12/24/16: Pity on the Plant or the People? Merry Christmas!
The prophet Jonah was a piece or work! God gave him a clear assignment, “Arise, go to Nineveh… and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” Jonah 1:2 (NKJ). Simple. The next thing we should read is that Jonah packed his bags, booked passage to Nineveh, and started working on his sermons. But no; the next lines in his bio declare, “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD” Jonah 1:3.
Then it was on between God and Jonah. God whipped up a storm so severe that the men on the ship gathered everybody to cry out to every god they could think of to get them out of harm’s way. After figuring out Jonah was the cause of their troubles, they flung him overboard, the sea calmed, they feared and offered sacrifices to the true God, and went on their way.
Jonah’s ordeal, however, was far from over. “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly” Jonah 1:17-2:1. We owe Jonah a huge “Duh” right here because it took fish acid to get him to flip on his obedience-to-God switch. But his attitude still wasn’t right. As the story continues, Jonah preaches against the city as God originally told him to do, but when they repent and God relents on punishing them, Jonah gets mad. Look at the prophet’s reaction after preaching his three-day revival that saved 120,000 souls:
- But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” Jonah 4:1-3
God had one more object lesson in mind for Jonah. As Jonah sulked, God prepared a plant to give him shade. But then God prepared a worm to destroy the plant and allow the hot sun and wind to make Jonah even more miserable. When Jonah got angry about the plant, God said to him, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow… And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons…?” Jonah 4:10-11
You see, I told you, Jonah was a piece of work. His indignation against the wickedness of Nineveh outweighed God’s. Jonah was so prejudiced that he didn’t want God’s mercy extended to anybody but himself. It was okay for him to pray for mercy and salvation for himself when he was in the belly of the fish. And it was okay for him to focus so much pity on a plant that when it died, he wanted to die. But he couldn’t see that people’s souls were more important than his own comfort and his personal thoughts about them.
What about us? Are we pieces of work like Jonah, putting our prejudices and comfort ahead of God’s directives? Are we fleeing from our Ninevehs, or worse yet, are we going to them hoping against the salvation and forgiveness God has in mind? Will we only pray and obey when God places us in fish acid and kills our comfort? Do we have more “pity on the plant” than we do on the people God loves?
During this Christmas season, I’m sure glad Jesus didn’t have the attitude toward us that Jonah had toward Nineveh. When God sent His Son to earth for us, Jesus didn’t board a boat going in the opposite direction. Jonah preached reluctantly a three-day message of doom; Jesus preached willingly a three-year message offering us peace with God. Jonah had pity on the plant; Jesus had pity on the people.
Let’s emulate Jesus. Merry Christmas.
©2016 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.
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