There are so many people, places and stories that one could analyze regarding the attitude of a believer, yet this carefully chosen prophet provides a fantastic example through his testimony of following God’s will with an imperfect attitude.
The beautiful thing about the story of Jonah is that it can be easily read in one sitting. Although Jonah himself probably wouldn’t consider anything beautiful about his “gut-wrenching” story, we get to extract the many good juices we receive from God’s word.
The book starts off with God telling Jonah to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up against me.” (Jonah 1:1-3). The very next sentence follows up with Jonah taking off to the opposite direction from Nineveh to Tarshish, hence the nickname, the “wrong way prophet.”
Before making strong judgements, one must consider Jonah’s reasoning and culture. Jonah was a Hebrew, and Nineveh was a city of the Assyrians, who had been harsh enemies of Israel from the get-go. In fact, a few years before this event, Israel was defeated alongside of Syria by the Assyrians in 900 B.C. Naturally, there would be some serious animosity between the two.
Can you minister to someone you truly do not like?
In our present day culture, this would be similar to God calling someone to preach repentance to radical Muslims in the Middle East. With the many terrorist attacks and threats to Christians around the globe coming from that area and culture, not only would such a calling perhaps strike anger and resentment towards obedience to God in doing so, but also much fear, for any public preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ would pretty much guarantee you the next spot at the head-slicer.
I have dear friends that are missionaries in the Middle East and they are doing very well, as many others are. However, persecution is strong, and they are most definitely wise and discrete about how they minister and witness.
None-the-less, this was a heavy task for a Hebrew.
And so it was, Jonah was fleeing on a ship to Tarshish when a strong storm came upon them. Jonah confessed to them that he was running from God, and after they tried all they could to escape from this bellowing storm, they obeyed Jonah’s command to throw him over-board into the heart of the seas. The storm calmed, and the pagan Gentiles aboard the ship feared, believed and made vows to the Lord according to Jonah 1:16.
It is truly amazing that even in our relentless rebellion, God can get the glory. In a sense, Jonah was doing just as our adversary, Satan, would have him do by running from God. Even still, God won, God defeated, and God claimed victory through Jonah’s imperfect attitude. These Gentiles received a place in heaven, thanks to the mercy and grace of God.
The story unfolds with the great fish and Jonah submitting to God by leading the great city of Nineveh to repentance.
God performed amazing work through the prophet Jonah, and yet Jonah’s attitude still wasn’t right. Jonah was angry.
God asked Jonah if it is right for him to be angry. Though Jonah believed that he had a right to be angry, we can see clearly that it was not right for Jonah to be angry at the work that God was doing in the Assyrian people.
Neither is it right for us today to be angry at any work of God being done in the people around us, but we so often get jealous. We wonder why God is doing so much in somebody else’s life rather than our own. Jealousy makes us blind to what God is doing in us, and makes us distant in our relationship with Him.
Or if we are like Jonah, we don’t think certain people deserve God’s mercy. We become judgmental in our thoughts, and place ourselves above others in our self-righteousness.
God’s mercy is in the heavens, His faithfulness reaches to the clouds (Psalm 36:2).
The depth of God’s love cannot be measured. There is nothing that is made that is out of reach from His hands of deliverance.
As Jonah was propped on a hill overlooking the great city of Nineveh to see if God truly would spare this city from His wrath, he grew angrier with God and His abundant mercy. God prepared a plant to shade Jonah’s head which pleased Jonah, but the very next day God sent a worm to embed into the plant and kill it. This made Jonah even angrier. The Lord then said to Jonah, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow…and I should not have pity on the great city of Nineveh, with more than 120,000 people …?”
God loves His creation, but He loves His people above all. He has worked very hard to give each of us our own identity and character. He wants us, and He has sacrificed so much for us, even the life of His Son, Jesus the Christ, unlike us, who would have nothing if it wasn’t for God. God has given us everything, and yet we still get upset when we lose something we cherish. How much more should God want the things that he has toiled, labored, worked for, and created?
This means we should not pick and choose who we want to minister to, and who we don’t. All of us have that certain type of person or culture that we dislike and stay away from, withholding the precious promises of God that is just as applicable to them as it is to us. This is not conforming, but transforming others. If someone doesn’t listen or they disrespect you and the gospel, shake the dust off of your feet and keep going.
We need to understand that it is not our possessions that we reach out to, it is God’s. Let us treat people like they are God’s treasure, because that is exactly what we are.
Stay encouraged, and God bless.