Summary: God rebukes our pretentions, narrow judgments, and divisions.
“Angry Enough To Die”
By: Rev. Kenneth E. Sauer
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
It would be fair to say that one of the underlying themes of the New Testament is the wideness of God’s mercy—that God is not the God of the Jews only…
…and that Jesus came to save all people—no matter what their nationality!
I believe one of the greatest puzzles in this life…
…one of the greatest obstacles we are called to overcome…
…one of the greatest lessons we are to learn is that we are supposed to love one another without regard to race, sex, religion or any other characteristic.
And once we learn this, we are to spend our lives figuring out how to go about doing this—loving one another as God has loved us.
As Rodney King proclaimed some eleven years ago: “Why can’t we all just get along?”
In the Old Testament, after the Exile, there grew up in Israel a spirit of bitterness and vengefulness toward other nations.
The most passionate desire of the people was that God’s wrath should utterly consume all of Israel’s enemies.
The nation had endured so much at the hands of it’s enemies that they had forgotten to keep alive the vision of Israel as God’s servant through whom the Redemptive Truth would one day reach all people.
It’s as if we were to say: “God Bless the United States of America—and no one else!”
This is the way Israel felt, and this is the reason that the Book of Jonah was written.
The author of Jonah was on fire with a great message!
He would teach his people and all people a great truth…
…that the love of God is broader than the measure of our minds!!!
The author saw in Jonah the whole nation of Israel.
The story of Jonah is a constant rebuke to our pretensions, our narrow judgments, and our divisions.
It sets the meanness and foolishness of humankind against the greatness and goodness and love of God!
God spoke to Jonah and said, basically, “Go to Ninevah, that huge city and tell them that I am disgusted by their behavior.”
Now this was a very strange command since the Ninevites were the enemies of the rest of the world—including Israel.
It would be like someone today traveling to the capital city of their worst enemy to tell them that God is unhappy with them.
So Jonah does the only sensible thing…
…he heads in the opposite direction.
Jonah doesn’t do this because he is afraid, but because what he wanted and what God wanted were two entirely different things.
He knew that God’s warning to Ninevah was God’s way to save Ninevah.
God would redeem.
Jonah wanted to destroy.
How many of us can relate to Jonah?
How many of us are unable to see God’s purpose which is pointing toward a more equal world, simply because we would rather return to the good old days of “special privilege”?
God sees in us a rebellion against His mandate that we are to recognize our common humanity with the other people of this earth—the people of the Arab world, of Ethiopia, of China, of persons of differing colors and backgrounds—even within our own country.
Jonah fled God’s presence because it was too uncomfortable.
If he were to stay in God’s presence, his littleness, his sin, his prejudices and hypocrisies would be revealed for what they were.
If he had chosen to stay in God’s presence, he would have become a changed man.
In God’s presence his pride and his hatreds would have been transformed.
In God’s presence, and in God’s presence alone Jonah could have found the inner healing that he lacked.
And the same goes for all of us.
What is it that Jesus tells us in John Chapter 3?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”…
… “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
Will we stay in the Light and be transformed…
…or will we flee from the Light and remain the angry, selfish creatures that we are?
Worn out by his inner turmoil and the hardships of his hasty journey of escape, Jonah went down into the hold of the ship and “fell into a deep sleep.”
Jonah was fast asleep just as we Christian people often are—professing the Gospel of Jesus Christ but being content to do very little with our faith—like putting it to action!