Jonah 4:3-4 “Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Jonah is famous for the miraculous circumstance of his having been swallowed by a “great fish,” but he stands out to me for being so thoroughly, humanly, flawed. His character seems very much at odds with the God who used him. We see absolutely none of the characteristics that he himself ascribes to God in verse two. It seems that he didn’t mind being a prophet of judgment, but it totally ticked him off that the judgment he had prophesied didn’t happen. He had prepared himself a “ringside seat” to watch the destruction of Nineveh, speculating in his mind as to how it would happen, and God disappointed him. God further drove the point home with the vine that shaded Jonah briefly, and then withered. Jonah valued his pride, his comfort, and his anger more than he valued the people to whom he had spoken the Word of the Lord. How very human! We seldom find ourselves in such extreme circumstances as Jonah did, but all too often we are like him. When God calls us and uses us we think we are something special and get an inflated view of our own importance, and that can totally blind us to what God actually wants to do. It is far wiser to remember the story of Jonah, or even the story of Balaam’s donkey (Numbers 22:21-33) and know that God can use anyone, regardless of their qualifications or lack thereof. When Don Francisco wrote a song about Balaam he included the memorable line, “So if the Lord starts using you, don’t you pay it any mind. He could have used the dog next door, if He’s been so inclined.” That’s the attitude we need to have, or we will miss the blessings God intends for us, even if He touches others through us.
I have never been a particularly “type A personality,” driven to accomplish goals, but even so it has only been in recent years that I have stopped demanding, in a sense, that God use me. I want to be totally available for any way He would like to use me, but that is His business and not mine. I am to strive to “make the most of every opportunity,” as Paul said, (Colossians 4:5) and indeed “Preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season,” (2 Timothy 4:2) but not try to create opportunities in my own strength. That’s the recipe for burnout. As God has told me personally, I am to rest, relax, and rejoice in Him, keeping myself available for whatever He wants to do in and through me, but having no deception that I can accomplish anything apart from Him. (John 15:5) Since I operate as His agent and am known as His representative, it is most important that I display His character without distortion.
Father, thank You for this very clear reminder. Help me indeed allow Your spirit to flow through me unhindered and undistorted, so that nothing will stand in the way of people receiving Your grace and mercy through me, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!