The City and the Shrub

Jonah 4:9-11

If everything had gone well in the book of Jonah it would have ended with chapter 3.  It was not because of the people of Nineveh but because of Jonah’s surprise reaction to what the people did.  It was all about Jonah’s attitude.

Attitude is important.  How we respond in this world and when God answers in a way we didn’t foresee is important.  God calls on us to do things that maybe you think you can’t do.  We cannot give terms to God.  We can’t tell him I’ll witness on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday but not on Tuesday or Thursday.  God calls the shots.  He doesn’t need counsel from us so that we pick and choose.  We’re redeemed and bought with a tremendous price.

When those we consider “unsavable” take a turn to God, be pleased.  Jonah wasn’t.  He was too busy being aggravated that God didn’t bring down fire and brimstone. Instead of praising God that the people repented he got mad.  If he’d only thought about what he had just done!  If he had considered himself, he would have been better off.  We get made at how people do or how they make us feel instead of going on.

 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

Hey, Jonah!  You only have a few verses left in this book!  Why are you talking to God like this?  We may only have a few verses left in life.  We need to be careful that instead of being instruments of salvation we become instruments of God’s wrath or judgment.  We’re to leave that to God.  Jonah was to proclaim the Word to Nineveh.  He was concerned they wouldn’t repent and judgment would come.  When they repented, God changed the judgment.  Instead of judgement he had mercy and spared the people and the city.  Each of us has been spared.  We ought to be in hell.  I have no right calling for lightening to strike others before I call on it to strike me.  You and I are still communicators of the truth of God and people need it.

10 Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: 11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

The book leaves us with a question.  It’s one for all the ages to stop and consider.  There’s no real record of Jonah before this mission to Nineveh.  The prophet was God’s spokesman. We liken Jonah to a preacher and he was but there is to be a Jonah in all of us—a calling from God.  You and I are part of God’s family and he called us to reach the lost.  If others hadn’t answered the call to witness to us we’d not be saved.  God doesn’t use birds; he uses first-person witnesses—us—to get the gospel out.  We’re all disciples who are to witness to our part of the world.  There’s hope for the most hopeless nations and people.

The more I read Jonah, the more I see myself kin to him.  I see myself in him.  He was a typical Christian.  He reacted the way many of us do.  Americans think they’re the best Christians but many are way ahead of us.  Christians in the Middle East face ISIS every day and don’t denounce Christ.  We stay out of church at the least little thing.  You don’t have to be a hillbilly to be saved.  Christians from other cultures are just as saved.  We all have to be born again. No matter what face the devil wears we need to be ready to stand up for God.  Just like the Middle Easterners we need to be ready to go to the death for Jesus.  The rooster is about to crow.  We need to make a stand.

The wickedness of Nineveh is linked with that of Sodom and Gomorrah.  God called a young prophet who liked the title but tried to get out of the responsibility.  Whatever God gives us to do we need to do it.  We can’t hold onto the handle of being a Christian without being willing to witness to people in our lives.  Jonah paid the fare to go the opposite direction and what a price it was!  He was willing to witness to the barbarians in the other part of the world but not in Nineveh.  The only way for those we know to hear is for us to go.  Jonah ran from God but it didn’t go any good. Watch when you try to run.  God may provide a whale for you too.  It pays to do what God says no matter how scary.  You can’t win those I come in contact with and I can’t win those you do.   If you’re saved you’re qualified to witness.  If you can pray you can pray with others.  Wherever we go God is with us.  He promised to go with us to the end of the world.

Jonah expected the people of Nineveh to kill him for his message, yet they fell down in repentance.  The same jailor who beat Paul and Silas later fell down asking what he needed to do to be saved.  We just need to be better at answering the call.  The message was repent or fire from heaven would fall.  They repented.  Be the Christian witness one more time; maybe that person will be saved.  The king called for everyone to repent and cover themselves with sackcloth and ashes.  Jonah didn’t know what to do.  God forgave them.  It became a godly city for the next 150 years.  If there was no hope for society and this world we wouldn’t still be here.  The fact that we are and the rapture hasn’t happened means there is hope.  You never know what will happen until you witness.  You might just be surprised.

Jonah got aggravated.  He thought the people deserved fire and brimstone.  He was on top of the hill and the sun was hot on him.  He didn’t have to be there in the sun.  God sent a gourd to cover him.  Jonah got too comfortable so God sent a worm to eat the gourd.  Get off the hill of do nothing.  Jonah was more concerned about the gourd than the people.  God asked him what he was going to do with the opportunity before him.  The people needed help.  We don’t know what Jonah did.  Did he go help them?  Did he go home?  Did he stay on the hill?

Let’s not be like Jonah.  When God pushes us through the gate of Nineveh, proclaim the Word of God and witness of our Savior.  Don’t forsake the people.  Help them make it.  Aren’t you glad for the help someone gave you?  Let’s try to win others to the Lord and be their friend and helper.  The problem is not the reaping.  It’s the sowing.  With God’s help we can sow.

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