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Jonah had just spent 3 days warning the whole city of Ninevah about God’s judgment, and the whole city listened and changed. A whole city, all at once! One hundred twenty thousand people! That’s awesome, huh?!
But, even though God was SO happy about it, someone else was not happy about it. Jonah. Jonah. Jonah.
Jonah didn’t like that God had changed His mind about the city. Jonah thought they deserved to be punished for their wickedness.
Jonah let himself get all worked up and angry that God had changed His mind and given the Ninevites a 2nd chance. (Sadly, Jonah was forgetting that God had given him a 2nd chance when that fish threw him up!)
I know you can’t help but wonder WHY Jonah responded like this. Yes, it’s possible that Jonah didn’t want to look like he’d “got it wrong” since he had just spent 3 days telling them they would be punished. That’d be a pretty selfish reason, huh?
It’s also possible that Jonah thought he was better than the people of Nineveh. If so… ohhhh, that is so very bad. Because God loves all people — the whole world! God had chosen the physical family of Israel as His shadow family, His shadow nation — in order to show the WHOLE world a picture of the REAL Family of God to come later, Jesus’ Family. But it was because God so loved the WORLD, that He came up with His Big Plan in the first place. And His Big Plan involved a choice for ALL people.
Jonah prayed, “God, this is why I ran away — to try to keep this from happening. I know You are a Gracious and Compassionate God. I know that You show mercy and don’t want to punish people. I know You can easily change Your plans from destroying people if they change.”
Jonah could actually see God’s merciful and loving character, but Jonah’s problem was that he didn’t love God’s character — he didn’t choose to make his heart line up with God’s heart.
Jonah was so mad that he said, “Lord, take away my life because it’s better for me to die than to live.”
Ohhh… Jonah. Jonah. Jonah. He was really emotional and overreacting, wasn’t he? God saw this, and so He asked Jonah a simple question. God asked, “Jonah, is it right for you to be angry?”
What do you think? Is it right for Jonah to be angry? No. As far as we can tell, Jonah didn’t even answer God’s question. That’s not good. Have you ever been angry but felt you had a right to be angry? (I hope not.) Anger is an emotion that can feel hard to let go of in the moment. And it can feel even harder to admit to the person you’re mad at that you are the wrong one. But if someone asks you, “Is it right for you to be angry?” then do everything you can to let go of your anger and answer the question honestly.
Go after these things with all your heart, but someday you will need to give your life to Jesus so that He will come to live inside of you to help. That’s what we were made for! And once He’s inside you, He will help you to keep His commands and to love others way beyond what you could do without Him.
Jonah found a place to sit a distance from the city. He was sitting there hoping to see the city get destroyed — but it wasn’t.
While Jonah was sitting there watching the city, God decided to try to help him see how wrong he was. God made a plant grow up next to him to shade his head from the hot sun. Jonah was very happy about this shady plant. He thought, “Ah! I love this shady plant!” He didn’t feel so angry now.
But God made a worm come and eat the plant up, so that by the next morning when Jonah woke up, the plant was shriveled and dead. Then God also sent a hot wind blowing towards Jonah. Between the hot wind and the hot sun and now no more shade from the plant, Jonah got angrier than ever. He was angry that the plant was gone.
Again God asked, “Jonah, is it right for you to be angry about this plant?”
“Yes, it is,” Jonah moaned. “I’m so angry I wish I was dead.”
(Gasp!) That is a horrible attitude to have toward God when He’s trying to patiently help! Jonah. Jonah. Jonah.
“Jonah,” God said, “do you see how much you cared about that plant, even though you didn’t make it or take care of it? It was only here for 1 day, and yet in your heart you cared about and liked it. Can’t you see how I LOVE these people, then? How can I not care about thousands of people in this city? Not to mention all the animals I created, too!”
And right there is where the story of Jonah ends in the Bible. Interesting, huh?
Even though we don’t have the full ending to this story… think about it.
Why did God pick this man in the first place? He picked Jonah to be the only guy to do this huge job. And God used this guy, whether he liked it or not, first to show God’s power to a boat of sailors, and then later, a whole city of 120,000 people were saved because of Jonah speaking God’s words.
Some of the people through our big story, like Jonah (or Samson or others) who did some really powerful things for God, also had some seriously bad character problems, didn’t they? This all just goes to show us what happens when the Power and Glory of God comes to rest on a person. Amazing things happen! God was determined to make a case for Himself with His shadow family and with the world, regardless of whatever weak humans were involved.
Do you want to know a little of the mystery of how this BIG story is going to end? I’ll give you a clue. God’s Power on or with a person is entirely different than the power of God coming to live in a person. The Covenant Deal of Rules that God made was to be WITH His chosen Family. But in the New Covenant Deal that will come later, the Deal that YOU are invited to accept, the Father and His Son want to come and make their home IN you, not just with you. And when that happens, God will change you from the inside. And, you’ll discover that THAT deal will make ALL the difference in God’s Big Plan. Because God’s GLORY IN a person is — WOOOO-WEE! — WAY bigger and better and brighter than on a person.