I have created a list. Actually different lists for biblical characters depending on the subject. Jonah ranks high on one of them. Predict the subject and you wouldn’t be wrong. Disobedience! Mention Jonah and the sermon is almost predictable. At least if not exactly, we are likely to hear the mentions of Ship, Storm, Tarshish and Whale.
Jonah Chapter One without reading Chapter Four will always make Jonah the most disobedient Servant of God. But is that what Jonah represents? Be the judge when you are done reading this.
What is in Chapter four? Read. “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending Calamity.” Jonah 4:1-2 NIV.
Chapter One doesn’t tell why Jonah left for Tarshish. What you just read does! It was his knowledge of God. Why would such attributes make anyone disobey GOD? Jonah wanted the people of Nineveh punished. He wanted them to pay for their sins. He wanted them to suffer the consequences of their actions. Jonah believed in justice. He didn’t want any opportunity offered them lest they repented and God forgave them. Jonah was disobedient because he wanted their evil punished.
Tell me you haven’t wanted same or worse for someone. He broke your heart. You went into a wishful day dreaming. In it, you were happily married to another with beautiful kids and him, still single and wretched. He regrets and comes back to plead. He even asks for a few notes to cover lunch and you, on a high horse refused. That’s a moment in Jonahland.
You were refused. Overlook because you didn’t have the looks. Ignored because you didn’t have a deep pocket. Disregarded because of your academic level. Then as you left, you imagined yourself rich beyond measure. With competent attendants that dwarfs hostesses on an airplane. Then behind your 12 feet high gated mansion stood the same people who mistreated you. Those who disregarded you only need your signature now. You reminded them of the past and sent them away! You just earned yourself a page in Jonah’s memoir.
We don’t wish good for people who wrong us. We want them to suffer. We want them to pay dearly. We want them equally disgraced. We want them equally incarcerated. We want justice with an extra painful touch. So don’t mention forgiveness. It is not on our list of wishes. We are Jonah in many daily situations at work, home and church. We are Jonah with friends, family and loved ones.
Pause. What does God want? I can almost read your thought and it is not fair. It is not! Not after all they did. I know. But that doesn’t still answer the question. What does God want? You know it. I will repeat anyway. He wants them saved like the people of Nineveh. He wants to see them repent. He wants to give them another chance. He will do anything for them to be saved. He wants a relationship with them. He wants to use them. He loves them too. Like the way He loves you. Yeah you despite what others have wished for you that you totally deserve.
Still you don’t get it? Jonah didn’t anyway. He was filled with fury. God demonstrated with a vine. Caused a vine to grow to provide him with shade. Then provided a worm to chew the whole vine afterwards. The sun heat’s intensified. Jonah felt it and was annoyed to the point of wishing for death. God drew the analysis. It was simple. Jonah cared for a vine he didn’t even plant but God shouldn’t care for the hundred and twenty thousand people with their many cattle? The chapter ends there with a question. I imagined the answer. Jonah got it finally and perhaps headed home.
So you might not want to read this but it’s true. God can turn you ex into a millionaire. God can make a pastor out of a bully. That one person you detest so much and hope misfortunes take permanent residence in their household can be a representation of God’s miracle. Here is the basic truth, what you wish for someone no matter what they have done to you isn’t what God wants for them.
Jonah knew a loving and compassionate God. He knew a forgiving God. He is the same God. He has those same attributes and they apply to all even to the meanest person in your books on earth.
Years ago, I was betrayed. I killed all those involved in fervent prayers. Thank God they didn’t die. Today they have become good friends. Even inspirations.
What do you do then? At the risk of sounding ridiculous and unbelievable, forgive them. And say a prayer for them to encounter God. It is not easy. I know. But if Jesus asked that we forgive, it is certain He has already given us the ability to do so. Tap into His grace and let go. Who knows may be one day you would need same grace extended to you. Be Inspired.
Kwabena Eddie Mankata (c) 2016