Links Daily Devotional

The Trouble with Jonah

But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”

“I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” (Jonah 4:9, NIV)

So we sit on the eve of the last men’s major of the season, the PGA Championship, and we’re busy looking for winners. If ever there was a “horse for the course,” it’s Rory at Quail Hollow. But then Hideki is hot as a fry skillet and Jordan has one chance at being the youngest ever to capture the career Grand Slam. Dustin and Jason would love back in the door and Rickie could really amp up his rock fest with a major.

But here’s the trouble: Golf may be the hardest sport in the world for predicting a winner. Even when Tiger was winning half the time, it was the world’s wildest guess to pick who would win if he didn’t. Rich Beem? Todd Hamilton? Ben Curtis? Shaun Micheel?

When it comes to golf, and then to life, there aren’t many blue chippers. Maybe just one. The rest of us are usually good for one round out of four at best.

In the end, Jonah reduced himself to adolescence, sticking out his lip and saying, “I’m so angry I could die.”This is what makes it so helpful—and likewise, painful—to read the curious account of a week in the life of Jonah (give or take a few days, depending on whether he was as fast a walker as he was a runner). He is too much like us.

First, Jonah isn’t sure he likes the commissioning of God. It’s OK to believe, you know, but to do what God tells you? That’s another level. Jonah was quicker to commit in the other direction, taking off to Tarshish to “escape” the word of the Lord.

When Jonah’s folly takes consequence, though, he recognizes his stubborn error and even confesses to it. “Throw me overboard,” he tells the sailors in the storm, and though they have no desire to be accomplices to murder, they do what he says and beg God for forgiveness.

When the fish spits Jonah out on the shore, the most reluctant prophet hears God’s call again and this time obeys. He goes to Nineveh to preach God’s judgment to the 120,000 people there.

And they repent. Which makes Jonah anything but happy.

Maybe this has been you. Some of us wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if “those sinful, secular people” we decry actually turned to Jesus. We’re better at preaching “turn or burn” than “turn and live.” The Ninevites chose to live and God heard their plea. He relented. And Jonah whined.

The trouble with Jonah is that he wanted God’s righteousness in the land, but he wasn’t so sure he wanted God for himself. In the end, he reduced himself to adolescence, sticking out his lip and saying, “I’m so angry I could die.” Jonah is a model of whom we often are, not whom we should be.

God’s words close the little book of Jonah: “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” And from there we should be spurred to do what Jonah could not—to share the concerns of God, to care for what he cares for. In doing that first, our actions will follow our rightly surrendered heart.

Jeff Hopper
August 9, 2017
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