Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Story Of Jonah: God's Sovereignty Part 3 (Updated)

Jonah 4:
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.
2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.
3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."
4 And the LORD said, "Do you do well to be angry?"
5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city.
6 Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant.
7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered.
8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, "It is better for me to die than to live."
9 But God said to Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?" And he said, "Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die."
10 And the LORD said, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night.
11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"

At long last, my final installment on Jonah.

In my two previous posts I tried to show how Jonah's story apart from being just a kid's bedtime tale, it is in actuality the revealing of God's sovereign plan of salvation for the entire remnant of mankind, both jew and gentile.
Jonah learned through hardship and discipline that the election of the redeemed is entirely in the hands of God. We are often very harsh on Jonah and his attitude of rebellion, but we must remember that all that he went through was caused by the hand of God, and the Lord disciplines those whom He loves.We can then say with confidence, He loves Jonah.

In this final chapter of Jonah, that has a somewhat abrupt ending, we still see that despite God's taking him through the "spiritual woodshed", and despite the fact that he did ultimately walk in obedience to God's command, he is still having a problem with perspective.
Jonah tells the Lord that he is unhappy with the outcome, which happened to be an outcome that Jonah foreknew, i.e. that the gracious and loving God would cause Nineveh to repent, by faith through hearing the His Word proclaimed.
Jonah's "prayer" is dangerously close to words attributed to a wicked and slothful servant in Jesus' parable of the talents:

Jonah 4:for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Mat 25:
24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,
25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.'

To this statement the Lord could have given the same answer to Jonah, as the master did to the servant, which is; If you knew this, then you should have been faithful to the task that was given. God help us if when the Son of man returns He finds us to be faithless, i.e. lacking in obedience. Luke 18:7-8; James 2:14-26.

God asks Jonah, "do you do well to be angry?" and then proceeds to teach Jonah some heavenly perspective.
Jonah departs from the city and camps out to the east of Nineveh. His purpose is to see what, if anything, would happen to the city. He was most likely hoping the Lord would change His mind and give Nineveh a fire and brimstone type judgment.

The Lord "appoints" a gourd plant to grow and give shade to Jonah. Jonah is quite grateful for the shade.
However by the next morning the plant was attacked by a worm and it withers and dies. To add insult to injury, the sun begins to beat down on the hapless prophet and a scorching east wind begins to blow. Jonah is near collapse. Once again Jonah repeats his complaint. The same complaint that he spoke after Nineveh's repentance and salvation; "it is better for me to die than to live."
God repeats His question;"do you do well to be angry?"
Jonah's answer this time is ."yes I do well to be angry, angry enough to die."
The Lord gets right to the point:

10 And the LORD said, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night.11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"

Jonah was angry over a plant that grew and withered out of his control. He did not labor over the plant, nor did he cause to to be, to begin with.
If Jonah could become concerned with a plant that was here today and gone tomorrow, then why should the Lord not be concerned over His creation, a creation that He spoke into existence and He labored over for six days.

Nineveh had a population of people that were in reality, ignorant of the things of God. They did not know their right hand from their left. They were helpless.

Matthew 9:36
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

There was also the issue of "much cattle", but here again the Lord has sovereignty:

Psalms 24:
1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
Psa 24:2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.

Psalms 50:
10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.

Jonah had to learn, as we do, God's perspective on things. He has a plan. He creates the vessels for their proper use. Romans 9: 20-23
God requires obedience only, which is true worship. He does not want an argument, or a show of piety, or our religious righteousness.
If we put together these two passages from Paul's incredible letter to the Ephesians, we will gain perspective.

Eph 1:
19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,
23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all

Eph 2:
6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the victorious, risen and ascended Lord over all. The Son is seated at the Father's right hand. he is also the son of man, and so the redeemed are raised up with Him and seated with Him at the Father's right hand also. All things are under His feet, and He is the head of His church, i.e. His Body. Therefore all things are under our feet. He is head over all things TO the church. The perspective of the church comes from being seated in Christ at the Father's right hand. We are to be viewing people and circumstance, from the same perspective as Jesus views people and circumstance.
Jonah had to learn that God's love is not bound by earthly limitations, nor does it manifest the same as man's way of showing love.
The word to the church today is to readjust to the heavenly perspective. Too much time,effort, and expense has been wasted by focusing on methods and programs. God's methods were to use a reluctant and rebellious prophet, after taking him through the storm, and the belly of a big fish, in order to bring him to understanding and obedience. If the Lord calls us to a work, then we will do it, one way or the other. His will be done!

Job 42:
1 Then Job answered the LORD and said:
2 "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Rom 8:
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Soli Deo Gloria!

One more glaring Truth occurred to me as I looked at this again, i.e.the great gulf between God's way and man's way.
Jonah declared God to be gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Obviously this is all true, and praise Him that it is. We reiterate that He is "slow to anger" which in itself denotes that He does manifest righteous anger and is justified in doing so. In fact one day that anger will be poured out in finality.
Now it is woefully apparent that Jonah is quick on the draw when it comes to anger,and is therefore not very merciful in his attitude toward the Assyrian people. Jonah declares that he is "angry enough to die".
The great discrepancy here is that while Jonah is angry enough to die, the Lord is compassionate enough to die. This was accomplished many centuries later in the person of His son Jesus.
This is the essence of Jonah's story.

Phillipians 2:
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning,
15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

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