There are so many nuggets in the book of Jonah, but a couple of things stood out to me the most…one of which took my brain on a crazy rabbit trail.
The first thing that grabs my attention is the fact that Jonah thought he could outrun God. Adam and Eve were hiding from Him in the garden – clearly there is no outrunning God or hiding from Him, yet we all do it. I guess we think it’s easier to hide in our shame or selfishness…if we are lucky, we come to our senses and realize God is always the first place we should run – even in our darkest hour. Jonah was running away from God because he didn’t want to be obedient. I’m not certain that I have ever run from God because I didn’t want to be obedient to what I knew was a direct command. I have, however, spent many years running from God because I was ashamed of myself and felt void of all hope. Honestly, I wasn’t even aware at the time that my loving God could make it all better. I certainly know that now, and as hard and lonely as my years away from Him were, they made my love for Him so much sweeter and deeper and intimate. Thank God He didn’t give up on me. Jonah reminds us that God’s love is for all of us – even the worst sinners – all we have to do is turn our hearts to Him and repent. God will receive us over and over and over…He is that merciful and loving. Hallelujah!
The second point that stands out to me (and thus begins the rabbit trail in my head) is the fact that Jonah was angry because he didn’t want God to forgive the wretched people of Nineveh. Have you ever found yourself in this place – the place of not wanting God to forgive someone? I’ve certainly found myself in the place of wanting God to defend me by unleashing on those that have hurt me…even those that I knew were His children. I don’t know why Jonah didn’t want the people of Nineveh to be saved. There are scholars that say Jonah truly believed that only the Jews were God’s people, and that the Gentiles shouldn’t carry the same weight. I think sometimes our selfishness and our hurts get in our way, and we want to feel like we are the only ones that God sees, and that He sees us as the most special. If He (or others) sees those that hurt us as special, then it must mean we deserve the horrible things that were done to us. Of course this isn’t the truth, but it is how we receive it. It’s like looking in a tarnished mirror that is being held up for us by Satan himself.
When I was younger (high school age), I was very much a goody-goody girl. I have no idea why I was that way – the only thing I can chalk it up to is that God had His hand on me and was guiding me down the right path. I had friends that started experimenting with things – sex, alcohol, drugs – I remember driving them home when they had too much to drink. I was so angry by their actions. I didn’t wish harm on them or God’s wrath, but I was disappointed that they chose to partake in these activities. This is what I mean by the rabbit trail…not sure why the story of Jonah brings this memory to my mind. I guess I was angry that people I loved couldn’t see what was right in front of them – even though I don’t think I even understood it myself. Maybe Jonah was angry too – because the people of Nineveh had a choice, and they didn’t choose God until His wrath was forewarned. Maybe Jonah was angry because he had chosen to serve the Lord of his own accord, so how could those that chose otherwise get the same place in God’s heart? I had a friend once that was so angry with God because several of her single friends were getting married, and they had JUST started following Christ, whereas she had been a good and faithful Christian for a long time. That modern day story very much reminds me of the story of Jonah.
We all walk through this earth experiencing pain, often times from people we love the most. It’s so easy to get clouded with our own hurts and insecurities that we forget the most important thing of all – God’s love is for all of us. We don’t deserve it more or less than anyone else – no matter how blameless or sinless we think we are. It’s not our performance or righteous choices that earns us God’s love. It’s only by God’s grace that we are loved.
May all of God’s people (present and future) fall head over heels in love with our Lord and Savior and taste the sweetness of His divine love – so much so that we want to laugh, love, share it and proclaim it with the world!