Remember being in VBS and listening to the story about Jonah and the whale? (Well the Bible says “great fish”, but the key thing is he was swallowed. That DOES recall a Seinfeld episode where George pretended to be a marine biologist and said he walked right up to the big fish! Jerry corrected him: “Mammal.” George, engrossed in telling his story about being a marine biologist: “Whatever.”) You probably recall that Jonah was ultimately successful in preaching mission to Nineveh, but then he kinda spoiled the whole love thing by whining about it to God. There are several lessons about whining imbedded in Jonah, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t covered extensively in Vacation Bible School…
More Than a VBS Story
At any rate, Jonah is one of the more famous prophets, probably because of the whole “made for VBS” fish story, but his story is really deeper than just being eaten by a whale. He really should be famous because ran from and disagreed with God’s will, and then couldn’t stop whining about it. Unfortunately, this whole whining thing still pops up in the church from time to time… In Jonah’s case, he was party to a downright miracle, and he was unhappy about it. Is there anything we can learn from him today?
“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it… But it 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!” (Jonah 3:10; 4:1-3, NKJV).
The Problem With Jonah
Jonah was not a very cooperative prophet. First, he ran in the opposite direction of where God wanted him to go. (Thank goodness we’ve never done that!) He only finally went to Nineveh kicking and screaming, objecting to the possibility that God might spare them. (Apparently he knew better than the Lord did, so he was just going to go his own way, thank you. Have you ever run from a ministry opportunity because it didn’t fit in with YOUR plans?) And second, when God spared Nineveh, Jonah went off and pouted. He set a new record for whining among great men of God. Even when good happened, he had the wrong attitude about the right thing.
On one hand, Jonah could be compared to some pastors today: they are motivated by ego more than by God; they have their own agenda, not the Lord’s; and they are driven by culture instead of God’s word. But, wait! If you agreed with the comments about some of those Pastors, then read through Jonah again…BECAUSE:
Looking at this text, Jonah would also fit in well with some of today’s churchgoers: he knows more than the leadership; if he doesn’t like what they are doing he’ll go somewhere else; if the church doesn’t do what they want, then the whining starts: they will go off and sulk; and they’ll gripe and complain every step of the way. (Ha, you were nodding your head when I was talking about preachers, but now you’re saying, “Wait just a dang minute! He’s quit preaching and gone to meddling!”) Sometimes, it’s probably best to 1) listen to God, 2) just roll up our sleeves and be open to the ministry God wants us to do, and 3) serve.
The Whining Prophet
Jonah rebelled. He wasn't quite Aligned with God: He ran from sight! So he was caught in a fish's bite And stayed in its belly a couple of nights. When Jesus calls, don't be uptight; Don't worry about who's wrong or right, Just serve Lord with all your might! Humility is God's delight: It doesn't honor Him when we fight. Remember these words in capital type: THE HOLY SPIRIT DOESN'T GRIPE!
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