Agonizomai: Jonah 4:3-4 - God's Exquisite Forbearance

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Jonah 4:3-4 - God's Exquisite Forbearance
3-4 ..."Therefore now, O LORD, take my life from me, I beseech thee, for it is better for me to die than to live." 4 And the LORD said, "Do you do well to be angry?"

Why would Jonah rather die than live when God spares Nineveh? Is it because Nineveh is a growing threat to the surrounding nations and he is concerned for Israel?

Or is it because, having said, "Yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be overcome," he must now look like a bit of a ninny because it didn’t happen. Is it pride that bothers him? Is it what people will say about the failure of his prediction that so galls him? Ah, the depravity of the human heart - all human hearts, including those who are being saved by grace.

God does not call us to look good to people. He calls us to obey Him regardless of how it looks. If, by doing God’s will people will think or call us fools, liars, cheats, churls or anything else then what is that to us...
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you." {Mt 5:10-12}
So often we will find that so-called saints are no better – in fact they are worse than those in the world. God takes us where he finds us and then proceeds to form Christ in us. Some of us are pretty far gone when we’re found - so we don’t look like saints to the casual glance. If you look at all the main characters in the Bible but Christ, you will find at least one prepossessing flaw that will make you shake your head - that is, until you begin to know yourself.

Abraham tried to shortcut God with Hagar - producing Ishmael, whose line has been a blight to Israel ever since. Moses struck the rock twice in anger and forfeited his chance to enter Canaan. David was an adulterer and a murderer who, by his lapses forfeited the moral high ground in the discipline of his own children, with results that need no explanation. Jonah was a narrow, bigoted, disobedient, petulant whiner - whom God was sanctifying by His grace through discipline and correction, having justified him through faith.

But now see the same forbearance and love that God showed to the sailors, to Nineveh and to Jonah when he ran – shown again in the remarkably gentle rebuke by God, and in the lesson about to be taught. "Do you do well to be angry?" is God’s exquisitely forbearing and gentle question.

My moniker - that's John Hancock to Americans

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