Jonah 5: God Can Use You, But You're Not God
This is the fifth in a six part series of blog posts from the prophet Jonah.
Jonah 4:1-4 tells us Jonah was displeased and became enraged when God spared his enemies. He prayed, “Lord, this is what I was afraid of while I was back home. That’s why I fled to Tarshish in the first place. I knew you are a merciful and compassionate God; slow to anger and rich in mercy and love; One who relents from sending disaster. And now, Lord, I would rather die than live. Why don't you just take my life?"
Then the Lord asked, “Are you right to be angry because I bless those you despise?”
Can you imagine God calling a proud Jewish priest into a terrorist camp in the middle of ISIS territory to warn those who have taken a vow to kill all Jews that the God of the Jews has had enough of their foolish reckless sinful behavior? And to proclaim that He intends to slay them in forty days if they don’t turn to the God of the Jews and repent? Well, imagine for a moment that you are that Jewish priest. And imagine that your village was attacked by those terrorists who destroyed your home, killed your wife, and raped your daughter. This is not simply a consideration of what happens when somebody casually ignores what God wants him to do.
Nineveh was cruel and corrupt beyond imagination. Radical adherents sincerely and devoutly worshiped Baal. They read from the book of Baal. They prayed to Baal for guidance and strength. They thanked Baal for their victories and honored Baal with their gifts and offerings. Those who were devoted, actually sacrificed their own children to Baal. Sick, sick, sick!
They couldn't see, or wouldn't accept, that they were caught up in deception. Theft, murder, prostitution, slavery, graft and corruption were rampant among Baal worshipers. They were extremely religious, but they were serving the will of the devil. We pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” They willfully brought hell on earth. Yet, our righteous, loving, merciful God reached out to them. And he allowed Jonah to carry a message of redemption and hope. What an honor.
Jonah didn’t see it that way, though. Jonah dutifully served God and did what he vowed only after his arm was severely twisted. Jonah was a righteous man; far more righteous that you or me. However, even a man like Jonah, who refused to let go of God at the point he was losing his very life in the belly of a strange creature at the depths of the sea, faltered. Jonah turned away from being faithful, but he didn't lose his faith. That's what made him salvagable. And that may be the most important lesson in the book.
Jonah felt he had a right to be angry. He gave more than you and I can imagine. He wanted vengeance for his family and neighbors. He wanted justice in the midst of God’s mercy. His compliant effort accomplished what only God can accomplish, yet he couldn’t view his accomplishment through God’s eyes.
Cling to God, beloved. In the midst of sin unimaginable and unbearable; cling to God. Don’t resist or object when God calls you out of your sin into miraculous redemption against all odds, and against all logic. And don’t presume to understand what God is up to. Never underestimate what God can do if you will simply be obedient. Trust and Obey. Ignite your faith. Trust and Obey.