Have you ever wondered why God would reveal Himself one way in the scriptures but we believe something that is the opposite. Many times we believe things about God that are not what is revealed about Him. How we come to believe these things can happen because we have been taught wrongly or because we have never taken the time to try and truly understand what God has revealed about Himself.
As Americans we are told that we have the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and somehow we have made that into what Christianity is about. We think that following Jesus is about our own personal happiness and about our lives being made better because we have given our lives to Him.
We miss out on what God wants us to do because we believe things about God or about ourselves that is not true.
Jonah had some wrong views of God and God was going to try and help Jonah come to a complete understanding of how He truly was. Jonah has a lot to learn and so do we and we will see that comfortable Christianity is not what we are called to but we are called to a life of self-denial and self –sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Read Jonah 4:3-5 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city.
1) Comfortable Theology
Theology is the study of God and His relation to the world and Jonah’s theology was not what God had revealed about Himself in the scriptures. Jonah was so mad that God spared Nineveh he wanted to die instead of watch them receive God’s grace so he left the city and went where he could watch the city from a distance with the hopes that God would turn from showing mercy to demonstrating His wrath.
In the book of Genesis when someone went East it meant they were out of God’s will. The writer of the book of Jonah wanted everyone to know that Jonah was not in step with God and was actually out of the will of God by leaving the city. Jonah was not only out of Gods will but he puts himself in harm’s way by leaving the city and putting himself in the harmful elements of the area. Just like when Jonah boarded the ship to head in the opposite direction of Nineveh Jonah has once again will suffer consequences of his disobedience.
God does not leave Jonah alone but He tries to get the prophet to rethink his poor thinking. God asked Jonah if it is alright for him to be angry so that Jonah will see the foolishness of his own thinking. God wants Jonah to reflect on his attitude because somewhere he was taught bad theology about God only having mercy and grace on the Israelites and not His entire creation. You can imagine the longer Jonah sat there the angrier he became as God did not change from showing grace and mercy to the people of Nineveh
Comfortable Theology is when we determine how we think God should act instead of what has been revealed about Him in the scriptures.
God has compassion for all people and wants them all to come to a saving knowledge of Him. (2 Peter 3:9) Christianity is not a religion that is fair because all other religions are about working your way to God while Christianity is about how Jesus Christ made a way for us to be back in a right relationship with God. Christianity is not fair because Christ died what we call the morally good person as well as those who we would call evil. All sin is evil to God but with our limited view of God we tend to rank sins as worse than others.
Do you have comfortable theology? A view of God that makes God into a God that you feel comfortable with? Some people have comfortable theology by saying that all people get to go to Heaven instead of what the Bible tells us that some people will be separated from God for all eternity. (Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9) Some people have comfortable theology by calling things a lifestyle choice rather than sin. Some people have comfortable theology that says God does not call me to suffer or sacrifice but wants me to be wealthy and wise. Jonah had a comfortable theology that God was going to destroy his enemies and not save them. How Jonah came about this thinking or because he knew that later God would use the people of Nineveh to punish Israel we are not sure. Just because it makes us uncomfortable we do not have the right to change what the Bible says to fit our lifestyle. We cannot pick and choose which passages of scripture we want to follow but we must take the entire counsel of God’s word and apply it to our thinking
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Jonah 4:6-9 Now the Lord God appointed a plant[b] and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort.[c] So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”
2) Comfortable Living
Comfortable living is when we are more concerned about our own needs and pleasures of life than the eternal destiny of others. The Shelter that Jonah built was more than likely made out of branches and with the hot Assyrian sun it would not have lasted very long. God miraculously provided a plant for Jonah proving that God’s provisions were much better than anything Jonah was able to do.
“Jonah was very happy about the Vine” Jonah’s reaction about the comfort the vine provided him was an overabundance of Joy. (Deliriously happy) It is the first time in the book that Jonah is mentioned as being happy. He knew the vine was miraculous and a blessing from God and it shaded him from the heat but for Jonah it meant that God’s favor was on Him and not the people of Nineveh. Jonah again loved receiving the mercy of God but he did not like God giving his mercy to his enemies.
Many Christians are taught that following Jesus is about the blessings you will receive and they have falsely looked at their circumstances as being in or out of favor with God. Was Job out of God’s will when he suffered so much lose? No and those who believe that by faith you will receive the blessings and happiness of life if you believe take the Bible and manipulate it to something that is not true. This world should mean nothing to us knowing that one day all the things of this world do not compare to having a personal relationship with Christ.
Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
IF God took all the blessings you have away from you would you still follow Him?
God provided a worm and attacked the vine: A worm in the Bible is a sign of God’s judgment. (Deuteronomy 28:36-39; Job 25:4-6; Psalm 22:7; Isaiah 14:11; 41:14; 66:24)
“Attacked” is a military term and it shows the destruction that the worm did to the vine.
The only destruction that takes place in the entire book of Jonah is to the vine. Jonah wanted the people of Nineveh destroyed but God destroyed the vine that provided Jonah comfort. When Jonah needed the vine the most God took it away trying to teach Jonah a lesson about how He truly operates in this world. God gave mercy to Jonah by providing the shade but then He took it away to show Jonah that he should not wish the wrath of God on anyone even his enemies.
God has provided many things for us but when the gifts of God become our idols that we worship and long for then God has to remove them in order to keep us from loving them more than Him and the people around us.
Scorching east wind
God does not stop with the sun but then sends a scorching (cutting) wind to drive home the point even more to Jonah. The heat along with fine particles of sand would feel like you were being cut and Jonah became faint from the heat. Jonah then became angry about the vine no longer being there even though he did nothing to grow the vine himself. God then ask Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the Vine?” God wants to know if you are interested in knowing Him or are you only interested in the blessings you receive from Him. God provided the vine for Jonah but Jonah took it personal when God took the vine away. God had provided the vine for a day but Jonah had already claimed it as if it was his personal vine and was now angry that God would take it away. DO we not get mad when the blessings God gives us are taken away? Jonah cared more about the vine because what the vine did for him personally rather than the souls of those who were separated from God.
Do we get angrier about our cell phones breaking than people dying without Christ?
Do we care more about living a comfortable lifestyle rather than telling people about Jesus?
Comfortable living is when our own needs come before the will of God. Comfortable living is when our own reputations are more important than us being a representative of Christ.
Jonah 4:10-11 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
“You have been concerned about this vine … more than Nineveh with 120,000 people. Jonah has become inward focused on his own desires and comfort and not on the souls that God is reaching out to. Jonah wanted God to come around to his way of thinking and God wanted Jonah to come around to His way of loving. God is showing Jonah that the people who do not know God are important to Him more so than His servant being comfortable. Jonah was not comfortable with God saving his enemies and many times we are not comfortable with sharing about Jesus with other people.
Are we as a church more concerned about our own comfort or about reaching the people in our city? What if God is calling us out of our comfort to reach out to a people that so desperately need Him that they “Do not know their right from their left”? The people of Nineveh were so corrupted by sin they did not even know which direction they should go to find grace and mercy. The question God ask is; “should I not pity Nineveh?” Should God not have pity on our city or on our country? Do we care what happens to those who die without the saving knowledge of Christ?
Jonah is so hard hearted toward the people of Nineveh that God then tries to get Jonah to care about the animals. God is trying to show Jonah how absurd his thinking is that he is more concerned about his comfortable theology and his comfortable surroundings more than the people around him.
Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake
We do not talk about suffering because we want a world where serving Christ does not take any sacrifice. We will serve but only if it does not cost me financially or take me out of my normal routine of life. We will serve but as soon as it becomes difficult then I have to quit. We are called to take up our crosses and to die to ourselves (Luke 9:23). We are to put to death our own wants, desires and pleasures and look to God and Him alone. IF we are going to follow Jesus then we have to see the sacrifice He made for us and how He gave up everything for us and we are to do the same for others. The good news is that we are promised that every sacrifice we make on earth we will be able to enjoy for all eternity.
Matthew 19:29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold[c] and will inherit eternal life.
What an investment opportunity. Everything you give up to follow Jesus in what He has called you to do you will be blessed in eternity with a hundred times more than you gave up. Jesus encourages us not to grow comfortable with the things in this life but to focus on the life to come. This is not out home and we need to make sure that we have not turned Christianity into some comfortable lifestyle you live as God blesses you with more blessings. He may but our main goal Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Should I not pity Nineveh?
The Book ends with a clear contrast between the ways of God and the way of Jonah. It ends with a question so that the readers will examine their own lives and ask themselves the question that God ask Jonah. Do you care about those who do not know God? Do you care about those who do not even know how to search for God? Does your theology of God line up with scripture or is it a theology of your own making? Does your lifestyle line up with what God cares about or are you more worried about living a comfortable lifestyle? All these questions we must find out because by simply believing what we want we may be believing a lie.