This week our friend George Churchgoer takes on the challenge again of choosing a random book and chapter of the Bible to find meaning for us today from EVERY part of the Good Book…
Let’s thank the online Random Bibleizer website at https://randombibleizer.spiffy.tech/ to choose a selection – give it a try yourself. It sounds like some alien robot from a bad sci-fi movie but it’s actually pretty cool.
Does the selection have meaning for Christians today? We “spun the wheel” of the Bibleizer and came up with…
Jonah, Chapter 4 from the Old Testament
Anyone who’s attended Sunday School or Bible School knows the story about Jonah and his infamous run in with the whale. But do you know the backstory on how Jonah ended up in the belly of that big fish for three days?
Jonah was a prophet and messenger of God who was called to go to the big city of Nineveh and let the people there know that they’d had better repent fast or God would destroy their city.
But Jonah knew better and wanted nothing to do with Nineveh. So he hopped a ship that was sailing in the other direction.
Bad move Jonah – God stirred up quite a storm and the other people on the ship feared for their safety. Jonah confessed that he was the reason for the storm and he told them to toss him overboard. As soon as they did, the sea calmed.
And Jonah became an apparent appetizer for the whale. Except he didn’t. All of Jonah chapter 2 is a prayer he offered to God asking for deliverance while inside the beast. The Lord heard his pleas and the fish coughed up his not so tasty morsel.
Chapter 3 has Jonah getting the message and heading for Nineveh. He warned the residents that they needed to change their ways or it was curtains in 40 days. And the citizens heeded the call, immediately calling for a fast. Even the king put on drabby sackcloth and sat in the dust.
Here’s where the story gets weird. God sees that the people of Nineveh were sorry for their sins and He decides to not destroy the city. Great – except Jonah figured the metropolis was doomed after his pronouncement. You mean you’re NOT destroying the city?
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
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 Chapter 4 NIV
And that’s the end of the book of Jonah, only four chapters. Enter the emotional announcer with a deep voice here…
“Did Jonah get his wish to die? Did the worm find a new plant to eat? Did the 120,000 residents of Nineveh figure out which hand was which? And what’s up with those animals?”
We have no idea. Next is the book of Micah and a completely different story.
But the main message – hey Jonah, who’s in charge here?
And the message to each of us – who do YOU think is in charge? Really??
Perhaps Jonah is like a lot of us. WE’RE in charge, we believe. At all times. God only gives us suggestions. Don’t like the guidance given to us? We’ll just decide to go the other way.
Apparently Jonah didn’t want to look bad in front of the people of Nineveh. He just spent days telling them they’re done – and then they’re not. Is that egg on your face, Jonah?
What about when Jonah “reasons” with God? “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish.” God, if you just would have listened to ME we could have avoided all of this.
You have to laugh a little when you read this…but then again, how often do WE try the same reasoning stunt? Hmmm…
Jonah also has anger issues. First he gets angry when God overrules Jonah’s doom and gloom prophecy. Those Ninevites, they had it coming to them. So what if they cornered the sackcloth market and all begged for forgiveness? Why did I bother coming to this city if you were going to change your mind, God? Why did you waste MY time?
Then he gets angry again when God gives him some shade, then takes it away. Something that was provided to Jonah, he never tended the plant, never planted or watered it. He was just the lucky recipient but then wanted it to continue. Why did you take away my freebie?
And God uses the same line twice with his reluctant prophet – “is it right for you to be angry?”
Take a look around the world today, either that part close to you or the globe at large. You’ll see a lot of angry people – angry about COVID. Angry about masks. Angry about their job. Angry about their pay. Angry about their school and what kids are taught. Angry about some empty shelves at their local store. Angry about the climate and weather.
Virtually all of those things are out of their direct control. It’s one thing to be angry about something you’ve done and perhaps messed up. To be angry with yourself.
But for all of those other things in life - is it right for you to be angry?
How often does anger actually solve a problem? Give that some thought. People get stirred up, loud words are exchanged, sometimes fists fly or worse. Anxiety and heart rates increase. Bad feelings fester sometimes for years. All because we don’t get our way. Just like Jonah.
We don’t know if Jonah ultimately got God’s message to chill the anger and follow His lead. His book just ends. But WE can get the message. Trust in the Lord to make the right decisions – ALWAYS. It’s HIS world and His alone. We’re just living in it…
From George Churchgoer