Is it that time already? Time for the book to close and the journey to end. Wow. My blond-highlighted self thought we had one more week but I didn't take into account our welcome week! Oops, sorry folks :) I hope you have enjoyed your journey of discovery. Realizing that our interruptions are divine interventions that God ordains to draw us closer to Him.
As we begin the final chapter of Jonah on Day One, we see a pretty upset Jonah. You would think he would stop being so sour by this point but he had to pitch a fit once again. Have you ever been in the heat of the moment and you know you are wrong but you won't dare back down? I know I have had my share of huffing and puffing in protest of the situation at hand. That was where Jonah was coming from. *When it came to the Ninevites receiving God's love, he just didn't like it. Jonah was displeased with God because he wanted to control God.
Have you ever been disappointed with God about an outcome He has allowed?
On Day Two, we hear God's response to Jonah's anger. He simply asked Jonah, "Do you have a good reason to be angry?" Priscilla says that it was almost like He had been waiting on the prophet to finish his complaining; which is very similar to a parent listening to a whiny child and needing to take a moment before responding. Jonah knew about God yet was not in any way acting like Him in this situation. Gosh, that certainly rings a bell to me. There have been many times when I get angry either at a family member or a life situation, and I really have no good reason to be angry. But, my anger continues and I most certainly don't show my best Christ-like attitude in those testy moments. Thank goodness God is not easily angered (Prov. 14:29, 16:32). Anger is one of those feelings that is a constant check and balance. So often, if we were to be like God and take a moment before responding, we would save ourselves from the regret we have after our moment of anger. Now, I'm not saying that there is never a time for anger or a right to be angry. The point to be made is that we need God's assistance to mold us into His image, and with this we could gain strength from the Holy Spirit to resist those urges of anger.
After Jonah's temper tantrum outside of the gates of Nineveh, Priscilla tells us on Day Three that God showed His grace to Jonah by providing a plant to grow over him to provide shade from the scorching heat. This made Jonah extremely happy. This past Sunday, I listened to a young man preach on the parable of the Good Samaritan. I'm sure you have heard the story a time or two, but here is a quick recap: **A Jewish traveller is beaten, robbed, and left half dead along the road. First a priest and then a Levite come by, but both avoid the man. Finally, a Samaritan comes by. Samaritans and Jews generally despised each other, but the Samaritan helps the injured Jew. The Samaritan extended grace to someone who he was taught to dislike...pretty similar to Jonah's story except Jonah was still angry at God for extending His grace. What we should get from these two stories to apply to our own lives is this: grace should make us more gracious. If we, like the Ninevites and even Jonah, are given God's grace, shouldn't we extend that grace to others? Our enemies, our co-workers, our friends, people we don't even know - they all deserve our grace that we have been so graciously given.
Once Jonah had his shade, God went on to teach him a lesson on Day Four. He sent a worm to attack the plant and it died, leaving Jonah with no shade from the heat once again. To say Jonah was upset is an understatement. *Not only had he been sent on a mission he didn't want, and was disgusted at the outcome of, but now he couldn't even find a comfortable place to recuperate. Nothing seemed to be going his way. Have you ever had days when nothing seemed to be going your way? The best word for me to describe this feeling is frustration.
If you've had a string of your own difficulties, have you attributed them to God or something else?
Whenever my life goes through a season of suffering, I've come to realize that I have a choice: give in to it or give it to God. I love it when Priscilla states, "All hardship does not come from God, but we must consider the divine implications of our difficulties. If we only see the physical aspects, we may miss the deeper spiritual truths our Father is teaching us. God desires the same from us as from Jonah - an intimacy of relationship that molds our hearts into His image. Even if it takes a storm, a fish, a plant, a worm, and a hot east wind, He'll bend over backward to get it done."
Finally, we arrive at Day Five, hoping that Jonah's heart has turned toward God and he realizes that the Ninevites deserve God's compassion too. But, we end not knowing if Jonah's heart changes. *What we see though is how God went out of His way to shed light on His thoughts to a rebellious and stubborn man who was hesitant to cooperate. Friends, I hope by this point in the journey you have recognized that we are all modern-day Jonah's. We are stubborn and rebellious. We want to control God and plan our futures the way that we want. But, I also hope that you have realized that God's plans are greater than ours. *His perspective is so much more grand and when we recognize His divine intervention it gives us momentum we need to move forward toward His goals in our lives. God has great plans for you and me and He cares for us just as much as He cared for Jonah all those years ago. Next time God intervenes your plans, will you respond with a renewed perspective? I hope you do. I hope that I do too.
Priscilla ends with this:
The rest of your story is yet to be written.
The pen of heaven is waiting.
The perspective of God is offered.
Onward, modern-day Jonah.
The best is yet to come.
Friends, I have greatly enjoyed traveling with you these past seven weeks. When we left the beach after our 4th of July trip, I wasn't that sad because I knew I would see the beach again soon. The same goes for this community bible study. Even though we close the book of Jonah, there are still many more books to open. I hope you join me in the fall for our next study. More details to come on the date, but I am excited to announce that we will be reading Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman. Go ahead and pre-order your copy today and we will get started in late September/early October. I look forward to seeing y'all on our next trip to learn and grow in God's grace.
Till next time, let your light shine!
PS: If you have any comments about the Jonah Bible Study, will you please leave them in the comment box below? Any suggestions for the next study? Likes or Dislikes? I would LOVE to hear from you!!!!
*Excerpts taken from Jonah, Navigating a Life Interrupted. Priscilla Shirer.
**Wikipedia: The Parable of the Good Samaritan