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A Pouting Prophet
Jonah 4:1-3

 

Last week we left Jonah right after the city of Nineveh repented and God relented. God used his brief message, (5 Hebrew words) to penetrate the hearts of the people of Nineveh. The people spread the message like wild fire. When the word reached the king, he didn't allow the message to get tied up in governmental red tape. He didn't pass the buck saying, "It is impossible to legislate morality" or defer his leadership position to others. Rather, he issued a proclamation calling the nation to repentance and prayer-he acted more like a prophet than a politician. And the people followed.

What do you expect Jonah's reaction was? Did he join the people of Nineveh in repentance and marinate in God's grace? Certainly, Jonah had some repenting to do. But you say, didn't he repent in the belly of the fish? Hardly. In the belly of the fish, he reminds me more of a politician than a prophet-he said what he had to say to get delivered from his peril, but I do not sense a true heart-felt repentance, do you?

If he'd repented, wouldn't he of had a better attitude and preached with more effort than he did? You'll remember that a few weeks ago, we concluded that God used Jonah because of his obedience-paper thin as at was-Jonah was obedient, and God used him to accomplish His purposes.

How then do you think Jonah responded? Let's return to the text.

"But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. [2] And he prayed to the Lord and said, "Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. [3] 'Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.'" (Jonah 4:1-3 NASB)

Does it surprise you that Jonah became angry? Look closely at verse 2, in it Jonah affirms that his loving God is gracious and compassionate-nothing wrong with his understanding of God, is there? But also notice how he misapplies his accurate theology. Jonah says, in essence, he'd rather be dead than witness God's grace pouring out on people he despised.

How petty.

Surely this is an anomaly in scripture, surely Jonah is the only one of God's servants that responded with such callous disregard for others, right?

We would never respond that way, would we?

Think for a minute before you answer. You might want to use one of your life lines on this one. You can poll the audience, use 50/50 or phone a friend. I'd recommend you phone a friend.

You could phone the prodigal's brother and see what he would say. Do you think he heard sobs coming from his father's room at night? He must of seen the pain in his father's eyes as he stood out front waiting for his son to return home.

Yet when he heard the news that his errant brother came home and his father showed him mercy, he was so angry that he wouldn't even go into the house. His father had to leave the party for his son to listen to the older brother complain: "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a kid, that I might be merry with my friends; [30] but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.'"(Luke 15:29-30, NASB)

Or you could phone those who witnessed Jesus responding to the harlot who poured the costly perfume on his feet. She heard that Jesus was reclining at one of the Pharisees' table, so she crashed the party. She knelt before Jesus and began to weep. As her tears mixed with the road dust on his feet, she wiped his feet clean with her hair and splashed the perfume on his feet. Showing her appreciation for God's grace, she ministered to the Lord.

As if God's grace was meant exclusively for church people, Jesus' host responded, "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner." (Luke 7:39 NASB)

You could also phone the workers who labored all day in the parable of the Vineyard. The owner of the Vineyard needed laborers in his field so he recruited some workers early in the day to work all day long for a denarius. At the third hour, he saw others standing in the market place looking for work, so he hired them to go into the vineyard and work with a promise to pay them whatever is right. He did the same the sixth, the ninth and the eleventh hour. At the end of the day, he called all his workers from the field and paid them the same wage--a denarius.

The workers who worked all day long were not inspired by the landowners grace, instead, they said, "These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day." (Matthew 20:12 NASB)

All of these people have something in common-they wanted God's grace for themselves but weren't too happy to see His grace freely given to others.

How does God feel about his children who want to hoard grace?

To the prodigal son, the father replied, "And he said to him, 'My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. [32] 'But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.' " (Luke 15:31-32 )

To his host, Jesus said, "And Jesus answered and said to him, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' And he replied, 'Say it, Teacher.' [41] 'A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. [42] When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. Which of them therefore will love him more?' [43] Simon answered and said, 'I suppose the one whom he forgave more.' And He said to him, 'You have judged correctly.'"Luke 7:40-43 

And to the early workers, the vineyard owner said, "But he answered and said to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? [14] 'Take what is yours and go your way, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. [15] 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?' [16] "Thus the last shall be first, and the first last." (Matthew 20:13-16 NASB)

On second thought, instead of calling those life lines, maybe you should call Judy Lawson.

Before her death, Judy Lawson became a spiritual Mother of scores of hardened criminals. "On her last Mother's Day," according to Bill Myers, "she received 40 Mother's Day cards from men whose life she touched." Her prison ministry began eighteen months after her son was brutally murdered. She knew it was God's will for her to forgive the murderer, and she had spoken the words, but she continued to harbor ill will toward the man who robbed her of her son. She had agreed to never say "no" to God, so when she heard Him saying, "I want you to love the man who killed your son" she had no choice but to fight the natural rage boiling up and to practice Christian love and forgiveness.

While visiting a prison to support a friend at a parole hearing, she came face-to-face with the murderer. She fought God, but soon, in faith gave in to His leading to speak to the man. "Richard," she said, "my name is Judy Lawson--you murdered my son and I want you to know that I love you and I forgive you."

The man began sobbing and the prison guards removed her from the facility. She sent the murderer letters. He sent them back. She continued to write. Her family said stop. Her pastor said stop. But her God said continue. Soon, God's grace broke through and the vicious killer and the victim reconciled and began a ministry together proclaiming grace and forgiveness to inmates. (From Fresh Illustrations)

Amazing! Judy Lawson lived what Jesus said in Luke 6:27 "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,"

Though it is not natural to us, by God's grace, we can learn to rejoice when God's grace flows, even to our enemies. 
 
 
 

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