KEY TEXT: Jonah 3:10-4:4 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, "O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live." And the Lord said, "Do you do well to be angry?"
KEY THOT: Jonah was angry with God because He forgave the sins of Nineveh, capital city of Assyria, Israel's enemy. When he received the call from the Lord to go to Nineveh to warn them of His impending judgment, he fled to Tarshish, away from Nineveh. He did not want to go and preach to Nineveh. Jonah gave the reason why he fled from obeying God's call in today's text: "That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster" (Jonah 4:2). He didn't want Nineveh to be spared but judged. He allowed his own personal prejudice to interfere with God's purpose and God's call on his life.
Whatever may be God's call upon our lives, we must be careful that our own preferences and prejudices do not get in the way of fulfilling God's kingdom purpose and will. Whether we like or don't like a particular direction God has ordained, it is better for us to follow that direction and not run in the opposite direction to fulfill our own desires. Like Jonah experienced, if we run in the opposite direction from God's intended will, we will only meet with storms and disasters: Jonah was caught in a furious storm and ended up in the big fish's belly for three days and night. It was only when he repented that God caused the fish to vomit him out so he could return to Nineveh and complete the mission: "But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord! And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land." (Jonah 2:9-10).
If we suffer for obedience, we have much to rejoice. But if we suffer for disobedience, we will have much to regret. Jonah was an unhappy and angry missionary because he was not focused on fulfilling God's agenda but his own aim to ensure that Israel's enemy (Nineveh) should not be spared but destroyed: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown! And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them" (Jonah 3:4-5). Jonah was actually sitting outside the city overlooking the city to await God's judgment upon Nineveh. But when it didn't happen, he was peeved.
May we never allow our own personal prejudices come in the way of fulfilling God's agenda for His kingdom.
Abba-Father, search our hearts and know our thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in us. Help us seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness so that all the blessings of God may come our way. Amen.