ARGUING WITH GOD (JONAH 4)
What is a missionary? Here are some traditional and non-technical definitions from the web:
"A missionary is a person who, in response to God’s call and gifting, leaves his/her comfort zone and crosses cultural, geographic or other barriers to proclaim the Gospel and live out a Christian witness in obedience to the Great Commission."
"A missionary is one who gives up everything that they have and love to further the cause of Christ.
"A missionary is one who never gets used to the sound of heathen footsteps on their way to a Christless eternity"
"A missionary is one who is thrust into a strange culture, a strange people, a strange language and then comes to the realization that he is the strange one and everyone around him is normal."
"Becoming a missionary is like majoring in philosophy - no matter how good your intentions are, you’ll never be rich."
"A missionary is a person who is sent to say something or do something, which the person who sends him either cannot or does not choose to go himself to say or do."
"A missionary is a person who teaches cannibals to say grace before they eat him."
"A missionary is a person who knows two languages and can’t speak either one."
While everyone should participate in missions by joining a long-term or short-term mission trip, it is best to be informed than to be inspired before you go. Why do we go? What can we do? More importantly, what is our attitude?
The story of a resentful, rebellious and runaway prophet and missionary is an oxymoron, a contradiction, but that is the story of one of the most beloved biblical characters. Jonah prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 14:25) more than 50 years before its destruction in 722 B.C. at the hands of the Assyrians, the very enemies whose capital is at Nineveh, the city where Jonah was presently. Bear in mind Jonah’s attitude mirrored that of Israel towards Gentiles and, in application, the attitude of the local church to foreign missions. Would you save a nation that will ultimately be responsible for exiling your nation? What is our responsibility to nations and people that are richer and mightier than us, farther than where we want to go?
Turn from Your Self-Righteousness
1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, "O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee 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. 3 Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live." Jonah 4:1-3
Charles Darwin was a chronic complainer who was happiest when he had something to gripe about.
One night, he and his wife were guests at a banquet at which everything went wrong. The speeches were dry; the champagne was hot; the food was inferior; the service even more so, and worst of all, the naturalist was given a seat in a draft, about which he had a phobia. Throughout the meal, he grumbled and swore.
Later, the sponsor of the affair came over to Mrs. Darwin and said apologetically: "I do hope your husband will forgive us. We wanted so much for him have a good time." "He had wonderful time," she assured him. "He was able to find fault with everything."
It’s been said, "Some people aren’t really happy unless they complain."
Jonah was not a happy camper. The phrase "greatly displeased" is a syrupy, soft and sparing translation of its original in Hebrew, which is more sinister than merely "displeasure." Its few occurrences in the Bible are "evil," a translation that is very unflattering to Jonah. Similar and comparable statements include Joseph’s rejection of his master’s wife, calling it "a wicked thing" (Gen 39:9), Nehemiah weeping for the Jews in "great trouble" (Neh 1:3) and calling marriage with unbelieving Gentiles a "terrible wickedness" (Neh 13:27).
Further, describing Jonah as "greatly displeased" and "became angry" -- the two phrases - is comparing him chiefly with the bloodthirsty and vindictive Saul, who was "very angry" and "galled/displeased" -- in reverse order with Jonah - when the ladies sang David’s praises. (1 Sam 18:8)
Jonah’s anger was out of control. So far he prayed twice. The previous time he prayed was out of distress when he was inside the fish (Jonah 2:1-2), but now it was in and from anger, which has no chance or place in prayer. His passionate "O Lord" plea in Hebrew was a poor imitation of and a disgraceful tribute to passionate prayer warriors such as Hezekiah at the announcement of his death (2 Kings 20:2-3, Isa 38:3), and Nehemiah (Neh 1:5, 1:11) and Daniel’s (Dan 9:4) prayer for the Jews to survive exile and even the sailors who attempted to save him (Jonah 1:14). Unlike Hezekiah, Nehemiah and Daniel, Jonah’s prayer was not life and death.