March 25, 2014

Life's DETOURS and God's Patience

Jonah.....

talk about a TEMPER tantrum.  
This story is FULL of life applications.  
When faced with an opportunity to fulfill his calling, to be God's VOICE to the people of Ninevah....He runs away.  
It was UNDESIRABLE for Jonah to be the bearer of bad news and presented with the incredible opportunity to be God's voice?  He refused to do it.  Jonah 1:3 in the NLT says, "He got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord."  

Now WE know.....(because we've read the book).....that GOD can FIND us.  
There is no escaping it....He will CHASE us down if He has to.
Psalm 139 "I can never escape from your spirit.  I could ask the darkness to HIDE me and the LIGHT around me to beome night.  But even in DARKNESS I cannot hide from YOU."  

There are so many times I've tried to run from what I KNEW I was supposed to do.  
I REFUSED to do it.  I threw an old-fashioned-honest-to-goodness-grown-up HISSY FIT.  
I hesitated.  Danced around the issue.  And not only did I go the OPPOSITE direction?  I gave REASON for it!  

We know the story.  God found Jonah alright and swallowed him up.  He held him captive until he had to confront his stubborness.  Some may consider that a bit MUCH.  A bit HARSH.  I consider that GRACE.  
Jonah was a man who was CHASED DOWN BY GRACE.

This is the beauty of God's GRACE:He will rescue us from OURSELVES.  
Even in our stubbornness and unwillingness to submit.  He will bring us to a place of humility and force us to confront our own hearts.  HUMBLE yourSELF before the Lord and He will lift you up.  James 4:10.  How much GREATER is it to go ahead and humble yourself before the Lord BRINGS you to humility.
It is a FAR less painful experience. 

I remember one of mine wrote me a love letter.  I still have it as a reminder that God can speak directly to ME through my children without them ever being aware that is what He is doing.  

Here it is in a nutshell- STRAIGHT to the point:
"Dear Mom, 
I love you.  You are the most beautiful woman in the world.  You bless me and give me good things.
Obey God or He will make you."
My heart stopped beating a moment.
I KNEW what the Lord was speaking of.  I KNEW it.
out of the mouths of babes......
Did I YIELD to those prophetic words of wisdom?  Unfortunately NOT.  I ended up instead being swallowed by a whale and FORCED to confront my heart and do things the HARD way.  
But HERE is where we see that while Jonah went ahead and did what the Lord required of him---his HEART remained unchanged!!!....
Get this!..true to the character of GOD....(In. HIS. INCREDIBLE. UNEXPLAINABLE. PATIENCE.)  After Jonah's time-out, He "RE-ROUTED" Jonah and gave him another opportunity.
God is SO gracious.  PATIENT and SLOW---------------to anger.
Towards Jonah ....... *AND* the people of Ninevah.
Now wait a minute.  NINEVAH too??????
Jonah appreciated the GRACE.  "I CRIED to God in my distress and HE HEARD ME!  HE RESCUED ME! I sank beneath the WATERS.  They closed over me.  But YOU rescued me.  and NOW I will obey."  
But God extending that same GRACE to Ninevah?
THAT'S another matter.
We're not sure why Jonah pitched such a fit.
Was it his PRIDE that was injured?  Now Jonah looks like a LIAR.
Was it that he FINALLY, with GREAT humility, OBEYED?  and God didn't even FOLLOW THROUGH? 
Jonah had expectations and it didn't pan out the way he thought it would.  After all he OBEYED.  

But we see God's PATIENCE towards Jonah yet again when Jonah sat over the city WAITING for God to change his mind and with one fell swoop wipe them out.  He gave Jonah some shade as he sat there under the sun.
He was grateful for the moment because it eased *HIS* discomfort. (while he waited to see an entire city destroyed for its disobedience and faithlessness)
Do you not see the contradiction here?  Jonah was GRATEFUL for Grace.  After all....he did what was asked of him.  (eventually)
But when the worm ate the plant giving him shade he flies off the handle and whines and complains.  

Here is where we see his heart was unchanged...even in his obedience.  
The lord said to him in Jonah 4:10 ....
 "NINEVAH has more than 120,000 people living in DARKNESS and YOU'RE worried about a PLANT."  
Jonah missed it.  
That SAME grace God extended to Jonah he was extending to an entire people.  He is LONG-suffering.  He is PATIENT.  and while Jonah appreciated that patience on his OWN behalf his heart was self-consumed.  Maybe God was simply showing him GRACE.  PATIENCE and that God will do EVERYTHING in His power to bring us to a place of repentance.  For Jonah AND the people of Ninevah. 
Even if it means WAITING a little longer for us to GET it.  

It's interesting to me that God was using a stubborn, rebellious, childish, selfish man to bring a city of people to repentance.  It's an EXTRAORDINARY grace.  LONG-SUFFERING grace.  
How much easier it is to "get it" before we are humbled by God Himself.  We can avoid the detour.  We can avoid the "life-lessons" and misery of finding ourselves in the belly of a whale or sitting under the scorching sun if we would just DO what He's asked us to do and get our HEART RIGHT.  Regardless of WHAT it is and what He DOES with our obedience.  It is not for us to question His sovereignty.  It is simply for us to obey.
And even if we run....
GRACE will chase us DOWN and in His loving-kindness force us to confront our own hearts and re-route us back into the CENTER of His PERFECT will.  
  AMAZING GRACE how SWEET the sound!
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