The Punching Bag Prophet
What is Jonah known for?
As we come to the end of this series- Big Fish, the book of Jonah kind of leaves us hanging. If you go on and read the book of Nahum, you find out what ends up happening with Ninevah and the Assyrians. Their turn to God is short lived and they end up going back to their old ways. But we never do find out what happened with Jonah. All we know is that the book ends, Ninevah is repenting and Jonah is mad. Here's what I decided:
Jonah is the punching bag prophet.
As a kid, did you ever have those blowup punching bags? You know the ones- they are rounded on the bottom so that when you punch them they pop right back up again to the same place? I think this is a picture of Jonah.
You see, most major characters in the Bible develop over time. Their story is one of growth in maturity. They all have high points and low points but generally, by the end of the story, they are far better people and better servants of God. That is not the case with Jonah.
In Chapter 4, we find out that Jonah was basically the same as he was in Chapter 1. When we first met Jonah, he was running from God. By chapter 2, Jonah is repenting and is being shaped into the person God wants Jonah to be. The problem is, it doesn't stick. By chapter 4, we find Jonah right back where he started, hating Ninevah and hoping for her destruction. We can admire one aspect of this "prayer." By speaking honestly, Jonah opens a window into his heart. Amazingly, inside this prophet of God we see a destructive poison that tainted his perspective on this mighty work of God at Nineveh.
So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. (Jonah 4:2 NLT)
Translation: I knew you would do this! Jonah was mad because He knew God was always good, gracious, loving and merciful. He knew God would be compassionate. He knew God is slow to become angry. He knew God was rich in love and he knew God was willing to change his mind about judgment when people repented. Jonah hated the Assyrians, and he was angry at God for not hating them too.
And what is Jonah's response here? He prays. Now, as mentioned in the sermon, Jonah only prayed twice in four chapters. The first is in the belly of the fish when he was desperate. The second- in chapter 4 when he was angry. Just out of curiosity- how does that reflect your own prayer life? Do you pray to God regularly? Or just when you're desperate or angry?
Perhaps this is the problem with Jonah. He has a crisis driven relationship with God. As a result, Jonah is the punching bag prophet. No matter what happens, no matter how God moves, Jonah pops right back to where He was, completely unfazed and unchanged.
My prayer is that this would not be you. There's a little bit of Jonah in all of us. My prayer is that the story ends differently for you. Don't run from God. Trust Him. Whatever you're facing in life, surrender it all to Him. Choose the adventure of following Jesus and don't ever look back.