Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jonah and the Vine

What comes to your mind when you think of Jonah? A whale? A prophet? It is a fascinating story about a man who God chose to speak to thousands of people who did not know Him. As you know, Jonah did not want to go. That is why he ended up as fish food. He tried to run from God’s calling on His life. In God’s mercy, He continued to pursue Jonah even into the depths of the sea.
Praise the Lord that there is no where we can run from God’s pursuit and love. I tried to do it for years! I was afraid of what God wanted from Me or what He wanted me to do. But God did not give up on me even in my rebellion just as He didn’t give up on Jonah. There were consequences but there was also a passionate love drawing Jonah back to God.
The part of the story I was struck by was in the end. It is not the part you may remember or the part you read to your kids but I think it is fascinating and full of wisdom for us.
“But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home?… 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, Take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live. But the Lord replied, ‘Have you any right to be angry?’ Jonah went 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 provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine 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, ‘Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?’
‘I do,’ he said. ‘I am angry enough to die. ‘You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Ninevah has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
The first cool part in this is to see how Jonah conversed with the Lord. He shared his heart. He didn’t speak big, fancy, spiritual words to impress God. He said, “I am angry!”. Although, he spoke to God in a way that still showed respect…”I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” Jonah knew deep down that God is good even though he was angry with his circumstances. God spoke back to him-showing Jonah His concern but also His control.
Next God provides a vine to shade Jonah from the heat and to ease his discomfort. That made Jonah happy. I like comfort too. I can really relate to Jonah here. Vines that shade me from the sun make me happy too. I am all about the vines in life. But next, in what seems like a cruel move, God sends a worm to chew down the vine. Huh? Not only did he send a worm but a scorching wind and sun that made Jonah feel faint. He must have wondered, “God, what are you doing to me?”.
Jonah wanted to die. I am sure he felt vulnerable, exposed, and tired. Isn’t that what happens when we are faced with adversity? It is very uncomfortable. We have no where to hide when our comforts are taken and the things we depend on are lovingly removed from our lives. Our true colors start to come out and it can get ugly. Jonah was over it. He wanted to die. No sign of perseverance- he just wanted a ticket out. I’ve been there. I have never been suicidal but I have wanted a free pass out of suffering.
The last verses give us a hint into what God is doing while we are suffering. God says, “But Ninevah has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
I believe God is showing Jonah that he can’t see the big picture. He just sees his own temporal suffering. Not that our temporal suffering doesn’t hurt-IT DOES!! But we always win in the end no matter what happens on this side of heaven. Suffering is OVER for Christians as soon as our heart stops beating and we enter into the presence of God.
God is concerned for those who don’t know their right hand from their left in the spiritual sense. God’s heart for the lost is such an amazing, wondrous attribute. He was sending Jonah to the lost to give a message that God had given to him. I believe there is a unique opportunity in suffering for God to give us messages to share with people who don’t know Him.
There WAS a bigger picture in Jonah‘s suffering! There IS a bigger picture in ours. God desired to use Jonah in awesome ways just as He desires to use us. He can use our trials and hard seasons to reach people. It is so easy to question the goodness of God in our lives because we cannot see the big picture. We don’t see the lost as God sees them. He will do whatever it takes to win souls back to Him. We have the awesome opportunity to be a part of that while God is in total control. He sends vines- he sends worms. It is all filtered through Love. It is so that we will be forced out of our comfort zones in order that our true colors come out so that God can skim off what needs to go and reshape us so that we can be used by him in supernatural ways.
Please don’t think that I believe that God enjoys watching us suffer. That is why He sent His Son to die for us so that we can spend eternity with Him in a place where there is no suffering. There are seasons of blessing and seasons of trial. God is good in them both and He is at work in them both.
God, You are compassionate and abounding in love toward us. May we always know that when we wrestle through hard times. Help us to cry out to you and pour our hearts out to you with respect of your control in our lives. Use our trials and our suffering to conform us and shape us in order that we be made more like Christ. Thank you that there is always a bigger picture at work. Thank you that you pursued US when we didn’t know our right hand from our left spiritually. Thank you for the truths that you give us as your reveal Yourself to us when we suffer. Help us to desire reaching the lost more than our own comfort in this life. Help us to be obedient even when it is hard. That we would be willing to crawl through broken glass to share the gospel with people who do not know You so that they may also be reconciled to you. Use us in awesome ways to be your ambassadors in this world.
Thank you that you also bless us with so much and provide vines to shade us when we are in discomfort. Be glorified in all things!
Be blessed~
“Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making’”? Isaiah 45:9
“We are therefore God’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:20,21
“He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12
“God doesn’t reveal his grand design. He revels Himself.”
Fredrick Buechner
“I wonder how many times that ever a child of God should have a sad heart, considering what the Lord is preparing for him.”
Samuel Rutherford
We are at the beach. It is so beautiful! I cannot wait to post some of the pictures I have taken!!
Check for pictures on Tuesday or Wednesday.


Taylor said...

I needed this today. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this - Hope you are having a blast and I am ready to know that you are headed back this way! You guys have a storm of boys - you don't need a hurricane, too! Cherie

Nic said...

Because I have my little Jonah, I was glued to your every word. AWESOME! Thank you! Nicole

BethAnne said...

I have to admit that I never think of a vine when I think of Jonah, but from now on I will! I loved this.

Sean Hanzelik said...

I have been a Jonah in my life so many times. Thank you for the reminder.