Posted by: mikenicholsblog | July 14, 2013

wipe that slate clean

With an honest heart, I can tell you that there are people who I just don’t like very much. I didn’t say that I didn’t love them; just that I don’t like them very much. Now you may be aghast that such a spiritual giant (right) would make such a proclamation. But aren’t you the same way?! I guarantee that there is someone in your life who speaks, and the words affect you like nails on a chalkboard.  Can we just be honest and confess our feelings?  Last week on vacation, I was reading about someone who I don’t like very much … and I have only read about him. He is simply a person whose attitude and actions are like nails on a chalkboard to my ears and heart.  His name is Jonah!

Yes … the guy and the big fish, Jonah. But the book that bears his name tells far more than a fish story. Let me give you a snapshot of what we find in the four chapters of Jonah. The Lord called Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh (capital of Assyria), and instead he took off in the opposite direction. You may have experienced running from God. Jonah’s journey of disobedience led him, of all places, to the inside of a big fish for three days and three nights. He gets right with God inside the fish (wouldn’t you?), and God directed the fish to vomit him onto dry land.  The second time the Lord said go to Nineveh, he did. He proclaimed God’s message, and a great revival ensued in Nineveh. The result? God didn’t bring destruction upon the city. Jonah was thrilled, right? Wrong!

When Jonah saw that God spared the city, he was angry. Jonah 4:2 gives us a great picture of his displeasure.

So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.

Jonah obviously had a hatred of the Assyrians, and God’s compassion got to him (think about that).  Jonah made a shelter, sat down, and God grew a vine to shade him from the sun.  I believe Jonah was hoping that God would change his mind again and destroy the city.  In His sovereignty, God destroyed the vine … exposing Jonah to the heat, and adding to his self–pity.  Look at the words that followed this scene.

Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.  But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
Jonah 4:10-11

That rascal didn’t really care for the people God loved.  And he was a Prophet!  Can’t you see why he is like nails on a chalkboard to me?  He was selfish and nationalistic in his faith, but God cares for all mankind equally.  Oops … Does God care for men, women and children in countries that seem so hostile to Him and to us?  Does he care for the people of Iraq, Iran, or North Korea?  Does he care for the Taliban? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes … to all those, YES! But how much do you and I care? I was in the Bahamas last week at a conference and remember viewing a man from another country and religion with quick disdain. I was so wrong!  God loves all mankind equally.  A better response would have been to look at that person as someone who is loved by my Lord. And better yet, I could have whispered a prayer for him. I would never want to consider myself having the spirit I viewed in Jonah, but in that quick moment, my attitude was like nails on a chalkboard to my Lord.

So I am going to cut Jonah some slack. And will you take a moment to pray right now for that person whose words hit you like nails on a chalkboard? You know who it is, or who they are.  And on a far deeper level, will you love more fully and have more compassion on anyone that God loves and has compassion for — which is all mankind!  Maybe you even need to ask the Father to forgive your attitude. I did! I guess it’s time to wipe that slate clean … thanks Jonah.


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