"I won't go! I won't! They've got cooties! I won't go! You can't make me! I'll run away!"
This is not the tantrum of an eleven-year-old boy refusing to attend his first boy-girl party. The ranting and raving came straight from the heart of one of God's prophets. The Master instructed him to go and share a message of repentance with Ninevites, enemies of Israel. Jonah nearly wore himself to a frazzle in his efforts to escape God's presence. After making a mad dash to buy a ticket and depart by ship, he grabbed a walking stick and sought out the vessel. Once they were adrift, he retreated to his sleeping quarters to catch some Z's. God sent ferocious winds, lifting waves onto their ship. Those aboard smote their breast; yet, Jonah snoozed. "But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep (Jonah 1:5b KJV)."
He admitted to mariners that the storm was due to his presence among them. In a last ditch effort to avoid capsizing, they cast him overboard into the great deep. He did the doggy-paddle until he was dog-tired. Gasping for air, Jonah became fish bait; a great fish gobbled him up. Inside the digestive tract, this runaway missionary grew weary and cried out to the Almighty. "When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:7-9 KJV)."
The Lord's salvation, (deliverance) freed Jonah from stench and refuse. The fish regurgitated him upon the dry ground. As a projectile, he astounded the populace of Nineveh as the first UFO in their vicinity. Jonah's God again commissioned him as emissary to those who had terrorized Israel. His heart was not in the mission, but he put feet to his wavering faith. Like a town crier, he called out a warning: God was about to release his wrath upon the wicked city. His sandal-clad dogs were throbbing at the end of each of the three-days he traversed the city. Meanwhile, in the heart of the city, and within the palace, Ninevites repented in sackcloth and ashes.
Jonah's preaching rent receptive hearts. He should have rejoiced, giving glory to the Father of mercies; instead, he was fit-to-be-tied! God mercifully forgave the Ninevites of their sins, and in restraint, withheld his planned destruction. (Jonah 3:10) Jonah seethed in anger. Isn't that just like God? He shows compassion on swine that victimized us! "Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil (Jonah 4:2b KJV)."
God is slow to anger; Jonah moved from anger to despondency at accelerated speed, pleading with his creator to end his life. (Jonah 4:3) He prodded to the outskirts of Nineveh, made himself a lean-to structure and waited to see the drama unfold. God, as master-gardener and provider, prepared a leafy gourd to block excessive heat of the sun. It grew directly above Jonah's hard head. Finding relief from the elements, he felt mighty glad. God continued his one-on-one teaching session with his temper-tantrum transient. He sent a pesky worm to devour the gourd.
"And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, 'It is better for me to die than to live.' 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' (Jonah 4:8-9 KJV)." The wayward, weary Jonah could have picked up practical pointers from King David. "For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord;' and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah (Psalms 32:4-5 KJV)." God forgave David and the contrite Ninevites. In his sovereignty, God did not record the outcome of Jonah's rebellion. Did Jehovah grow weary of Jonah's deadly cooties of prejudice?
Freelance writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Devotional writing is her first love. Published articles in Mature Living Magazine, Devotions for the Deaf, The Secret Place, Light from the Word, Coosa Journal and more. Devotions included in Tyndale Publisher's 'The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter' by Mary Hollingsworth.
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