Jonah part 3: Get over Yourself
Jonah 3:1, 2
And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach (to summon or call with a loud voice) unto it the preaching (the proclamation) that I bid thee.
God never changed His mind. We might change our minds, but His plan never changes, "Summon the lost to come and repent! Proclaim the truth of My word!"
God told Jonah to arise. There are countless believers seated; they are MIA. We have no way of knowing how long Jonah was lying/ sitting around after he was spit upon the shore before God came unto him a second time. The word just says that God came unto him a second time and said, "Arise!" Arise child of God from your seated position and return to the place of obedience; once again, God's mind hasn't changed. He wants sinners saved.
So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing:let them not feed, nor drink water:
There is a lot to be said regarding this passage of scripture. The first thing that stood out to me is that the people received the word of God first, and their response resulted in a change to the king’s heart. This may be a little off the beaten path, but churches are filled with leaders that aren't living or preaching right; therefore, it makes sense that the pews would be filled with people who don't properly understand the gospel, and therefore, are incapable of walking right with God. Sadly, most people will never rise above the teaching they receive from the teacher they sit under. Furthermore, there is a mindset in the church where we are supposed to teach the Bible at an elementary level-- well you do the math. The truth is that people just hate to be challenged in anything. We like the status quo. I don't know much, but I do know this-- Jesus and His disciples were the antonym of the "status quo," and the point that I’m trying to make is that just as in the Jonah story, it doesn’t matter what the leaders are doing, God wants the people that are called by His name to humble themselves and pray and to turn from their wicked ways.
Besides the fact that the regular people responded to God and ultimately affected leadership, I also wanted to point out the way people in the Old Testament repented.
It is well known through the scriptures that Israel would repent in sackcloth and ashes when they were sorrowful for their sin. While I can't prove it, I feel certain this was a big part of Jonah's message. We know he was crying in the streets that judgment was coming, and we are told that their response was that they repented in sackcloth and ashes.
It should be noticed that sackcloth laid upon the body is extremely uncomfortable. Furthermore, ashes spread upon the head and body in a humid climate would be an absolute irritation. In 2 Samuel 12:20, David repented over his sin with Bathsheba and the illness of their offspring. Once the child died and he felt like it was time for his repentance to be over, he rose, washed, and anointed himself with oil. I point this out because he was making himself more comfortable. The anointing of oil was the opposite of the remorse and discomfort associated with sackcloth and ashes.
I fear that churches are filled with unsaved people today because the message has been purposefully softened and diluted to prevent offense. Through this, people are allowed to exist in a lifestyle of sin because they have been told a lie about what grace really means.
True repentance will have associated with it discomfort related to one's sin. There will be a discomfort in the fact that God was offended!
Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.
Jonah is displeased with God's plan and the way things are going. He's responded superficially to the request of God, but internally, he is in opposition to God's way.
Wherefore the Lord said,
Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth,
and with their lips do honour me,
but have removed their heart far from me,
and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
I can tell you that this isn't going to work with God. There are people who walk around with an outward appearance pretending they are serving God, but inwardly, their hearts are far from Him. He loves you Christian! He loves you, and He won't let you stay comfortable in the spot you've prepared for yourself.
That's exactly what Jonah has done-- right? He has gone off on his own and prepared his own shelter, for his own comfort hoping to see what he wants to see. With the works and manipulation of his own hands, he prepares a place for himself, but even all his work and attempts leave him open to the elements.
This is a perfect picture of the flesh attempting to cover self. While this is a somewhat difficult thing to explain, and a little out of context, Christians love to prepare coverings for themselves in an attempt to prevent themselves from falling. There was a movement sometime back where everyone was going to get themselves an accountability partner and confess all their faults to them as though that was going to set them free or keep them from sinning. While on the surface it seems spiritual and even biblical, to be truthful, when someone places their faith in this instead of the finished work of Christ for victory, it's just another attempt through feeble flesh to gain victory over sin; therefore, it's just another way to say in the heart that what Jesus did wasn't enough.
The Lord showed me several years ago that if a person can't be accountable to Him, the one that created and peers into the human heart, then it's preposterous to think that trusting in some earthly relationship will fill that need. Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying, iron sharpens iron. Brothers and sisters in The Lord are an extremely powerful source of strength as we walk together in the faith encouraging and edifying (building up) one another in the things of God.
Nevertheless, if a man would learn to walk in Christ through proper faith in His finished work, then that man will learn to be accountable to God as the Holy Spirit empowers towards obedience. Until a man learns to be accountable to God, that man will never, and I repeat, that man will never learn to be accountable to man.
While it is true that James said to confess to one another and pray, so that you would be healed, which is referring to healing of the soul, Jesus is the answer and victory for sin. The purpose here is that a stronger brother would lead the other or vice versa back to Jesus and His answer for the problem:
1 Peter 2:24
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness:by whose stripes ye were healed.
So which would you prefer to trust in completely for your healing?
Ultimately, Jonah like so many of us has feebly attempted to meet his needs, and even though he's disobedient, God is going to show him mercy and provide a supernatural covering to provide for Jonah what his hands could not.
There is so much to be held onto here. If we could only stop in the midst of the chaos and remind ourselves that He alone can provide what we need and every attempt we make in erecting our own plans only leads to failure and more frustration.
