The brief Book of Jonah, tucked away toward the end of the Old Testament, is an interesting study of God's patience when the person He chooses for a job does not want to do it. This situation applies to all of us to a certain degree. At one time or another, we have all resisted doing a job God has wanted us to perform.
However, as this book shows, God does not give up easily as we come up with reasons not to serve Him. In Jonah's situation, God used some unusual tactics to get his attention. While we may never spend time inside a fish, the spiritual conviction we feel as we wrestle with God about a matter is often no less dramatic.
The part of this book that most people know is the three days Jonah spent inside a fish. But there is a lot more here than that. Though only four chapters long, the book teaches that bitterness can take root in all our hearts if we lose our focus.
The book began with God telling Jonah to go to
Why would he refuse to serve? Though it is not entirely clear why, a likely reason was because
Jonah wanted God to punish the city for what it had done to his people, but because of God's love and mercy, he was afraid God would spare them (see Jonah 4:1-2). It is human nature to avoid doing something good for our worst enemy. However, God sees everybody as sinners who need Him.
Imagine if God wanted you to go to
Jonah attempted to flee on a boat, but God caused a great storm. In an attempt to appease God, the ship's passengers threw Jonah overboard, but God provided a fish to protect him from drowning. While in the fish, we see a different side of Jonah. In chapter one, he had been hard-hearted, rebellious, and upset at God. In chapter two, we see a more softhearted, teachable, and thankful person.
God's use of the storm should not be interpreted as an attempt by Him to harm Jonah. He wanted to teach Jonah obedience, and His use of the storm and fish helped achieve that. The peril Jonah faced was because of his sin.
If he had been obedient, he would not have been in this situation. Jonah recognized his mistakes, and his prayer in chapter two drips with contrition. In the same way when we sin, we must face the results they produce, but God wants to work with us so we can learn.
In chapter three, Jonah went to
However, Jonah's reaction to this is a study in bitterness. Instead of being happy that the people repented, he was very unhappy. He could not get passed his own anger and pain. Jonah reminded God that his original reason for resisting was because He is merciful and would forgive them. Now God had done the very thing he feared, and it made him angry.
While Jonah's point of view may seem ridiculous, we need to be very careful before we sling arrows in his direction. How easy is it for us to harbor resentment, anger, and bitterness in our hearts when we have been wronged? It is extremely difficult to let go of the hurts we have.
We have to be very careful not to allow the pain and anger in our hearts to consume us when it comes to Godly matters. While we should have a righteous anger against sin, the Gospel needs revealing to everybody including people who may be our enemies. We can not let personal dislikes get in the way.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians chapter four about the need to rid ourselves of anger. He wrote in verse 26: "In your anger do not sin; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." In verse 31 he wrote: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every other form of malice."
Many times life can be frustrating. Many times life unfolds in ways we do not like. Many times life can break our hearts. However, the guidance God provides in those verses in Ephesians show how important it is to let go of anger and bitterness.
There comes a time when it is necessary to let go of the pain and hurt in our hearts.
Make this the time.