Sunday, February 26, 2017

TheStoryOfJonah: The Marvel of an Unhappy Servant 4:1-4

These few verses at the beginning of this chapter give us what I like to call the 'eureka moment'. Now we see Jonah's motive for running away in the first place. 

I like how Wiersbe entitles this last section - 'The Marvel of an Unhappy Servant'. He writes, 

'If in chapter 1 Jonah is like the Prodigal Son, insisting on doing his own thing and going his own way (Luke 15:11–32); then in Chapter 4, he’s like the Prodigal’s elder brother—critical, selfish, sullen, angry, and unhappy with what was going on.'

The truth of the matter here is that we see here a man full of pride. He was known to be a prophet and if his prophecy that the city of Nineveh would not be destroyed had become reality, he would be labelled as a false prophet and not really aware of who the LORD was. Then what do you do? It's interesting to note what Jonah knows about God and why his pride gets the best of him.

Note his prayer (in contrast to his prayer in the whale two chapters earlier):

Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.

Jonah was too caught up in his own self-identity to see the identity of God - being full of grace and compassion. I find this so interesting (and convicting). Jonah was a recipient of this grace and compassion from the LORD - but to give this to others who 'don't deserve it'? - no way! Do you see how warped a philosophy (and theology) this can be?

Jonah was thankful that God literally gave his life back, but now he's asking the LORD to take it away, because who he's created the LORD to be in his mind, doesn't match up with who the LORD truly is - and Jonah is having a crisis of faith. But rather than repent and receive the incredible realities of God, he runs, inwardly this time, because he cannot take the realities that are thrust before him. God is revealing Himself to Jonah, and it's too convicting for him and he tries, once again, to flee.

These characteristics of a Holy God simply didn't match what Jonah believed to be Who the LORD was regarding His people. It just didn't make sense to Jonah how God could change His mind. And, as they say, it all makes sense now. Jonah knew, deep down, Who the Father was and so he ran. Wiersbe explains it well, that we see both sons in the parable that Jesus teaches of the Prodigal Son. Both are ugly, but both need forgiveness and both would receive it, if they came face to face with their pride and accept the LORD's forgiveness. 

So you knew it was coming (as did I), but what about us? How do we respond to this aspect of the LORD? If I was honest enough with myself, I would see so very clearly that Jonah really didn't respond all that well to God giving grace to others - and it's a reflection of how I mostly respond to others in my own life. It's that ugly thing called entitlement. We're more than happy to receive grace ourselves from the LORD, but when that (more than undeserved) grace is extended to others...we all of a sudden expose our own prideful, entitlement monster in our own souls. The truth of the matter is that we don't deserve the LORD's grace either. None of us do. As soon as we baulk at others' receiving His grace, we reveal the trueness of our own hearts and we need to repent. 

And so, to end this section, the LORD asks Jonah a simple question:

Do you have good reason to be angry? We will look at the next section that deals with both Jonah and God - how they clearly are different perspectives - but may we dwell on this question, coming from a Holy, Gracious God now and soul-search. The LORD truly is asking us to know Him, trust Him, and believe Him - even if we can't quite put Him in our 'box of understanding'.

The fact is, God is Holy, Just and Righteous. We are not. But in that holiness, justice and righteousness, the LORD seeks to reveal Himself to us - in mercy and grace. And simply asks, 'How are you going to respond to the people around you, who desperately need this Mercy and Grace that I so amply supply you?'

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