Jonah is a story for our times.
More than the Big Fish Eats Man story we learned as children, this tale has little to do with the fish, but everything with being eaten alive. If you are not familiar with tale of Jonah, you can find this short story here. It’s a quick read but packs a punch when considering today’s current events.
As peek into Jonah’s life, we realize he was being consumed on several fronts. Disobedience, hatred and anger have taken the large bites. But before we are too harsh on this man, perhaps we run a mile in his shoes.
As the story opens,
Jonah has received his next mission. Like many people, Jonah wished the message had gone into his junk mail, and he responded like many of us do with, “I’ll do anything you say, God, but don’t send me to . . .” Fear takes over. Excuses start to rise. Everyone has their own specifics on why they can follow God anywhere but there. Jonah’s? He admits he simply does not agree with what God was doing. His running was a way of showing his disgust with God’s plan. Death rather than compliance with God’s will was preferable to Jonah. He even confronts God saying,
“Oh, LORD, this is just what I thought would happen when I was in my own country. This is what I tried to prevent by attempting to escape to Tarshish! – because I knew that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and one who relents concerning threatened judgment.
Jonah is one crazy dude. . .
challenging God about His kindness and compassion. But, this is where we must be careful lest we become like him. Like our friend, we all love the benevolent God, especially when it comes to our own sin or short comings. But then, there are times we want God to show the just part of His character and get on with avenging our enemies. “Take those guys out!” rings from our lips when someone has done us wrong or threatens our security. This ‘giving them a second chance’ You have in mind, God. . .well, let’s not and call it good.
But, that is not how God operates. His good often times does not resemble our idea of good. His good sees the bigger picture, the greatest outcome, the most eternal value. Ours? We tend to get hung up on comfort. Yep, comfort. Sacrifice and suffering are far from our thoughts. We just want peace and quiet as we wile away the hours in blissful contentment basking in the glory of our Lord that our Christian life promises us. Can you hear the birds twittering?
This is the place Jonah may have gone wrong. Commissioned to be God’s voice often has its pit falls, especially when His voice does not line up with our sensibilities. Jonah actually admits at the beginning of the story he is “a Hebrew and he fears the Lord, the God of heaven who created the sea and dry land.” [Jonah 1:9]
What we see here from Jonah is lip service. He says one thing but his actions tell us a different story. He does not fear the Lord. In fact, in the story he does his best to undermine God’s mission. He thinks his way is best. AND he’d rather die than do what God commanded. That’s a bit extreme, don’t ya think?
But, how much do our lives resemble this man Jonah? Do we call ourselves Christians, yet don’t act like Christ? Do we hate what God does not? Do we intentionally choose our way over His? I heard it said recently from a friend many of the atheists she knew were better ‘Christians’ than those who claimed to follow Christ. Ouch! That is a very telling statement. The thing is, the same was true in Jonah’s story.
I don’t want that to be true about my life. I want to be exactly what following Christ means. I want Jesus in my actions and words. I want what He values to be what I value most. I want to live for Him and not die wishing I done more to make a difference.
In the last bit of the story, God gives Jonah a bit of respite from the hot sun. A vine grows up to shade this man’s head, giving him a measure of comfort and causing gladness in Jonah’s heart. But alas, in the morning, a worm comes and eats away the vine and along with it, Jonah’s happiness.
In the end,
Jonah is so consumed with anger his life has become a walking death. I don’t know about you, but that is not my idea of a satisfactory existence. If I am to be eaten alive, may it be by generosity and compassion. God’s mercy towards me shouldn’t stop with me. I need to act it out in my own life. That way, I can demonstrate what loving God and acting in obedience truly looks like. And from there ‘loving my neighbors’ is not a huge leap. The ‘love God, love your neighbor’ combination is a world changer. So, with that in mind, unlike Jonah I’ll be running in God’s direction. Wanna join me?
I came across a cool resource that will further explain the book of Jonah called The Bible Project. Take a trip over to see what they have. Check out the link here.