Not Enough Love [3]

So the King of Nineveh treats God like a King because he's a king and knows about that stuff -- you don't spit in the eye of a regent who can mop you up like a drippy nose. And he turns from his ways and begs for forgiveness -- and makes everyone else beg, too, just to show he means it. But apparently that's not what Jonah was looking for. Jonah wanted fireworks. Jonah wanted to see the broken teeth [Psalm 3, for the repulsed].

But Jonah, apparently, knew that when God is calling forth judgment, He is also extending an offer of clemency -- that is, the willingness to forgive for the repentent. In Jonah's words, He's a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. And that has Jonah in a bunch -- in fact, he'd rather die than think about it any more.

And God, master of sarcasm, says to Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry?" Think about that -- God says to Jonah, who's in a huff for sparing the Ninevites after He has also spared the disobedient Jonah from the belly of the big fish, "Is that being angry good for you?" Really, I'd feel sorry for God if He wasn't the Universal Creator and Sustainer, the Sovereign of all things -- because He's always got to explain himself to guys like Jonah.

You know: the point here is that Jonah is right in theology and wrong in praxis. God is merciful and steadfastly loving -- but we should rejoice in a God who is that good -- not just Just, not just Holy, but Good. And Jonah, who knows God is like that, ought to rejoice -- but he's tooo angry to rejoice.

And to prove it, Jonah made a booth there outside the city to see if God would change His mind -- about killing the Ninevites, not about killing Jonah. So what does God do with that? Pillar of Smoke? Still small voice? Maybe an Elijah moment where He takes out Jonah's booth with fire just to make sure this minor prophet understands who's God and who's the clay pot?

What God does is give Jonah a vine -- a little shade for his booth. The ESV says, in very proper English, that the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. Seriously -- this is the God who spoke Light into being, and who designed the Heavens so they could mark out time for us. And to make sure Jonah, who is bearing a grunge against God, gets the edge taken off the heat while he's stewing about the destruction of Ninevah, God "appoints" for him a plant for shade. There you go, Jonah: is being angry good for you? Well, have a little shade -- maybe you'll like it better.

And of course, Jonah think's that good. Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. That didn't get him to give up his grudge, of course: it just made him happy to be miserable. But God's not done with this vine yet. When dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 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. Because, as we know, God is in charge of the universe. He's God: sovereign God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, without whom nothing that is made has been made. And he uses all that Eternal fire power to kill Jonah's plant -- not Ninevah, and not Jonah -- in order to make Jonah faint with heat. He does that to Jonah -- rather than judge him or open up the earth to swallow him or send the Kanzanjammerites or whoever was available to haul him off into slavery.

Which, of course, changes the situation for Jonah, who apparently thought he could live with his frustration in the shade of the vine, but now that it's hot and he's still mad about Ninevah, he'd rather be dead. That's what it says there in Jonah 4: he asked that he might die and said, "It is better for me to die than to live."

So what does God do? I mean -- His glory is at stake, right? His eternal position as King of kings is on the line because He has this prophet here who wants to die rather than be happy about the sparing of these evil men on account of God's steadfast love. Shouldn't God at least stake out justice at this point, or maybe Holiness?

Instead, God says this: "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?" It's funny, because it's the same phrase he uses above, except the object of the verb is now "the plant" -- so it's the same divine sarcasm. "Is that anger about the plant good for you, Jonah?" And Jonah, who has just been prodded, prods back: "Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die."

Listen: are you like that? Would you rather be dead than happy when joy for sinners is at stake? We're about to come to the crux of this story -- the real message from God to Jonah, and therefore to us, and I wonder: would we really rather die with a furrowed brow rather than rejoice for the sake of God's mercy to sinful men? I mean, Bill Gates has an amazing life -- and he's not saved. Can we be happy for the blessing God has given him in this life -- so much so that we can say to Bill, "dude, God has blessed you! He has shown you steadfast love -- like 20 billion times over! If you can see that, check yourself against God's law. You are not innocent. And you need a savior from the judgment that's coming -- because the one who's coming is both Lord and Christ. He has the authority to judge you, but the ability, and the willingness in love, to save you. Have you ever thought about that? What can you do in the face of such a thing?"

Because we could say to Bill Gates, "Dude, you can't serve God and Mammon. God is God, not Windows, not the Gates foundation. The wrath of God is coming for people like you, but God saves those whom he has chosen, and if you're one of those you'll repent and believe." And that'd be true. But I'll bet we wouldn't get a second chance there; God probably meant to harden his heart anyway.

Anyway, God has an answer for Jonah who thinks God's sarcasm isn't very well meant. We'll wrap that up next time -- maybe late Friday.