So today's story begins with a thought I had a few weeks back. And that is, when we are saved, there are a lot of things to come which we might say, "Hey, I don't remember signing up for that." Because, let's be frank. Most of us end up coming down the aisle, or ending up on the bedroom floor, or however it happened, because we have a burden of sin. That burden has made our lives a disaster, and we are looking for the way out, the saving Grace. And there's nothing wrong with that. But there are more things beside freedom from sin involved in salvation. One of those is sacrifice. Self-sacrifice, the worst kind.
For me, a lot of the battle is pride, especially at work. I have a hard time in walking the line between having pride in what I do and having harmful pride, apparently. And it eventually crosses the line when I get fed up with trying to do my job in the face of so many factors who don't exactly do theirs, and say something. The moment I complain about something being done wrong by someone upstream is always just moments away from me making my own dumb-butt mistake- the bigger the rant, the bigger the goof-up. No exceptions, happens every time.
So what is the answer to that? What about the things we didn't exactly sign up for, well, our story now moves on to Jonah. He attracted my attention when a pastor I was listening to suggested that he actually died in the fish's belly and was brought back to life, and that's why he was a more perfect sign to the pharisees of Jesus than we realize. There is evidence in chapter 2 of Jonah, I'll let you decide (IOW, bunny trail). But as I read on, I got to the part at the end that talks about the plant that God raised up for him. (Quick synopsis for those unfamiliar: After Jonah had preached to the Ninevites and they repented, he went up in the desert to mope, as he had hoped God would destroy them. To get His point across, God let a "plant" grow up to give Jonah shade one day, then killed it off the next.) My Bible had a translation note on the plant, and it gave the Hebrew word with "meaning unknown". And you KNOW how I am when I see that. So I got out my big ol' concordance and looked it up. The word used was used for gourds, but the word for gourd came from another word indicating "nauseous", or "to vomit".
Which is funny, because first Jonah is barfed up by the fish, and then a second, non-literal time with the plant. What does it mean?
To me: Jonah gives us the clue when he is about to be barfed up the first time. He prays this big long prayer (which is where the concept of his death and resurrection come from), at the end of which comes a little piece that I always thought looked added on, until today:
8“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
So Jonah has learned- he thinks- the following from his experience. It has done him no good to value his preconceptions before the Lord's Will; he needs to turn himself over to God in Thanksgiving and obedience; and the grand plan of Salvation is God's, not his. So he goes and does God's will- which takes care of the obedience and Salvation parts, but he is still "clinging to his worthless idol" that God wants to destroy the Ninevites as much as he does. But God's plan is for salvation, the people repent, and Jonah goes up and pouts.
Now, let me set up the next part with two verses:
From chapter one: 17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
From chapter four: 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant.
So both of the items that would "vomit" Jonah up were PROVIDED (a word that was translated basically from "set up beforehand") by God. The first providing was to get Jonah where God told him to be- whether he wanted to be there or not. The second providing was because Jonah refused to understand the WHY of God's plan. Read on:
7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
9 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.”
So here is where Jonah and I are a lot alike. Clinging to his idol- his conception of what was right- Jonah got mad at God. And this is where sacrifice comes in. Jonah, in the belly of the fish, had said he would sacrifice, but the thing God wanted him to sacrifice- his feelings of hatred of the Ninevites- he still clung to. And thus he had to be vomited a second time:
10 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. 11 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—and also many animals?”
This is where we trip up when we get mad at God. He has an agenda that we don't see for whatever reason. Either we are idol blinded, like Jonah, or we haven't sacrificed our wants to His, or we haven't accepted that Salvation is God's, not ours, to define. Or we haven't bothered to be thankful for what we DO have, and just can't be shown the big picture until we are.
Now here's the thing- Jonah wasn't a bad man, he just had one stubborn flaw. He had to get barfed into the place God wanted him, and he had to be barfed into understanding why God wanted him there. It would have been so much easier- for Jonah, for me, for us- to be obedient and thankful, set aside our preconceived notions and do God's will, than to have to be barfed there. One way or another, we'll end up there anyway. It's up to us whether we go there thankful and rejoicing in what God accomplishes, or go there whining about a dead plant and our lost comfort.