Saturday, January 24, 2015

The pouting prophet

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jonah 4:1-11

TO CHEW ON: "But it (God's relenting from the disaster He said He would bring on Nineveh - Jonah 3:11) displeased Jonah exceedingly and he became angry." Jonah 4:1

At a church conference I attended some years ago, I heard Rich Wilkerson sum up each of the church offices in a catchy way.

Apostles: Entrepreneurs who start new things for God.
Evangelists: Salesmen—"You need Jesus."
Pastors: Encouragers—"Everything is going to be okay."
Teachers: Always looking for the teachable moment.
Prophets: Concerned with keeping things in the right category—"That's just not right!"

Isn't that last so Jonah! After preaching, he camped outside the city—his front-row seat for the fireworks—but they never came. And so he said to God (my paraphrase): I told you so! I knew Your merciful nature. That's exactly why I ran away to Tarshish—because I knew in the end You'd change Your mind.

Then God gave this pouting prophet an object lesson from his own reaction to circumstances. When a fast-growing vine sprung up providing shelter from the sun, he was happy. But when a worm nibbled at it till it died he had pity on the plant, simply because it affected his own comfort. In this way God showed him his shallowness and how very different Jonah was from God, whose compassion went way beyond a plant to embrace all people (as well as animals - Jonah 4:11).

How readily we too get hung up on our own ideas of how God should work and like Jonah get swept into self-righteous anger when things don't happen according to our little prophetic 'that's not right' categories. A sidebar article in my Bible leaves us with some advice on how to neutralize such an attitude:

"Do not allow anger or pride to remain in your heart. They led to Jonah's disobedience. Turn away from these attitudes, and seek to have God's character of mercy, grace, patience, forgiveness and lovingkindness" - Leslyn Musch, "Truth-In-Action Through Jonah," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1199.


PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to have Your heart of compassion and pity on the people around me in the spirit of being a fellow traveler. Help me to be a conduit of your mercy, grace, patience, forgiveness, and love to everyone around me. Amen.

MORE: God's patience with His Jonahs

"...God not only treats Nineveh with pity and mercy, but also treats his stiff-necked prophet that way too. He is slow to anger and ready to relent in his wrath toward Nineveh, and toward Jonah" - By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org. (Read all of "Should I not Pity That Great City Minneapolis.")

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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