Nov 012014

whale and graceJonah and the whale. Such a dramatic story! Most of us have heard the story since we were children. The big takeaway message in the book of Jonah is a shocking surprise.

Let’s pick up the story post-whale. Jonah is finally following God’s instruction to go preach His word to the city of Nineveh, a city known as a hot bed of evil. “Forty days and this city’s going down!” Jonah preached. He anticipated fire from heaven, or some other dramatic end to evil and evildoers. In his self-righteousness, he preached with vigor and passion!

Wow, what an uplifting message! So full of hope, grace,  and promise! NOT! And yet, somehow, God spoke to the people of Nineveh and they turned to Him en mass. Even the king proclaimed,

“Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.” Jonah 3:8 NIV.

In spite of the message and the messenger, the entire city changed their focus, reaching out for something they had never experienced.

“Then God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion….   Jonah 3:10 NIV.

 “I knew you were going to do this!” Jonah complained to God. “That’s why I tried to get out of this gig in the first place! You are so full of grace and compassion! I told them they were going to die and You saved them. I’m so embarrassed. Just kill me now!”

Jonah stalked out of the city and found a bench to sit on so he could watch the city- just in case it still burst into flame. The sun burned down on him and he started to get very uncomfortable.  Suddenly, a God-powered vine grew up next to him and over his head, giving him refreshing and cooling shade! Jonah sighed. He was very happy about the vine.

Okay, you can’t tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. First thing the next morning, He sent a worm to cut the vine and it quickly withered. A hot wind blew up and the sun beat mercilessly on his head and he started to feel light-headed. “Go ahead and kill me now,” he said to God once again.

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.  And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—     Jonah 4:9-11 NIV.

Over and over again, God teaches us. We ALL have sinned and come far short of his perfect plan for our lives. And yet, that fact fades into the background when overshadowed by His forgiveness and grace. Weak and wounded, faulty and fearful, He’ll take all comers, banishing all our history, mending our mangled lives, lifting us back up close to Him where He can patiently reshape us to look like Him. One crazy kind of love. Just sayin….

shared by Bob MacLafferty, devotional, Ukiah Valley Medical Center leadership, 9/29/2014.

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