“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” Jonah 3:10.
I cannot see Christians today gathering of one accord to pray for this nation as those of Nineveh did. We are too busy bickering and arguing over non-essential doctrine while the nation teeters on the edge of an abyss.
The election of November 2016 is the most important one in our history, if liberals win, she will end America and its hard won freedoms. Yet four years and this country will be destroyed!
“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.’” Jonah 4:1-2.
Jonah 3:10 is shown above to maintain context. The entire city of Nineveh repented in sackcloth and ashes, literally, and God who sees the heart forgave them and relented from the disaster He was about to bring upon them. But this displeased Jonah.
“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.” Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time has been angry at God, or the circumstances He has allowed in our lives.
Jonah had tried to avoid preaching in Nineveh because he knew that they were cruel beyond measure, and that eventually this cruelty would be unleashed on his own people of Israel.
Some Christians have been critical of missionaries who have been persecuted in Muslim or foreign countries by saying that they had no business being there anyway, so they brought it upon themselves.
They forget that just as Jonah was sent by God, so these missionaries may also have been sent by God. Persecuted Christians deserve our prayers not our criticism like so many Monday morning quarterbacks. Let God sort out whether they were supposed to be there or not.
There are so many things hidden from us, as they were from Jonah. What he did not comprehend is that salvation in Nineveh slowed down her aggressive ways and perhaps saved all the Israelites of his generation from being taken prisoner.
The northern kingdom of Israel was not invaded by Assyria until 721 B.C. approximately 40 years after Jonah’s preaching in the city.
It was the Babylonians who carried away the southern kingdom of Judah nearly a hundred years later, not the Assyrians. This too may have been a side effect of the preaching of Jonah.
You, Christian, may not realize the power of just a few of your words to someone until you stand before the Lord Jesus, and He says, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
Christians of today are perplexed by the things that are happening in the world. As a result, many are angry, sad, or frightened. However it is not as though God has wound the clock and then wandered off to do some other more interesting project.
God is intimately concerned about everyone, whether they are dying in a cancer ward, passed out homeless in an alley, or sitting in a fancy restaurant eating steak. With each person, man, woman, or child God is attempting to draw them to His Son Jesus Christ. This is not as easy as it sounds.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:9-10.
“You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 32:19.
“For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He ponders all his paths.” Proverbs 5:21.
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.” Proverbs 21:2.
It is this self-righteousness that makes it so difficult for God to reach folks with the good news that His Son has shed His own blood to cleanse all who will come to Him as their Savior.
“What sin, I am doing everything that I believe is right!” Well said, but it is God who decides what is right and wrong, and that is a far cry from what the deceitful hearts of mankind think is right.
Multiply this by almost 8 billion people and you have a world that appears to be a fire drill in a madhouse to all who look on. But God is in control and dealing with the heart of each person.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9.
It is important for all of us to embrace these two verses in Isaiah 55, to pray fervently when we do not understand, and to trust God to know what He is doing. This is easier said than done as you may already know.
“So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.’” Jonah 4:2.
Is this not interesting? Look what Jonah says about God, You are gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abundant in lovingkindness, and One who relents from doing harm. Jonah and all of the believing Israelites of his day must have realized that God had these qualities.
They are abundantly shown in the books of Deuteronomy and the Psalms and yet some 760 years later the Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, the chief priests, and the scribes of Jesus’ day acted like they were serving a cruel, austere God who required strict obedience to petty rules.
This is what happens when men who do not have the Spirit of God claim to speak for God.
“For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, ‘Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men – the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.’” Mark 7:3-8.
Bear in mind that this has nothing to do with hygiene; mother was right when she told us to wash our hands before eating. This is an illustration of how men sneak into the church or the Jewish priesthood and pervert the word of God.
This is something that needs continual vigilance, Satan will not rest day or night as he perverts the word of God or loads heavy burdens on the followers of God or those who attend church. These heavy burdens are meant to frustrate and exasperate those who follow God.
If a church teaches that one must observe certain holidays, or give so much money to the church, do certain good works, or witness to a certain number of people daily to please God. This church is not pleasing God, it is pleasing the devil.
The thing that pleases God the most is when a person accepts His Son Jesus Christ as their savior and follows Him; it’s actually that simple.
“So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish…” Jonah 4:2a.
