Disappointed by Grace

Jonah 4:1-3

Is really easy to find all sorts of fault with Jonah – should have been like this, done that, thought this way, acted that way. Many times, though, Jonah is who we see in mirror. God directing us to do something, we run in opposite direction. God has particular way of thinking about people or circumstances, we persist in thinking differently. Story of Jonah should give us encouragement – like people of Nineveh, God didn’t leave us to our doom. Like Jonah, God patiently uses less than perfect instruments to do his work. Praise him for that!!

Given how Ninevites responded to God’s message, Jonah should have been delighted, not displeased. Should have rejoiced, not resented God’s grace. What should have brought Jonah before God in worship brings him to complain. Example given here not to encourage copying Jonah but to give hope in God – he will pursue ruined sinners, will use redeemed sinners, his purpose will not be frustrated or derailed.

Jonah displeased, not with events, with God! Jonah disagreed with what he knew God’s plan was for Nineveh. Was disappointed to be right about God. If was baseball instead of Bible, Jonah a classic strikeout who swings wildly at precisely wrong time.

A. displeasure v.1

not just little difference of opinion

more like directly opposing views of redemption – Jonah wanted maximum benefit for minimum crowd, God intended maximum benefit for maximum size group

two or three kids, huge box of toys, dump out and one scrambles to grab all toys if possible, guard for own use – Jonah wanted Gospel grace dispensed on terms he was comfortable with

Jonah understood basics of God’s character – gracious, loving, longsuffering… consider Israel’s history, how God treated them

seems Jonah only saw and appreciated that character in relation to his people, not at all interested in sharing

Jonah did not grasp breadth of God’s purpose – finally got it that God had good things in mind for Nineveh, at least for his generation

probably would have had huge meltdown if suspected Nineveh simply one example of all God intended for rest of world

see in next verse Jonah familiar with Exodus – should have gone back to Genesis, God’s immense promise to Abraham (12:3)

or the infinite supply of God’s grace – like everything else related to God, his supply of grace has no limit, cannot be measured

at least did not work out practical implication of that truth – God can bestow grace on 5 people or a million w/o diminishing what is available… to all of them and more

have little frame of reference, all we work with has limited supply, not so with God; side note – why we can ask big things

intensely displeased

strong expression of conflicting ideas – Jonah had his idea / mental picture of how it should be, refused to accept any other version

convinced not only that his way was a right way, strongly believed his way of understanding and applying redemption the only right way

wasn’t simply that Jonah was “afraid” God might be gracious – knew from history, esp. personal experience God is gracious

problem was Jonah’s list of candidates for God’s grace far shorter than God’s list, and Jonah not interested in modifications

Jonah firmly convinced God was wrong to be gracious to Ninevites – was matter of principle, not preference, for him

offended preference doesn’t generate death wish – this a principle Jonah believed of ultimate importance… he was right

if YHWH could only be proper God for Israelites and none else, YHWH is too small to be kind of God fallen world needs

led to anger… and pride

anger God didn’t see it his way – put kid in timeout, often says what he thinks expected to shorten stay whether genuine or not

Jonah said lot of right things in prayer from fish’s belly… doesn’t mean he embraced those truths and all their consequences

perhaps some said through clenched jaw, angry that God used his prerogative to do things his way – anger one of first sins mentioned… “Cain was very angry” (Gen. 4:5), some other parallels there, too

pride because his way was best – Jonah convinced he was right, God should have listened, offended because he didn’t

B. disagreement v.2

I knew this would happen

no doubts about unchanging character of God – knew how God had acted in past was how would continue to act in future

also recognized good principle – God always acts consistent with his character: names describe, actions display character

so convinced it would happen, took matters “in own hands” – was rational belief, not irrational like some who go to even greater extreme

20 years ago, Heaven’s Gate cult, Hale-Bopp comet had spaceship in tail, would take souls to higher plane

were many valid reasons for Jonah to maintain conviction that God would indeed continue to be unchanging in character

seemed to forget God’s unchangeable plan included Jonah! – God had tagged Jonah for mission, was not going to back out

God could use reluctant prophet to do his work just as easily as change hearts of Ninevites to genuinely repent

I didn’t want this to happen

given no clear reason why Jonah thought as he did – apparently God thought specific reason not important for us to know

leaves us to look for principle(s) to apply in variety of circumstances, not just one kind that looks like Jonah’s

could have been expected threat from national enemy – Assyria on/off hazard to Israel for many decades, no desire to show them favor, encourage them in any way

could have been fear response, thought Gentiles a sub-species – might not have had clear basis, just afraid of them because of past reputation

note: same basic attitude has persisted in church down to today – at one time, blacks viewed as less than human, not deserving of the Gospel or opportunity to worship

present culture: fear of Muslims, distaste for homosexuals and others, attitudes that have serious impact on evangelism

I ran so this wouldn’t happen

Jonah figured he was God’s Plan A, God didn’t have Plan B – was right, not because God couldn’t, he didn’t need one

Jonah didn’t figure on God’s persistence, creativity – for at least a while, Jonah thought he could frustrate God’s plan all by himself… he’s repeatedly finding out otherwise

and… Jonah didn’t figure on God’s plan for Jonah for Jonah – not told final outcome for Jonah, would be reasonable to think God eventually brought him around to right perspective

I knew you would make it happen

perhaps getting at root of Jonah’s problem: notice what Jonah quotes – even in anger/frustration Jonah goes to Bible, kinda think was misusing it though… applying in way God did not intend

goes back to God’s revelation of his name to his covenant people – Exodus 34:6-7, Moses on way to get 10 Commandments, 2nd issue

Jonah didn’t want God to have covenant kind of relationship with any but Jews

happens in personal relationships, particularly controlling types – you can have any kind of relationship you want… with me, no one else

happens in Christian / religious circles – hostility toward Gentiles in Jesus’ day; Gnostic secrets exclude all but chosen few

if don’t dress particular way, use certain version of Bible, show anointing of Spirit by outward signs, not “real Christian”

C. disappointment v.3

death is better than this

Jonah too angry / resentful / disappointed to want to live… too chicken to take own life – could also be attempt to manipulate God!

doesn’t’ seem to get the irony – he prefers death because he has hope, a hope he would deny Ninevites

apparently has already forgotten 3-day submersible experience – was willing to concede certain things if God would get him out of fish’s belly

yet he would consign Ninevites to far worse in spite of God’s intention to show them love and grace – shows how unrestrained anger feeds itself and grows

better to die than see them live

if Jonah lives, he gets to see Ninevites live, too – not his idea of fun – had worked himself into such state, no longer cares about people on any level

may have understood God’s grace, did not fully grasp God’s judgment / wrath – had taste of abandonment, had no real experience of God’s wrath… means also didn’t fully grasp awfulness of sin

if he did, was meaner, more lacking compassion than an prophet had right to be – had no right to be vindictive toward Assyrians, vengeance if / when warranted belonged to God

totally upside down from Paul – Rom. 9:1-4

I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,who are Israelites”

Paul, like us, knew that was impossible – even apostle’s death wouldn’t save anyone – is clear way of showing Paul’s commitment to do all he could to bring them to faith

it’s the thought that counts – should reflect depth of our compassion for lost, whether Americans or not

actually only one race, the human race; two kinds of humans, saved and lost – those are categories God uses, so should we

when God brings lost to country, city, neighborhood, workplace, should respond in way that shows God’s grace and mercy

when are around saved people, need to do same – show God’s grace and mercy as we encourage one another

Only way to do that – make sure our tank is full all the time. Focused on Christ, listening to Christ, depending on Christ, becoming more like Christ day by day as we draw nearer to him.

 

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