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A WORD FOR TODAY, July 12, 2021
“Yahweh said, ‘You have been concerned for the vine, for which you have not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night. Shouldn’t I be concerned for Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred twenty thousand persons who can’t discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much livestock?’” Jonah 4:10-11, WEB
Today’s question comes from the story of Jonah. “Yahweh said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’” Jonah 4:4
Jonah was the reluctant prophet. It isn’t that he did not want to obey God’s command to preach God’s Word; he was reluctant because he thought God was sending him to the wrong people.
Jonah was in a sticky situation. He had a unique relationship with the LORD; he was a prophet. A prophet was called by God to speak His Word to the people to bring repentance. This is a tough job because no one really wants to hear God’s opinion about things. Living in obedience is a tough task; God’s expectations are much different than the world. Jonah didn’t mind preaching to his fellow Hebrews, but he wasn’t interested in preaching to the pagans.
God knows His plans and does not really care about our opinion about His work. Sometimes He sends us to do the very thing we do not want to do. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. The people of Nineveh were pagans and were enemies to the Hebrews. They were evil and violent. The prophet Nahum describes their actions to include plotting evil against the Lord, cruelty and plundering in war, prostitution and witchcraft and commercial exploitation. God commanded Jonah to go tell these pagans to turn from their wicked ways or Nineveh would be destroyed. Imagine Jonah’s feelings at this moment. He knew his enemy should be destroyed, but God wanted to give them one last chance.
Jonah had no interest in helping his enemy, so he tried to run away. After a wild adventure, Jonah finally agreed to go to Nineveh. When he arrived, Jonah proclaimed the word of God and they believed. They fasted, mourned and repented. Even the king took off his royal robes, put on sackcloth and sat in the dust. When God saw that they turned from their evil ways, He had mercy on them and spared their city. Jonah became angry, so angry that he wished he would die. What he really wanted was God to do what He first intended, and answered God’s grace with resentment. “I knew it, I knew you’d never go through with it. You have too much love and hope and mercy. So, I decided to keep the truth to myself and not tell them how good and wonderful you are. That way you could still pass judgment on my enemies.” But God knew their hearts and He wants none to die. When they heard the word, they were immediately transformed and God withheld His anger.
Think about the person most in the world that you would not want God to send you to share the Gospel. Is it a childhood bully? What about that co-worker who stole your promotion? Is it the neighbor who shoots fireworks over your house in the middle of the night? What about that family member who has hurt you in some way? Who is your Nineveh? What would happen if God sent you to speak the Gospel to that person? Would you answer that call or would you try to run away?
It is easy to share God’s grace with those we like, but it is incredibly hard to do so for those whom we do not think deserve His mercy. Even if you reluctantly did share the message, how would you respond to their repentance? Would you get angry at God for doing what God does best? Would you feel resentment when God did not destroy your enemy? Would you, like Jonah, sit under a tree to wait for death rather than join in the praise and worship of the God who loves even those we deem unworthy of His grace? It isn’t up to us to decide whom God should save.
Is it right for us to be angry when God saves our enemies? The story of Jonah reminds us that it is natural for us to be despondent when we see God do things that we do not think is fair, but it is not fruitful. God taught Jonah a lesson. He grew the vine under which Jonah sat to watch for the destruction of his enemies. The vine gave him shade and this made him happy. Then God destroyed the vine, which made Jonah angry. God expanded His question, “Is it right for you to be angry about the vine?” Jonah thought his anger was so righteous that he was willing to die for it. God answered that He felt the same way about the Ninevites, who were His, too, and they were walking the wrong path.
When you get angry at the good things that happen to those you consider unworthy, remember that God loves them too, and that God does not want any to perish. God knew they were simply uninformed about God’s grace. They just needed to hear the word. That might just be the same for those to whom God is sending you. Instead of being angry that things have not gone your way, join in the celebration and worship of the God who loves all people and saves those who will listen and believe His good and perfect Word.
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