I love movies when the bad guy gets what’s coming to them. I get this strange sense of pleasure when the villain meets his end, rather its dying in some gruesome way or the hero planning the perfect scheme to capture him. I love seeing the good guy triumph over evil. Sometimes the story takes a turn. Sometimes the story is about the bad guy starting on a pathway to redemption. For me this is a little less satisfying, but ultimately that’s what God wants for all who live apart from Him. Redemption.
When the wicked people of Nineveh repented after responding to Jonah’s message and God spared the city I was rejoicing! After all, wasn’t this the goal? God longs to see people repent and come to truth! Yet Jonah didn’t have that reaction at all! Guys, seriously, if I can encourage you in one thing, don’t be like Jonah.
Jonah 4:1-3 (NLT) This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. 2 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 3 Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
At last the truth comes out. Jonah had a serious attitude problem. The whole reason he ran in the first place was because he didn’t want God to change His mind and spare the city. He was happy to receive God’s mercy for himself when he was drowning in the ocean, but he wasn’t willing to extend that mercy to others. How many times are we guilty of this? We expect God to be patient with us in our sins and wrong attitudes, but God had better judge Susan cause she’s been gossiping about me.
I think Jonah had another issue too, he wanted to be right. He declared to the people, “God’s gonna destroy the city.” And then God didn’t destroy the city. Deep down, Jonah didn’t want anyone to come up to him and be like, “Hey bro, you were wrong. We’re still here, false prophet.”
Jonah was more concerned about being right than he was all the people in the city. He was more concerned about his reputation than about the souls of the wicked. He was more concerned about his own preferences than those whom God was wanting to show mercy.
We’re sometimes guilty of this too. We will argue over trivial things when our energies would be better spent on discussing ways we could bring people to the Lord. People end relationships over petty arguments. Sometimes it seems like we would rather win the argument than have a friend. I’ve discovered that it’s ok sometimes to lose an argument. We don’t have to be proven right all the time. There are times the best thing to do is let it go and get a cup of coffee.
The Lord asked Jonah if it was right for him to be angry and Jonah decided to go outside of the city and wait to see if God would destroy it or not.
Jonah 4:6-10 (NLT) And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.
7 But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 8 And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed.
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”
“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”
10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
Jonah was more concerned with his comfort than all the thousands of people God wanted to save. I think we spend a lot of energy of being comfortable that sometimes we forget, God’s more concerned with our character than our comfort. As His children our priorities should over time be shifting from our selfish desires to God’s selfless purpose.
This week I want to encourage you, extend mercy to others. Develop a love for other people that supersedes your comfort or your preferences. Let’s work not to be seen as right, but to be seen as people who truly demonstrate the love of Jesus to all people.