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.”. Jonah 4:2-3 (NIV).
This prayer takes some chutzpah. It really does. Jonah runs away from God because he’s afraid, but then God gives him a second chance. So, Jonah does what God tells him to do, and the unexpected happens: all of Ninevah repents. And, now, Jonah is angry that God didn’t smite Ninevah?
We hate it when bad things don’t happen to good people, don’t we?
Wait a minute! Isn’t that supposed to be “when bad things (do) happen to good people? Sure. But Jonah hated it that something terrible didn’t happen to Ninevah. He was counting on God favoring Israel, favoring Jonah, favoring the fact that He’d said He would wipe out this wicked city.
Chutzpah. Foolhardiness. Bold stupidity. Call it what you want: Jonah’s blamed God for being kind.
Fast forward to now. I won’t speak for you, but I’ve done this. I’ve held grudges. I’ve sought God’s mercy and then been angry when other people who hurt me didn’t get hurt later. I’ve held on to hate for people and judged others even when they didn’t deserve it. I know better than God! I’ve been angry at God for not making things go my way.
Going my way, eh? How ironic that a great Bing Crosby movie (about a priest) is also the center of selfishness that made Jonah angry. That angers you and I today. It’s no coincidence that “idolatry” starts with the letter, “i.” Idolatry is nothing more than us putting ourselves in God’s place. Worship me; pay attention to me; give me what I want.
Wipe out the NInevites. Going my way, eh?
How quickly we and Jonah forget that, in addition to being the judge of all, God is a loving God of mercy and forgiveness. We want those things for ourselves, and when things don’t go our way, we focus on ourselves. When things aren’t going my way, I get angry. When that happens, it’s time to stop, drop, and roll. Put out the fire that actually is going my way because I’m the one who started it. It’s a fire of pride and jealousy and should have no home in a place where the peace of Christ has come to take up residence.
Jonah forgot that. In going our ways today, let’s not do the same.
For further reading: Numbers 14:18, Job 7:15, Psalm 103:8, Jeremiah 20:7-8, Jonah 4:4
Lord please forgive my stupid self. Forgive my idolatry and jealousy and selfishness.
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