Friday, May 27, 2011
God, R U kidding me? (part 3)
Text: Jonah 1:2, 4:1-10
A review of what we've covered so far: In Chapter 1, we see Jonah running from God. In Chapter 2, God preserves Jonah as he's running and now Jonah is going to commit his life to God because salvation comes from God. He calls out to God for deliverance, God delivers him and so now he is going to pledge himself to the God who loves him this much, who has been this patient and compassionate with him. In Chapter 3, we come back to where we were in Chapter 1, exactly the same words. "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."
So we find ourselves back at square one, but this time Jonah is willing to obey the word of the Lord. So now Jonah goes off to Nineveh. Nineveh is a large city by the standards of the day. There was a wall around it that is eight miles in circumference. It was a power center for Assyria, Israel's sworn enemies. And so Jonah goes into this city and proclaims his message. Short, but to the point: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."
Now the greatest miracle in the Book of Jonah is that this city actually repents. This gigantic city of over 100,000 people, from the king on down, decide that this is a real word from God and they have got to listen to it and obey. This is wonderful! What more could a preacher or prophet hope for?
But then, we move on to Chapter 4, and things don't sound quite right:
"But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, "O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee 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. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live." But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?"
Jonah is not just unhappy, he is angry. Why is he so angry? Because God is going to show mercy to the people he hates. The real reason Jonah didn't obey God wasn't because he thought it was too dangerous to go to Nineveh. Jonah did not run away because he didn't want to be the bearer of bad news; this good news, repent and be saved. Jonah did not go directly to Nineveh because he knew that God would be merciful. Jonah knew that God would give them this chance, and that if they turned things around, He would be compassionate and gracious. And, Jonah did NOT want that to happen. Look at what he says. “I know that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."
Does that sound familiar to you? These are the same words spoken to Moses in the infancy of the nation of Israel; that God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love, who doesn't want to send calamity. These words were said again and again in the life of Israel. These words were part of what they held on to. This is what they rejoiced in. This is what they went to praise God for. You, Lord are a compassionate and gracious God.
But here we find Jonah stating the fact that You are a compassionate and gracious God, and I am angry because you are being the same way with those other people that I don't like. This is what makes Jonah a hypocrite.