For more than a week I've been listening to the news reports about the Boston marathon bombing and the horrific fire/explosion in West, Texas. I can get almost paralyzed by events like these, combined with the shock of the extent of how far the enemy will reach to destroy. Then there's the blogs, Facebook and Twitter posts...
And the Lord brought Jonah to mind.
Jonah. The guy swallowed up in a big fish.
Why? (Stay with me--I'll get there, I promise)
For a moment, my mind went blank. So I started to read ....and my mind put this together.
The Lord told Jonah to go preach to the Ninevites. Jonah said no. He didn't like the Ninevites, he grew up hating the Assyrians and fearing their atrocities. They were known throughout the region for exploiting the helpless, idolatry, prostitution, witchcraft and cruelty in war. His hatred was so strong, he didn't think they 'deserved' to hear the message of God's grace. So he left, jumped on a ship for Tarshish. (Jonah 1:1-3 NIV)
Jonah, with his "I don't care what God says" attitude, boards a ship and falls into a deep sleep, in the middle of a violent storm. (Jonah 1:4-5) The captain and other men on the ship begged Jonah to tell them what to do. When Jonah finally told them to throw him overboard, the men did their best to row back to shore, so they wouldn't have to harm Jonah. The sea became rougher still. The men on the ship asked God for forgiveness for sacrificing Jonah's life. Finally, they threw him overboard and the sea became calm. But Jonah didn't die. God sent a fish to swallow Jonah and keep him alive while God dealt with him.
Chapter 2 is Jonah's prayer from the belly of the fish. He was simply grateful he had not died. As a prophet, he knew he neglected his responsibility of total obedience to God.
Chapter 3 tells of Jonah finally going to Nineveh, proclaiming the message God gave him for that city. The king heard, issued a decree, and the people turned from their wicked ways. God saw, and had compassion on them. God did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.
So Jonah should have been ecstatic, right?
Chapter 4 opens with "But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry." Jonah knew God was compassionate and loving, but he still didn't think the Ninevites deserved God's compassion. But God asked him, "Have you any right to be angry?".
Jonah's answer? He ran away to sulk.
God provided a vine to grow up over where Jonah lay, to give shade and ease his discomfort. Jonah was happy about the vine. The next day, God sent a worm to destroy the vine. Between the scorching wind and the blazing sun, Jonah wanted to die, again.
(verse 9)"But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"
And Jonah replied, "I do. I am angry enough to die."
"But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" (Jonah 4:10,11 NIV)
Jonah was angry about the withering of the vine, but not concerned about what would have happened to the people of Nineveh. Jonah wanted God to have compassion on him, but not on the Ninevites, because, in his opinion, they didn't deserve it...
As I watch the news, I see the face of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I see his family members, as well as innocent victims of the bombing, and the explosions in Texas.
Jesus died for them too.
Tell me--who are your Ninevites?