Growing up as a child in the midst of American patriotism during the cold war with Russia, I remember hearing it said by otherwise good Christian people that they wished we would just launch a bunch of our atomic warheads at Russia and blow them off the map. Some would even look at biblical books like Judges to justify their views.
During war, or times of upheaval, people tend to let fear and anger cloud their motives and judgments.
There is not much room for building trust in a heart that is filled with fear and anger.
This recent Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage, the church shooting in South Carolina and most recently a terrorist attack in Chattanooga have stirred up a lot of fear and anger in many hearts today. These kinds of things, this close to home, can cloud our judgment and mess with our motives, and they can twist our behaviors if we are not careful. Should we put armed guards at our church doors and send all visitors through a metal detector before they can come in? Should we quiz them about their sexual orientation at the doors?
Let’s listen to what God reveals to us about this. We are in the final chapter of Jonah.
Jonah, the prophet, had little room in his heart for trust or compassion toward Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, and mortal enemy of Israel. Jonah gives us one side to this, but Isaiah, who preached about 50 years after Jonah gives us another viewpoint. Isaiah sees the vision of God’s heart for Israel’s biggest enemies during his prophetic period. Just listen to his words in Isaiah 19:19-25.
This envisions Egypt, Assyria and Israel all together worshipping the Lord. Isaiah shows us that God’s heart is never filled with fear toward His enemies, anger perhaps, but not fear. God would have all men everywhere repent and come to Him so that they could be saved and enjoy one another’s fellowship as a family should. Jonah realized God’s merciful character and when God showed compassion to Nineveh Jonah was mad! Not just bummed out, but so mad he wanted to die.
God’s vision for the world, God’s intended purpose for us as His creation is to have eternal glory with Him living in joy and peace with one another in His love and wondrous presence forever. That there would indeed be peace like a river among all nations, and all weapons of war beaten into plowshares, and all natural enemies turned into loving companions. This describes the world as God would have it. This is, in fact, the ultimate purpose of God for His creation. Look with me at 2 Cor. 5:5-9. While God allows us to choose and to practice free will, God is ultimately bringing all of that to a grand finale. God has ordained and extended to us the power of choice, so that we can choose. But this is temporary. It had a beginning and it will have an end. While there is choice, we can either seek God in obedient faith or we can resist and reject Him in rebellion and disobedience. It is not His desire that any should perish, but that all come to repentance. God takes no delight in the death of the wicked. His anger never clouds His mercy or confuses His judgments. God has granted us the power of choice, but not the power of consequences to our choices. Read verse 10-11 of 2 Cor. 5.
Right now God has supplied a dynamic kind of relationship with Himself between us. This will not always be.
One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. In that day, everyone will face the ultimate consequences of their choices here. God warns and God calls. We must choose.
What does this have to do with Jonah?
Jonah wanted Nineveh to be destroyed. The last thing he desired is that God would show mercy to them. In fact, Jonah was afraid of this from the start, when God first called him to go preach to Nineveh.
Let’s look at the final chapter of this little book and see what God’s word has to teach us. Listen to God’s heart as you overhear His words to Jonah.
Read Jonah 3-4
Last week we looked at scriptures that show us how we can reach a place of no return with our sins. Nineveh was not at that place and God knew it. Jonah wished that they were, and he was angry because God didn’t see it his way and destroy them. Jonah was thinking: God, launch the warheads! Blow ‘em off the map! The world would be better off without them! That was Jonah’s viewpoint, but not God’s. God sees our hearts. He knows if we will or will not turn. Whether we like it or not, God sometimes allows the wicked to have several second chances.
How then shall we view and treat our enemies? Shall we respond in fear and anger? Jesus said, 4 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!
Jesus is clear in this. God alone deserves our fear. He alone is worthy of our fear. Even the demons fear Him. In the Old Testament, God is referred to as the fear of Isaac. The very word for worship in Hebrew is reverence or fear.
When we have anxiety and fear in our hearts toward what others may do to us, we need to listen to Jesus words again and obey Him.
What about anger? Can we rightly be angry about wickedness? Absolutely! But anger is such a powerful motivation, we must be careful with it. Scriptures warn us about the dangers of anger. What does God say to Jonah when he is angry? He asks Jonah twice, “Do you have a good reason for being angry?” In Jonah’s case instead of controlling his anger, he let his anger control him. In doing so, Jonah became very unlike God. God is always in control of His anger. He does not lose His perspective and sin in His anger, as we are prone to do. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger, do not give place to the devil.” How do we avoid this? Obey Jesus.
Jesus taught us to love our enemies, bless those that curse us, do good to those who despitefully use us, and pray for those who persecute us. Did He really mean that? Yes. Jesus went on to tell us that if we do this, we will be like our Father in heaven. How many of us are willing to turn the other cheek?
Are you more like Jesus… or Jonah?