Friday, January 20, 2012
Scripture for Jan. 29th: Jonah 4
Sermon Title: A Heartless Prophet
“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” But the LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
“But they are not like us!” This is a common objection that many Christians will use to argue against helping and caring for those who live very different lifestyles from most Christians. As Christians, we strive to live a lifestyle pleasing to God. But that same lifestyle causes many Christians to avoid others. Dr. David Jeremiah writes the following about this paradox:
A strange paradox sometimes exists with religious people. Religious groups have a code, or standard, through which they view the world, and normally that code contains high moral standards like love, kindness, justice, and acceptance. One would expect that, because of the moral base of their code, all religious groups would extend love, kindness, justice, and acceptance to all other people. But therein lies the paradox—most religious groups struggle to do that. Why? Because the same high standards which bind the members of the group together tend to exclude those outside the group. Ranchers will tell you that fences not only keep cattle in, they keep predators out.
Jonah obviously wanted to keep Nineveh outside of the forgiveness of God. He wanted them to experience the judgment of God – they had it coming to them, he thought, and in fact, he was right. They did deserve God’s judgment. But when they repented, they received God’s mercy though they were undeserving of it (just like we receive His mercy today). How could have Jonah been more accepting of God’s forgiveness towards those who were his enemies? And how can we today develop an attitude towards those that have hurt us that is more Christ-like? We will talk more about this on Sunday as we conclude our sermon series entitled, “Returning to God: Lessons in Jonah.” Hope you see then!