A prophet who resented God’s compassion

Posted Jan 11, 2018

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Daily Scripture

Jonah 4:1-11

1 But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Come on, Lord! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. 3 At this point, Lord, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live.”

4 The Lord responded, “Is your anger a good thing?” 5 But Jonah went out from the city and sat down east of the city. There he made himself a hut and sat under it, in the shade, to see what would happen to the city.

6 Then the Lord God provided a shrub, and it grew up over Jonah, providing shade for his head and saving him from his misery. Jonah was very happy about the shrub. 7 But God provided a worm the next day at dawn, and it attacked the shrub so that it died. 8 Then as the sun rose God provided a dry east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint. He begged that he might die, saying, “It’s better for me to die than to live.”

9 God said to Jonah, “Is your anger about the shrub a good thing?”

Jonah said, “Yes, my anger is good—even to the point of death!”

10 But the Lord said, “You ‘pitied’ the shrub, for which you didn’t work and which you didn’t raise; it grew in a night and perished in a night. 11 Yet for my part, can’t I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people who can’t tell their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

Reflection Questions

What did Jonah think was “utterly wrong”? Jonah 3:10 said, “God stopped planning to destroy [the people of Nineveh], and he didn’t do it.” The story said when Jonah grudgingly went to Nineveh, his entire message was, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). He wanted to see Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, flattened! This story was in the Bible, not to endorse Jonah’s spirit, but rather, through God’s challenge to the sulking prophet, to show that God’s love truly extended to the whole world.

  • The writer of Jonah had a superb touch with irony. The book described an astounding preaching success—a whole city repenting and turning to God. The preacher’s attitude? “Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry” (Jonah 4:1)! What made Jonah so angry? Is it possible for God to care about people without endorsing violent or other hurtful actions, like Assyria’s violence toward Israel?
  • The story of Jonah ended with a question, not a statement. God asked Jonah, “Can’t I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people who can’t tell their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” Is there any person or group of people you’d rather see God “zap” than to see them repent? Is it right for God to extend heaven’s offer of mercy to all people?

Prayer

Lord God, sometimes, like Jonah, I wish you’d hate people I hate. But you call me to change my attitude, not yours. Guide and lead me as I wrestle with that change of spirit. Amen.

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Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as a Human Resources Specialist. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

Last Saturday, I stood in the freezing temps to watch my beloved Chiefs lose a playoff game which was all but wrapped up for them at the half. It was heartbreaking. I grumbled and moaned with every other Chiefs fan leaving the stadium (some may have been grumbling words that aren’t appropriate for this post). Yet for as much defeat as we felt in that moment, we immediately turned our thoughts to next year. We believe that next year is the year when we can win the championship. Why? Because we’re Chiefs fans! That’s what we do. Every Chiefs fan knows there are three essential truths: 1. We stand by our team no matter what. 2. We will always defend Arrowhead as the loudest stadium in the NFL. 3. We hate the Raiders. 

Chiefs fans are the most enthusiastic group of fans you’ll meet. Even when our team is losing, our city turns red on game day. Fans will still pour into a packed Arrowhead. This leads us to having the loudest stadium in the NFL, which is loudest when we’re playing our nasty rivals, the Raiders. Why? Because we hate them. Why do we hate them? I don’t know. They’re mean and obnoxious. They’re associated with gangs, aren’t they? Didn’t they beat up some of our fans once? They’re the worst! They’re evil! We can’t stand them!
 
The essential truth of Raiders contempt created a sea of internal conflict across our metro area last year when Derek Carr received a $125 million contract with the Raiders. At 26 years-old, one would expect him to immediately blow it all on sports cars and mansions. But his plans for the money are to tithe, help people, and buy a Chick-fil-A sandwich. He chose not to take every cent he could get out of the contract deal, leaving money for the team to sign other players. Carr has served in Haiti through Love a Child and even helped find a missing child by spreading the word through social media. It’s super frustrating because, dare I say it, Derek Carr is a good guy. 
 
You see how this is frustrating, right? Derek Carr is making it very difficult for me to hate the Raiders. He’s bashing all stereotypes I’ve held of the vile team. I don’t hate him. In fact, I kind of like the guy. 
 
There are times when the religions of the world can feel very much like cheering for your favorite team. As Christians, we root for our faith and are quick to dismiss or justify any wrong act committed in the name of Jesus. “That’s not the true Christianity. That’s not what I believe.” And it very well may not be. However, when it comes to looking at other faiths, we tend to highlight every incident of wrong-doing or evil committed by one of their followers. It easily comes down to this: we are the good guys and they are the bad guys. Isn’t that right?
 
It may seem right. That is, until we have conversations with “the bad guys.” In listening and speaking with open hearts, we can come to learn that “the bad guys” may not be all that bad. In fact, most are good, at least as good as we are. Do we hold fundamental truths that make us different? Sure. Do these truths separate the good guys from the bad guys? I don’t think so. 
 
I’m not God. I can’t speak on what this means for all faiths when it comes to salvation or eternity. But what I do believe is that God doesn’t see people of other faiths as the bad guys. There are certainly scriptures that point to his disappointment in people who turn their back on him to worship other gods. But there are also scriptures which show his mercy and love for people of other faiths. He has even used many to carry out his eternal story of redemption. 

When we are willing to have open conversations with people with differing views, it’s possible to see God’s view. We might find goodness and light; we might find deep friendship; and we might even develop a new respect – EVEN for a Raider.

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