I had occasion this week to go to Sight and Sound with my wife Deb to see “Jonah”. My wife was originally scheduled to go with our church group on November 19th but when she was getting ready to go that morning she received word that my sister had passed away the night before down in South Padre, TX. As I was on the other side of the world in India my wife and daughter spent the day ministering to my mom. So I was very thankful to have the opportunity to go with her and spend the day with her in Lancaster shopping and enjoying the play and our time together. I was truly blessed and amazed at the “Jonah” play. What shocked me most was my emotional response to the scene where the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah. I just began to cry, not just tear up, but streams of tears. It was surprising to me that that scene so gripped my heart as it did. Jonah himself was shocked in the play and in the biblical narrative. I’m not sure what gripped my heart more, the response of the Ninevites in repentance or the response of Jonah who rejected the request to pray for the Ninevites and his angry response to the repentance of the Ninevites. The book of Jonah itself captures this attitude when in the 4th chapter we read “But it (the repentance of the Ninevites) displeased Jonah exceedingly and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish, for I know that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live” (v.1-3 KJV).
It is amazing that Jonah would respond in the way he did and yet I think in some small way all of us can understand. If we’re truly honest with God and ourselves many of us wouldn’t rejoice at God blessing our enemies or extending His grace to those we hate. Many years ago, when I worked in the Post Office, the Holy Spirit started to convict me of my need to witness to this older, profane co-worker by the name of Tom. Tom was just gross; I couldn’t stand working with the guy. As the Holy Spirit was convicting me to witness to Him I told the Lord, “Lord, I can’t stand working with the guy for 8 hours, if he gets saved I’ll have to spend eternity with him – no way.” One day while I was still struggling with the Holy Spirit on this issue I arrived at work to find that Tom’s life had ended suddenly and tragically the night before in a car accident on his way home from work. Yes, I guess I can relate to Jonah. How about you?
I’ve always wondered what the 5th chapter of the book of Jonah would have been if it was written. Did Jonah repent of his attitude and if so how was the repentance of the Ninevites received back in Gath-hepher when he returned home? I guess the 5th chapter of Jonah also still needs to be written in each of our lives. Each of us has to decide how we will respond to people who offend or injure us. How is God speaking to you about witnessing to those most difficult people in your life? Remember Peter’s challenge to us in his 1st letter in the 2nd chapter when he writes “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (v. 21 NKJ). Well that’s kind of a tall order,we won’t be doing that in the flesh!
For the glory of God,
Pastor Rich Sivo