This statement indicates that Jonah had argued with the Lord when He commanded him to arise and go to Nineveh to preach to them. Again, it indicates that Jonah’s reason for fleeing to Tarshish was one of compassion for his own people and patriotism, not cowardice.
Noble as his reasons may have been, it is still no excuse for rebelling against the clear word of God. And herein is a lesson for the Christian.
If there is anything that you believe God wants you to do, or if anything you want to do, it is not God’s will if it clearly violates anything in His word. God will not have us to do anything that violates His word in Scripture. There is no exception to this rule.
“Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah 4:3-4.
Sounds like a line from some ham actor does it not, “…it is better for me to die than to live!” Yet, how often have many of us called out the same words from the pit of despair?
You know how you felt when you said the very same thing. We are kindred spirits, all of us my friends, so let us indeed weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, life is filled with both.
And please, I plead with you, if you have ever uttered those words, “God let me die” call out to the Lord now and ask Him to forgive you for asking such a thing and to give you the full time He has allotted you. And may the rest of your sojourn here be one of joy in following the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is something interesting I have found. When the Lord responds to Jonah’s angry plea to die, He does so with a question, “Is it right for you to be angry?” God does this again in verse nine, but this is not the only time He asks questions.
He did so in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These are the first recorded words of God speaking to them, though He surely had at other times.
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’” Genesis 3:8-11.
When God called out to Adam, “Where are you?” He knew very well where Adam and Eve were, the question was meant to get them to think about their current condition. “Where am I?” This is a question we should often ask ourselves today.
After Elijah demonstrated to Israel that the Lord God was the true and living God and that the false gods whom the witch queen Jezebel worshipped were nothing, he had the people kill her 850 false prophets on the spot.
Bent on vengeance, Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah, so he panicked and fled into the wilderness, see 1 Kings Chapters 17-19. He was in a cave when the word of the Lord came to him.
“And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ So he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.’ Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” 1 Kings 19:9-13.
Three good questions that we would do well to ask ourselves, “Where are you?” “What are you doing here?” and “Is it right for you to be angry?”
God’s questions are intended to provoke the one questioned to consider where they are in life, what are they doing there, and is their attitude a godly one.
When the Christian answers these questions they must remember that they were bought with a price, and life is all about Jesus, it is all about Jesus.
“…but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear [reverential trust in, and desire to please God]; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible [perishable] things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:15-21.
Selfishly frustrated, depressed, and angry, Jonah makes a place for himself to the east of the city to watch over it.
“So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’ Then God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’ And he said, ‘It is right for me to be angry, even to death!’ But the Lord said, ‘You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night.’” Jonah 4:5-10.
Four times the word “prepared” is used in this book. God “prepared a great fish”, He “prepared a plant”, “prepared a worm”, and God, “prepared a vehement east wind”, God’s sovereignty, power, and forethought are clearly seen in these prepared times.
Jonah stubbornly clings to his anger in spite of all of God’s dealings with him, both pleasant and unpleasant. Often we see this kind of thinking in a small child and worse yet often in an adult.
It is a mindset which must be dealt with in much prayer when children imperil themselves with such an attitude, because, as in the case of Jonah, it will bring them much grief in adulthood.
But, we see Jonah seated to the east of the city. If not for the grace of God, what might we see?
“And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord [Genesis 18:22-33]. Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.” Genesis 19:27-28.
Though Jonah maintains that he has the right to be angry, even to death, and notice, that sentence ends in an exclamation mark! Still God remains patient with His child.
“But the Lord said, ‘You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left – and much livestock?’” Jonah 4:10-11.
The 120,000 persons who cannot discern their right hand from their left were children under three or four years old. It has been calculated that this would have given a total population of 600,000, six hundred thousand souls. Think of it six hundred thousand souls came to the Lord God through the preaching of this one man!
God’s addition of the words “and much livestock” would indicate that the judgment that would have overtaken Nineveh would be a natural disaster, perhaps like that of Sodom and Gomorra, not an invasion by an army. An army might kill all the people, but it would keep the livestock.
And the words “much livestock” indicate the tender heart of God toward all of His creatures, even the least of them. But it was for mankind that He sent His Son to die for their eternal salvation. Jesus shed His blood for us as well as Jonah.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:6-7.
Jonah 4:1-11 taken from godisrevealed.com
Scripture taken from the New King James version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.