Archive for January, 2012

REFLECTION: The man with an Attitude

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Did you know Jonah had an attitude?  I wonder if anyone else has described this man who has a book named after himself in the Old Testament of the Bible as such.  To many, he was the man who ran from God’s call and who was eventually swallowed by a whale/big fish.  But as of a few hours ago, after several days of reflection, I now consider him the man with an ATTITUDE.

Jonah knew he was running.  He schemed to sail away from the Lord’s presence to get away from fulfilling what God had called him to do.  But when God sent a storm that threatened to destroy the ship he was on, he instructed, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea… and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Jonah 1:12  In spite of Jonah’s instructions, his shipmates rowed vigorously in hopes of saving their ship, but eventually they realized they could do nothing.  Each had already prayed to his god to no avail, their combined brute effort and skills were not enough.  The men knew they had to resort to Jonah’s suggestion, but they were afraid.  They cried,“Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.” Jonah 1:14-16

Because one man ran from God’s call, the many lives of those whose paths had crossed his were threatened. (Footnote 1)  Although each prayed fervently to his god in the midst of extreme danger, relief didn’t come.  In spite of Jonah’s instructions, they were afraid.  If Jonah’s God had sent this storm to stop him from running, what would this God do if they threw him overboard?  And so they prayed for the first time to Jonah’s God.  They prayed in fear, asking to be spared from what this God would do as a consequence of their actions.  They then threw Jonah overboard and nature responded.  “…The raging sea grew calm.”

Once again the men feared, but this time, their fear was not out of anguish, turmoil and hopelessness.  This fear was out of reverence for the true living God who calmed the raging sea right before their very eyes.  These men had their first encounter with the living God and now their lives were forever changed. (Footnote 2)

And then there was Jonah…  He was thrown into the raging sea and now, where was he?  God had not forgotten him.  “…the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights”. Jonah 1:17  Then Jonah prayed.  Fervently.

Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called to the Lord, out of my distress, he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol ( Revised  Standard version – footnote 3) I cried, and you heard my voice.”  He then told God about his encounters in the depths of the sea. “You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. …The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down.” Jonah 2:1-5

Trusting and believing God would rescue him, he continues, “but you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.  When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.  Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.”

“And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Jonah 2:6-10

God called Jonah a second time, instructing him once again to go to Ninevah.   Jonah obeyed and proclaimed “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” Realizing God was aware of their wickedness, “the Ninevites believed God.” The king decreed, “Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.  But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” Jonah 3:7-10

And Jonah was “angry”.  In fact, “it displeased Jonah exceedingly” so that he prayed, “I pray you, lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country?  That is why I made haste to flee to Tar’shish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy, and that you repent of evil.”  And then he rants, “O Lord, take my life from me, I beg you, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:1-3

But the LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” and He left Jonah to do as he pleased.

“Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 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

What was Jonah’s problem?  He dared to run away from fulfilling God’s call and now he asks God twice to let him die!  Didn’t he recently beg God to spare his life while he was in the belly of the fish and now because he was so livid about what God had done, he asks God to let him die.  What a temper, what drama and what a tantrum!

And yet, God was patient and merciful.  He replies twice, “Do you do well to be angry?”

If I was God and if I had His power, I would have zapped Jonah the moment he ran from me.  Come to think of it, Ninevah would not have been warned.  Instead, I would have zapped them as quickly as I zapped Jonah.  If I was God, I could do whatever I wanted and THAT was what I wanted at the spur of that moment.

Thankfully for mankind, I am not God because undoubtedly I share the same attitude as Jonah.  Like Jonah, I lack patience, mercy and self control and likewise, I clearly see vengeance, anger, and spite in my desired fictitious reactions.  Unlike God, I reacted to my frustrations with Jonah and the situation before me, rather than respond.

When I first turned to the book of Jonah during my quiet time several days ago, I asked our Father what I could learn from this man who was swallowed by a whale.  Little did I realize how much I would learn about Him and about myself.

Evidently, God is extremely slow to anger and His mercies are endless.  I’ve read about these traits and I’ve heard others preach about them, but I’ve never seen them displayed so clearly before.  Even more, His virtues become accentuated as I read what I would have done if I were Him.  I was so ready to judge and zap Jonah into extinction and before I could judge him any further, our Father asked me to examine myself.  I could have readily said, “Oh no Lord, I am not like Jonah.”, but my words had already been recorded and He pointed to the words I had penned.  (Man, is God an excellent teacher!)

From the beginning of time, it was God’s desire to have man with Him for eternity.  That was the very reason why He created man.  A thought comes to mind, “If You are all powerful, you could simply create more people so that eventually, there would be enough to be with You.”  Thankfully, God’s economy is different from mine and His ways are so different from my ways because He desires that “not one would be lost.” (Footnote 4)

The moment Adam and Eve fell as a result of their free will, God immediately provided a way back to Him.  He said…”and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he (Jesus) will crushyour head”. Gen 3:15

God so loved us that He sent His Son down from Heaven to become one of us.  Jesus became man to show us the way back to the Father’s heart.  Although Jesus was God, he willingly took on the form of man to show us that while in our human form, we can make it back.  What was Jesus’ solution?  To constantly spend time with the Father and to continuously ask Him for His strength and His grace to return back to Him.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6  Are you ready to accept Jesus today? (Footnote 5)

God bless,

Melissa – January 17, 2012

Footnote 1: Many fail to recognize that the wrong choices we make do not affect us alone, but they also have a negative rippling effect on others.

Footnote 2:  – Just as with the crucifixion of Jesus, what the enemy (devil) intended for destruction, God is still able to turn it around and bring good out of the situation.  Likewise, because of Jonah, the shipmates had an encounter with the living God and their lives were forever transformed.

Footnote 3: A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament… define Sheol as: “the underworld… whither man descends at death” (p. 982). They trace the origin of Sheol to either sha-al, which means the spirit world to which mediums directed their questions to the departed, or sha-al, which refers to the hollow place in the earth where the souls of men went at death. Langenscheidt’s Hebrew/English Dictionary to the Old Testament (p. 337) defines Sheol as: ‘netherworld, realm of the dead, Hades.’

Footnote 4:

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants ALL PEOPLE to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim 2:3-4 (NIV)

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

Footnote 5:  Father God, we thank you for being ever so patient and merciful with us.  Although we are in the midst of the darkness the devil has surrounded us with, You have given us Jesus to be our light and our way back to Your heart.  Thank you for the gift of free will which you have extended to us and thank You for giving us the freedom to decide whether we want to follow You.  You don’t force us Lord, but You reveal to us and we recognize that our lives are so futile without You.

Dear Jesus, we know You stand at the door of our hearts, patiently knocking.  We know You won’t barge in because of the gift of free will.  Dear Jesus, we know that the only door knob is on our side of the door and it is up to us to open the door and to invite You in.

Dear Jesus, I invite You once again into my life.  I surrender myself to you and as I do, I know I will receive freedom from the futilities of this world.  Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins and thank you for rising from the dead so that I now have eternal life with You and the Father in Heaven.  Come Lord Jesus and draw me closer to You.  In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.