Jonah the … Jerk?

Okay, maybe that’s a bit strong, but, really, what was Jonah thinking? He preaches to a doomed city, gets probably the best response any evangelist has ever received … and gets mad?

I’m talking about Jonah 4, which is today’s chapter in the Revived By His Word reading plan. If you’re not familiar with this program, you can check it out here. The commentary by Jim Ayer on that blog today focuses on the remarkable fact that God continues to talk to the curmudgeonly, even nasty, Jonah as long as Jonah keeps talking to God. This is a great point, and one that’s key to spiritual growth: Never stop talking to God, no matter how you feel.

But something else impressed me in this chapter—an unusual side-by-side comparison of how a good God and a sinful human respond to exactly the same event. Now, in case you don’t remember, the event they’re reacting to is the total conversion of an entire city (120,000 people). And this is how the two react:

            Jonah                                                                                     God

   Angry (verse 1)                                                 Calm & respectful (verses 4, 6)

   Harsh (v. 2)                                                                            Gentle (vv. 4, 9-11)

   Vengeful  (vv. 2, 9)                                          Relents from doing harm (v. 2)

   Ill-tempered (v. 9)                                                       Abounding in love (v. 2)

  Bitter (vv. 1, 3, 8)                                                       Gracious & merciful (v. 2)

           Resentful (vv. 1-2)                                                                 Forgiving (vv. 2, 11)

           Self-centered focus (v. 2)                                       Other-centered focus (v. 11)

           Accusatory stance (v. 2)                                 Redemptive stance (vv. 4, 10-11)

 

©iStock.com/GeoM

©iStock.com/GeoM

Take a good look at these two profiles and ask yourself which one you’d rather become. We do have a choice here, because we’re changed by what we behold, and especially by what we admire and worship.

It’s easy to become Jonah the Jerk. You don’t have to look very far to see that this is the default program in our world. People often become harsher, pickier, less understanding, and generally harder to get along with as they get older. If you don’t believe it, try volunteering in a nursing home for a week.

But becoming like God is more difficult and we really have very few role models. That’s why it’s so important that we spend quality time with God every single day—at least.

“Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” 2 Corinthians 3:18, NKJV.

Are you a Jacob or a Joseph?

 

©iStock.com/ geotrac

©iStock.com/ geotrac

Isn’t it amazing how differently people can respond to the same (or similar) circumstances? We see this in Bible characters, too. One example that particularly sticks out to me is the worlds-apart summaries that Jacob and Joseph provide of their respective lives.

Joseph had it rough—we can probably all agree on that. His own brothers sell him into slavery. After years of proving his worth as a slave, he’s accused unjustly and tossed into prison. He does his best to make other prisoners comfortable, and they refuse his simple request that they remember him. Few of us have lives that rival Joseph’s for trials.

Yet Joseph tells his brothers,  “Do not be distressed More