Monday, March 12, 2018

Throw a Party

Throw a Party
March 12, 2018
Jonah 4:3  "Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

Jonah was a man of God, but his level of maturity was oftentimes lacking. He was a prophet, yes, that is for certain. But just like all the other prophets and devout followers of the Lord, past or present, he had a major flaw. He was human. Jonah developed his ability to hear from the Lord, and the Lord truly did speak to  him. And when someone heard from the Lord, and was willing to share that with others, he was considered a prophet. Jonah had developed that skill and an occasional willingness to use it, hence he was a prophet. This extremely positive attribute about Jonah, though, was housed in his flawed and sinful, human body. Jonah had a few faults, which, if you remember the story, landed him in the belly of a whale.

Jonah disobeyed the Lord and was duly punished. Jonah thought the Lord wanted to kill him for disobeying, and looked toward certain doom when the men on the ship threw him overboard. The Lord had other plans, though, and provided the whale to swallow him whole. After spending three days in the belly of the whale, and crying out to the Lord, the Lord completed Jonah's discipline and set him on dry land. Jonah followed through with what the Lord asked him to do, preaching to Nineveh and saving them all from death, then he sat outside of the city and threw a party for one. Jonah sat away from Nineveh and stared at the city, pondering all that happened, throwing himself a pity party. For some reason, he was mad that the Lord saved the inhabitants of Nineveh, after just being saved himself from the belly of the whale. Jonah was so selfish and angry about it that he wished for death. The irony of the situation. The Lord had just saved him from death after the men on the boat threw him overboard.

The Lord had compassion for Jonah though, for some reason, even in the midst of the pity party, and caused a shade tree to grow up around Jonah to give him a break, a blessing, so he could sit in comfort. Jonah was pleased for the comfort, for the Lord's generosity, but the Lord took the shade tree away the next day. Again, Jonah wished for death at the loss of the simple comfort of the shade. He sat there, again, having a pity party for himself because of the lost blessing of the shade tree. 

Jonah didn't get it. He was so selfish that he wanted the Lord to keep His kindness away from the inhabitants of Nineveh but fully wanted the benefits of the Lord's kindness for himself. Jonah's sin of his disobedience warranted being disciplined, yet Jonah felt entitled and privileged, despite committing the sin that landed him in the belly of the whale. There was no humbleness in Jonah when he got out of the whale. He acted like a spoiled child again and again. The Bible never tells us how Jonah's life resolves, if he ever matured from this pity parties and bad attitude. The Lord wanted to use Jonah, and He did, to accomplish so much good.  Despite all the good Jonah did, he was not a success story of someone to emulate. His is only the story of the Lord's forgiveness and the Lord's extreme patience both for a lost people and for a flawed human who knew better. 

And while Jonah finally preached to save the inhabitants of Nineveh, I'm not so sure he went willingly and I'm not sure he did it with a good attitude. Did Jonah's actions for Nineveh warrant the Lord's blessing for obedience? I want to think Jonah figured it out later in life, repenting of his poor attitude and pride. Thankfully the Lord was patient with him, as you and I often need the Lord's patience for our self pity, too. But just because the Lord is patient, doesn't mean we should test it to see how far He is willing to go with it. However justified it might seem at the moment, there is absolutely no valid reason to throw yourself a pity party.   

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 145:8, Job 1:21, Jonah 1:11-15, Jonah 4 

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