And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
God prepared a storm for chastisement, a form of discipline to stop his disobedience.
God prepared a great fish to rescue him from the turbulent chaos he had brought upon himself and to turn Jonah back to the right direction. God uses chastisement to turn us around.
God prepared a gourd as a covering of mercy. Jonah's feeble attempts failed, and his heart was disobedient; nevertheless, God showed mercy and protected Jonah.
God prepared a worm to destroy the gourd, which He had provided for Jonah to give him a covering of mercy.
The gourd was God's; the worm was God's; the wind, the sun, the fish, the storm, the Ninevites, and Jonah, everything belongs to God and God will do with it what He pleases. How dare you Jonah! How dare you think the Ninevites don't deserve God's mercy!
When you feel bitterness in your heart towards someone who has treated you wrong, just remember as fast as God raised up and destroyed Jonah's gourd, He can also remove his mercy from over your life.
Needless to say, Jonah is miserable with his life right now. The sun is scorching and a vehement (hot) east wind is blowing; he's miserable with his life to the point that he wants to die.
And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
It should be noted that all of Jonah's discomfort is because of his refusal to see what God wants Him to see and respond the way God wants him to respond; essentially, God wants Jonah to be about God's business and see life His way, but Jonah wants things done his way. Let there be no confusion, Jonah wants what he wants and he is angry because he can't get it!
When we demand something from God that is contrary to His will, refusing to see things His way and instead demand that it go our way, we will continue to be miserable.
Throughout the life of the Christian, God desires to align our hearts, minds, essentially our inner man with His heart: the way He sees things. This concept encompasses every aspect of our lives. In Jonah's scenario, the context specifically surrounds his obedience to God regarding the ministry God has asked from him. Jonah's response is undoubtedly being influenced by the world around him. What I mean by that is Israel, as a whole, is living in disobedience towards God. Idolatry stands in between them and God; therefore, they cannot properly connect to His presence, and they cannot properly perceive His ways.
In a similar fashion, the Christian whose mind isn't stayed upon the Lord isn't able to see God's way. We can get into specifics here. We can talk about relationships. We can talk about demanding a relationship out of wedlock or one that enters wedlock outside of God's will and then sit there under our withered gourd while the east wind scorches our head, and we are frustrated and aggravated because nothing is going our way. It's not the way God wants you to go! He wants you to surrender to His will.
We can talk about jobs. I've talked about this hundreds of times over the years of this bible study. People change jobs more rapidly sometimes than they do partners in today's society, thinking they're going to find happiness in the new job because somehow the boss at the new job is going to finally "get it." Don't get me wrong there are better bosses and better jobs, but the job oftentimes isn't the problem. The problem is we're looking for fulfillment elsewhere, and so we sit under the withered gourd having a pity party because nothing goes our way. Stop! Stop and be about the Father's business. Seek His will for your life and surrender to Him.
Sometimes, we desire to control a situation so bad that the relationships, job, church, ministry...isn't even the problem. Instead, these are just the symptoms; we have a letting go and letting God problem. We want it our way. We want to see the world our way. I don't like to read, so I don't even know what the preacher is talking about when he mentions Abraham. That works ok when you’re a newborn baby Christian, but if you refuse to change your world view through the word of God, you will remain with your miserable control issues demanding God give you what you want, sitting under your withered gourd blaming God.
God didn't create you so He could give you glory; He created you for you to give Him glory!
God didn't create you so He could spend all His time ministering to your plans; He created you for His glory, His plans, and His purpose. If you ain't on board with that, you ain't on board with Him!
Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore (120,000) thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
As I said earlier, Jonah’s mindset has been tainted and influenced by the current condition of Israel’s spirituality: Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable will of God.
In this passage, Paul explains that we aren’t to be conformed, which means to be molded by an outward source. In this case, the outward source is the world system, in Jonah’s case he’s being molded by the spiritual condition of Israel. Paul exhorts believers to be transformed, which describes an inward change manifest outwardly. Interestingly, the word in the Greek is metamorphoo, where we get our word metamorphosis. The transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly is a metamorphosis that manifests outwardly what was already inherent in the butterfly’s genes. In addition the word transfigured used of Jesus is also this Greek word. On that day what was really in Jesus, His deity, shown thru. We are exhorted by Paul to have a renewed mind that understands this. All this is connected to verse 1 and all the previous teaching that spoke of the “old man” dying in Christ and the “new man” resurrecting in Him. This is the immediate context of verse 1 to make the point:
I beseech you therefore, brethren by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed
After all the previous teaching that he had offered in Romans 6, Paul is now saying that we are to live our lives as a living sacrifice (the old man dead and the new man alive). The renewed mind understands he is a new creation in Christ and he is about his Father’s business. Ultimately, he has gotten over himself and is moving forward in God.
Jonah has pity for the gourd. In other words, he's sad it withered away because it can no longer serve his (Jonah's) purpose. But here is God's creation about to be destroyed and Jonah wants to see it happen. God is also trying to teach Jonah a lesson on mercy. Mercy is God's to give; it doesn't belong to Jonah. Sadly, many Christians also act like this. How quickly we forget what God has done for us.
Be careful Christian, God has been known to pull back His hand of mercy in order to teach His children a lesson. He's doing it right here in this story.