Focal Passage: Jonah 4:1-11
A passenger in a taxi cab leaned over to ask the driver a question, gently tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention. The driver screamed, lost control of the cab, nearly hit a bus, drove over the curb, and stopped just inches from a building.
For a few moments everything was silent in the cab. Then, the startled driver asked, “Are you OK? I’m sorry, but you scared the daylights out of me.” The shaken passenger apologized to the driver and said, “I didn’t realize that a mere tap on the shoulder would startle you.” The driver replied, “No, I’m the one who is sorry, today is my very first day driving a cab. I’ve been driving a hearse for 25 years …”
The cab driver had plenty of experience driving, but he was clearly out of his comfort zone. In chapter four, we find Jonah not only out of his comfort zone, but “displeased” and “angry” that God would take him to Nineveh to preach a message of repentance. In verse 2, he says to God, “… for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
You can be right and still be wrong. In other words, you can be right about something with your head and be wrong in how it’s applied to the heart. Jonah was theologically right, but relationally wrong.
God was all those things and Jonah knew it! But he disagreed with God about it. He couldn’t choose who God forgave. Like bending a metal bar into a new shape, Jonah’s behavior may have conformed to what God wanted, but his heart had not melted. Jonah’s problem wasn’t that he feared failure. He feared success!
A spirit of unforgiveness is an indicator that you’re out of touch with the grace of God in your own life. Jonah finally did what God sent him to do, but he didn’t delight in God while doing it.
After Jonah asks God to kill him, God provides an object lesson instead. In 4:6-11, God essentially asks, “Why are you so moved to pity over a vine you didn’t create, yet should I not care for the things I did create?” Jonah’s hatred for the Ninevites is great. God’s mercy is greater.
The great missionary Hudson Taylor had trouble being in a worship service with congregational singing. Not because he hated singing or was displeased at his church. He quipped, “I cannot bear to hear all these English speaking people sing when millions of Chinese do not even know His Name.” May God move us to care and pray for people like that!
One trap many Christians fall into is to cherry pick verses of Scripture that are for us and which are not. We love the verse about Jesus being gentle and lowly. But we skim over passages like Acts 1:8, as Jesus demands His followers to be a witness to the ends of the earth!
Leaving the comforts of home, doing something difficult, being sacrificial. The book of Jonah ends with God asking a question. So, I leave this column with a question for us to chew on: How can we walk in the comforts of Scripture, but not the commands? B&R