Reluctant prophet misses the boat

th-63Jonah is a guy who, when you think about it, was used of God but was never on the same page as Him. It’s a strange story that makes you wonder why it’s there in our Bibles.

The chairman of our board is a very successful businessman who has built a family enterprise on the principle of doing the right things for the right reasons. Jonah never did the right thing for the right reason, and yet God still got the job done. And what’s the point in that? What is God trying to teach us through Jonah? It’s the same thing we keep saying here over and over again: That it’s not what we do for God that makes a difference in the world, but what God does through us. Jonah is simply an extreme case of God working through someone who didn’t even want to be a part of it.

To start out with, Jonah began by doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason. God had told him to go preach to the evil city of Nineveh and Jonah ran away in the opposite direction. Then, after a whale turned him around, the reluctant prophet ended up going to preach to Nineveh — the right thing, but for the wrong reason. He simply didn’t have a choice. Run away again, and God would just figure out another way to get him there. Might as well get it over with.

So Jonah goes to Nineveh, preaches a message of repent-or-experience-God’s-wrath, and then he goes and sits on a hill overlooking the city where he can have a nice clear view of God raining down destruction on Nineveh. But, much to his chagrin, nothing happens, because Nineveh repents, and God has mercy on the city. This only makes Jonah mad, because of his self-righteous hope for judgment on Nineveh.

“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God,” he told the Lord in Jonah 4:2, “slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” In other words, He had a feeling God might change His mind. In fact, this is how we learn why Jonah didn’t want to go preach to Nineveh in the first place; he had a hunch this might happen. So Jonah sits and stews while God allows a plant to grow up and give him shade from the scorching sun, but then the next day, God withers the plant and Jonah suffers in the heat. “I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” (Jonah 4:9)

That’s when God says, “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?” (Jonah 4:10-11)

So what do we learn from this (except that God cares about animals, too)? Jonah ended up doing the right thing for the wrong reason. God got what He wanted — someone to deliver the message. The people of Nineveh got what they didn’t expect — God’s love and compassion and a new way of life. The only loser was Jonah.

When you judge, you’re the only one who loses. Might as well get with the program of God’s mercy.

The Witness
Words & Music by John Fischer

I will not be without a witness
I will not be without a witness
I will not be without a witness
Will you be a part of this?

Many will see without perceiving
Many will hear without believing
Many have longed to see what you see
Before their eyes

How will they see unless you show them?
How will they know unless you know them?
If it’s not you, it will be someone
So why not you?

Can I get a witness?
Can I get a witness?
Can I get a witness?
I don’t need you
But I want you

It will be said without you speaking
It will be known without you seeking
But you will be lost in the finding
And I will cry

I will not be without a witness
I will not be without a witness
I will not be without a witness
Will you be a part of this?

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2 Responses to Reluctant prophet misses the boat

  1. I just had a bizarre “Jonah connection” moment today while reading this. Many years ago, in a previous church, we had a destructive minister, leading a destructive life. However, he was a monumental preacher (to adults, I was a child/kid then). Our church was going thru a major transition and the conference had decided to move it. However, we needed the funds, and for that matter, the conviction, to do it. Only other option we were given was to disband. Very shameful, but that’s a whole other story.

    Needless to say, this minister was left at our church to “do the job” of making sure we raised the money to move. Half the congregation was exiting. The other half either didn’t believe the stories or thought the church was worth fighting for. We ended up raising the money, successfully moving, and then got a minister who made a world of difference in the lives of the members and visitors after we moved.

    I never ever thought about the fact that God might be leaving the other minister there to preserve a remnant of this particular church… but in fact, that’s exactly what happened! Although the church continued to transition and morph into different directions even now, the result is literally a thousand or more people who have either stayed at it and made a difference in God’s kingdom, or moved on to other churches and continued making a difference. The effort was fruitful, all in all!

  2. Mark Seguin says:

    Very cool “Jonah connection” story kfd&p I thoroughly enjoyed reading it…
    PS Good song Pastor John, I liked reading the words to it, would have loved hearing you sing it…:)

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