When I am reluctant servant, like today, I turn to the book of Jonah. Jonah is the most reluctant soul I know of. He was so reluctant to serve that he hid from God, headed in the opposite direction, and then went so far that God had to send a fish to swallow him! These were the actions of a man who desperately didn’t want to share God’s message with the pagan Ninevites. Unfortunately, I find myself relating to Jonah too often. I think, “God I don’t want to go to church this morning. Do I have to get out of bed…it’s my only day to sleep in” or “God I know you are urging me to go to this person, but I don’t feel like it, they aren’t nice to me.” It’s really hard to do what God is requesting of us sometimes!
Jonah did not go to Ninevah with a willing heart (Philippians 2:14-“Do EVERYTHING without grumbling or complaining”). He went rebelling on the inside, full of anger, hatred and spite. After he shared God’s message he waited for the destruction outside the city, but it never came for the Ninevites had repented.
Jonah 4:1-3- “But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 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. 3 Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Jonah 4:5-11- 5 “Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
Jonah didn’t want the Ninevites to be saved. He wanted them to perish! I can’t say I’ve ever wanted anyone to perish, but often enough I have had anger towards someone or anger towards God that was unwarranted. What right do I have to be angry? God is compassionate, loving, forgiving, abounding in goodness and grace. These things he bestows on an undeserving me. Do I have a right to feel any less for others? God created the universe. He spoke it into existence. Why wouldn’t he love all his creation? I love the lesson that God teaches Jonah here…
When God sprouted up that plant, Jonah was pleased. The next day when the worm destroyed it, he was furious. He felt so badly for himself, yet he couldn’t come up with an ounce of empathy for the Ninevites.
I some important things to learn from this story…
1. Be a willing servant. We can’t hide from God, and we shouldn’t try to. He has great and wonderful things planned for all his children.
(Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”)
2. Be compassionate and loving towards all of God’s creation for He is compassionate and loving towards us.
(Exodus 22:27-“because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”)
I sincerely hope this has encouraged someone today to love their neighbor, go where the Lord is sending them, or experiencing compassion for others. I know I feel ready to perform the task God has put before me today!
What did you learn from Jonah’s story? I would love to hear!
Blessings in Christ,