God and letting God do his will in my life.
So as I end this post, if you ever find yourself like Jonah, you’re not alone. We all find ourselves on the hillside wanting our own way over God’s way. But this is the challenge; Instead of sitting on the hillside waiting for God to work, we ought to be jumping up and down for joy praising God because he is always at work and he has already done the greatest work! Sending his Son to die for us so that we might be free! That is the greatest act of compassion and mercy in all of history, and if we have our hearts in the wrong place, we just might miss out on this great joy.