Saturday, September 6

Doest Thou Well to be Angry?

Have a seat, this might take awhile.
I'm starting to think, like fame, we should all get our fifteen minutes of anger. Then: move on, buddy. Unfortunately, it's not like that. The moving on part is so hard.
Guess where I'm coming from. Jonah: Beyond the Fish. I have been perplexed over the last two chapters of Jonah . And the whole ending of Jonah is kind of strange, not quite a "cliffhanger," but the guy's left on the outskirts of Ninevah, just sitting there. Can you just stop a story like that?
The fish spewing Jonah onto dry ground is such a nice stopping point. Whenever I advance into chapters 3 and 4, I get a little perturbed, a little displeased. God told Jonah to go and tell the people of Ninevah that God would destroy the city in 40 days because their wickedness was so great. A Jew, going into a Gentile city, full of wickedness, to give them bad news. I can see how that would be daunting.
Apparently, Jonah looked at some maps and perhaps his day planner and said, “This should take about three days and I’m out of there. March up and down the streets for three days giving them the 40 day notice of their impending doom, do a U-turn and get back home in time for the weekend game.” He knew he needed to drop the bomb and get out.
The people seriously and swiftly repented. We’re not led to believe that Jonah had a long, heart-wrenching sermon, he just voiced the simple prophecy. We’re not led to believe that he was a very motivating man, he actually seems rather small, weak and cowardly and he probably looked sickly from his recent retreat in the fish. - So. . . clearly the power of God’s grace was at work here. Then, sure enough, His mercy came on the scene. He accepted their repentance and withheld his judgment and punishment. He does that, you know, quite often.
Here’s where I start shifting in my seat. As did Jonah. Chapter 4, verse 1: “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.” This weak, worn-out, sickly man throws his hands up and says to the God of the universe: “This is why I didn’t come here in the first place, I knew this would happen!! I knew you were gracious and merciful and would accept their repentance and withhold your anger. Just shoot me. Kill me now.” (my version)
A preacher -- angry that people repented after his sermon. His anger clouded his sanity, ya think?
Was he upset that people had been rescued? Probably, a little. Repentance seemed so easy for the people of Ninevah, yet it was so difficult for the Israelites; it probably didn't seem very fair. And we like fair, don't we? I think beyond that, Jonah feared that now his reputation would be ruined and he would be labeled a false prophet, a fool. That seems reasonable to me. Wouldn’t you feel that way? Doesn’t seem like an inordinate amount of pride to me.
- -
Do you see the irony: He himself disobeyed God, received a sentence of death (eaten by fish), repented, was granted mercy and lived. He was down with that. He found that burst of God's mercy quite acceptable. What he found difficult was sharing the love, sisters. You know what I mean.
Whatever it is that you're hanging on to, let it go. It might seem "fair" or it might seem "logical" and you might feel justified, but it's slowing you down in your spiritual growth and it’s probably slowing down your service for God. Jonah is forever memorialized sitting outside the city limits in a cloud of anger. He's just left there. We're never told what happened next. Do you want to be like that? BTW: did you notice how God treated him so tenderly, even in his anger? But He left him out there, I presume, to "get over it."


Jennifer said...

How awesome is God, that though we are all disobediant He still reaches out to us, shows His Grace by forgiving us, so that we might glorify Him!!

Anonymous said...

I loved your second to last statement about how God treated Jonah so tenderly. That's the same way he treated Elijah.

I think poor Elijah gets a bum rap from modern day Christians. They think that, after the stupendous events against the prophets of Baal, when Elijah was running for his life from Ahab and Jezebal, he sat down under the tree and said to God, "I've had enough! Take my life."

Tsk, tsk, people think. He took his eyes off of God and went from a literal mountain top to the pits of despair.

Tsk, tsk---poor Elijah did it wrong!

I think they miss the whole point of what happens next: God sent an angel to minister to him. What mercy! What grace!