Tim Keller has mined the depths of Jonah in several Sermon series – and I’ve learned so much from the book because of Tim. I’d recommend listening in on one of the series.
But I have one day to reflect on the entire book. I won’t forget from those sermons (back in the 90s) that Jonah was a racist. He simply didn’t want the Ninevites to receive God’s favor. After all, God’s favor was meant for the Jewish nation, for Abraham’s descendants!
Or was it?
Didn’t God promise Abraham this?
I will make you a great nation,
and I will bless you…
and you will be a blessing to others.
And all the people on earth
will be blessed through you. Genesis 12: 20-3 NIV
Hm. These folks were to bless ALL the nations, including Ninevah.
Jonah apparently forgot the “all the peoples blessed through you” part and decided to run from God’s plan. We all know how God used the trip to the fish’s belly to force Jonah to preach repentance to Ninevah.
He did. And Nineveh repented. Much to Jonah’s chagrin! Jonah just knew that our gracious God would show mercy and spare the repentant city.
So Jonah pouts under the plant that God eventually causes to die. The plant’s death makes Jonah furious. And God points out:
You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals? Jonah 4:10
What struck me is that God’s concern for the people of Nineveh arose from His concern for lost people in general.
While Jonah’s concern for the plant arose from his concern for himself! And Jonah’s disdain for Ninevah’s 120,000 people arose likewise from his self-centerdness.
Jonah was committed to the Jewish nation because being part of that in-crowd served him, made him feel like somebody. Helping the Ninevites – the outsiders – would show that God’s favor extended beyond Israel. And if God loved those people, too, what advantage is there for being one of the chosen, the insiders?
The questions of course for me are: Do I love people more than plants? Do I use people or love them? Am I more concerned with being part of the in group than in extending God’s love to the out group (and we define differently what our particular in groups are! I have a problem loving the typical evangelical, for example)? About whom would I sulk were God to extend his mercy in their direction?
Ok. Enough conviction. To bed.
Today’s Passages: Jonah, Psalm 144:1-8, Proverbs 30:7-9, Revelation 8:1-13. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only)