15 May 2013

Jonah in the Whale: An Undesired Mercy

{I encourage you to read the book of Jonah.  It's not long, and it's sandwiched right between the books of Obadiah and Micah.}

We know the story of Jonah, the way he fled from doing the will and work of the Lord.  But we--you and I--would never do such a thing.  We would never want to take Jonah's path by ship and whale (or "great fish", to quote) and foot and sleep and please-throw-me-overboard-thank-you.  Because God is our Friend, right?  So loving.  So accepting.  So patient.  And we like it, don't we, that He's like that with everyone (and not just us)?  We want every person we know and even those we don't to know our Savior's love, forgiveness, and mercy, don't we?

Or is there that person or those people who wronged us, made our lives miserable, treated us unjustly, gave us grief in just about every area of our lives.....that person or those people whose mansions really ought to be far on the other side of heaven, where we don't plan to travel often? 

~Because we would never admit there might be a person or people we would rather not see in heaven at all.  We'd just rather spend our time with someone nice like Moses or Methuselah.~

And we get to some place in our heart of hearts that we probably don't even know is there.  A place where we reserve the grace of God for ourselves and people like ourselves, and not for the people who perhaps were more ignorant of God's requirements than we are, and who might repent before we do, and who hurt us.  Made us suffer.  Made us grow weary of doing good.  Made us want to run to Tarshish to get away from it all long enough for someone else to pick up the slack in the Lord's work, or even long enough for God's wrath to be poured out upon a whole city before we could get there to preach a saving message of warning.  Because we don't want to see those people from Ninevah ever again.  Not even in heaven, with changed lives, changed motives, changed hearts.  

We don't know it's there, that is, until we invest money not in putting ourselves closer to the things God wants for and from us, but in running away.  We pay for our ticket out, and board ship.  We even tell the other passengers we're daring enough to run away like this.  Then when we're sleeping through a storm that threatens not only our own lives but also the lives of everyone else on whatever has become our ship, others take over our job, reminding us to seek the One who provides all our needs including our needs for justice.  The One who doesn't destroy us either, even though we deserve it, too.  The One who sees every bit of the rebellion and pain in our hearts, and in mercy does not abandon even when we run away.

Jonah got to the place in his heart of hearts where he would rather die, drown in the raging sea, than do what God asked him to do.  And we can be so hard on him, so unsympathetic.  We really have no idea why he hated the people of Ninevah so much. 

{Because wouldn't he have to hate them to want them to be destroyed?  Or did he just feel ashamed when his prophecy did not seem to come true?}

Maybe, sometimes, we feel just like Jonah did.  All we want to do is escape.  Maybe, on the other hand, all we really need is God's forgiveness and love to flood our hearts and overflow to the very people we thought we didn't want next door in heaven.

No matter how deeply rooted Jonah's desire to escape, God's desire to save--both him, and the people of Ninevah--kept pursuing.  By a miracle, Jonah wasn't destroyed.  God calmed the sea for the sakes of the sailors who could hardly bear to throw a man overboard, and they weren't destroyed either.  And by another miracle , every person and animal in Ninevah went on an immediate fast when they realized their sins, and sought mercy from the God of heaven.  

And isn't it beautiful that God's mercy still comes, even when we don't want it to?  That it can transform the deepest darkness in our hearts?  That our story is still open-ended (like the book of Jonah seems to be) and we can still accept God's mercy for us toward others?  That instead of being thrilled to get away from God's plan, we can by grace delight to be in the center of it, no matter how difficult the road seems to get?

I've had thoughts about the book of Jonah before.  Perhaps you'd like to read them as well?

A Run into God's Mercy
Reflections on Mercy and Anger

Today's photos come from my walks through the orchard last month, below, in case you missed them.

I Must Walk Through the Orchard
Me Again, in the Orchard
Something Better than Walking through the Orchard?
Can't Get Enough

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