Summary: Let us not be a hard to be taught as was Jonah.
Learning a Lesson – THE HARD WAY!
* When our son, Jonathon, was born, it didn’t take us very long to discover he was what is commonly called, “a strong willed child.” In fact, Deb bought the book by James Dobson which helped deal with this little bundle of stubbornness. We all giggle about the strong willed child and certainly we look back on Jonathon’s formative years with smiles and fond remembrances, but have you ever given any thought as to the ‘why’ or even the “what” of a strong-willed child.
* Though I’m not a psychologist, in the aftermath of seeing first-hand this characteristic, here is what I have come to know. The strong-willed child has an above average desire for everything to go HIS way, to do what HE wants done, and for life to be all about Him. Again, this causes for some comical moments in the family. However, those same traits which are humorous in a small child is sad in an adult. Yet, it is easy to make the case that many of us adults have become so strong willed in such an healthy way, that God has no possibility of getting us in on His plan. This is the situation of Jonah. READ.
* There is an old axiom which asks, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer (as we all know) is, “One bite at a time.” From these verses, we can break our thinking into 4 different slices to digest it.
1. A STRANGE REACTION – Let’s remember our context; we read where Jonah heard from God, ran from God, was chased down by God, and ultimately He was sent from God to Nineveh to preach and had great success. A great revival broke out! Normally we are neither sad nor mad about things which are successful. In fact, generally we are glad to be a part of anything which even has the appearance of success. Conversely, we tend to run from those things which we even “think” will fail. HOWEVER, God sent Jonah, Jonah’s preaching ministry was successful, and Jonah was unhappy about his success. Go figure. Talk about a “strong-willed” person!!
* Don’t forget this; God did something good! He brought repentance to a wicked city and then relented from destroying them.
* Every time I read a story in the Bible, my inquisitive nature causes me to ask, “God, why did you put this here?” With Jonah, I wonder if his strange reaction was given to serve as a warning to us about how we can go through the motions of ministry and not have our hearts in it. In Jonah’s case, his next words demonstrated much about where his heart was in this process.
2. A SELFISH REVELATION – All a person has to do is read verse 3, and become aware of Jonah “strong-will” and selfish tendencies. Of all the verse in the Bible that surprises me, this one leads the list. It is beyond my imagination that a person who “proclaims” God’s message would come back to God and say, “I told you so.” Think about this, Jonah admitted that the reason he ran toward Tarshish was because HE KNEW that GOD would show mercy on the Ninevites. Consider this; in these statements he owns up to not caring, to not wanting them to be saved, and actually wanting them to die in their sins. How do I know this? He clearly says, “One who relents from sending disaster.” Jonah wanted them to die. Actually, this could have been Jonah’s ploy to rid himself of an enemy, yet Jesus says, “Love your enemy.”
* If we want to understand whether a person is selfish or not, all we have to do is listen to his or her words. Scripture teaches make us aware that who and what we are is a matter of the heart. Principles like, “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he,” or “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Words tell us much about a person.
3. A SAD REQUEST –Just as verse 2 reveals Jonah’s selfishness, verse 3 reveal the depravity found in the heart of man. Here is what he says, “God, I rather be dead than see the people repent.” Think about how reverse that is from the work which the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 9. Paul says, “I would die as a lost man IF it meant my Jewish brothers would repent and get saved. This request from Jonah reminds us of the request from Elijah, “Lord let me die.” We know Elijah was not speaking the truth because had he wanted to die, he could have stayed at Mt. Carmel and a mean queen would have done the deed. Honestly, I think Jonah was feeling sorry for himself. Perhaps he disliked the Ninevites so much that it broke his heart, perhaps after his trek to Nineveh he felt depressed, or perhaps he didn’t like his assignment in life. Whether this was it or not, Jehovah God was about to do some “parenting” with one question.