Monday, July 12, 2010

jonah and the vine, nope not the whale

growing up in the church i, like many other kids, came to know the "big" bible stories as well as the nursery rhymes that i learned at school. noah and his ark, moses parting the red sea, david and goliath, joseph and his technicolor coat, and the list goes on. one of my favorites was jonah and the whale because, well, what child doesn't love the story of a man being swallowed by a whale and living to tell the story? (plus, disney got a hold of this one and used it in pinocchio which only adds to the excitement!) all of the excitement about these stories while i was a child did not remain as i grew older in my faith. i guess i just regarded them as elementary bible stories for those early in their faith. however, last night at church God changed my preconceived notions about jonah and the whale. He, in fact, made me forget the whale completely!

at the end of chapter 4 in the book of Jonah there is the story of jonah and the vine,

"Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. 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."

But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"
"I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."

But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" -Jonah 4: 5-11

after throwing a major fit and telling God he'd rather be dead than do God's will, jonah storms out of the city he was called to preach to and sits, pouting, in the desert. God, despite jonah's anger, provides for him: first a vine to shade, then a worm to wither the vine, and finally a hot wind from the east. in God's provisions, jonah finds himself miserable and, once again, grows angry with God crying out the he would like to die. rather than working to placate a spoiled brat of a believer, God speaks the world back into perspective in saying to jonah, "you had no hand in growing this vine or in the worm's appetite or the wind blowing from a hot land, yet you are concerned. you have a hand in the city of Nineveh, yet you are not concerned. I, the Lord of Lords, have a hand in it all and because of this, I am concerned."

why is it that it's so easy to be just like jonah? when God calls us to do something that would bring glory to Him, we get all huffy and puffy and disinterested. when God provides something great for us that we did nothing to deserve and it dies away, we throw a fit and grow angry with Him because why would you do this to me God? why, oh why? woe is me!

no, no, no get it straight guys. i don't deserve the wonderful life i have here in america more than any other u.s. citizen or any immigrant that longs to live in such a great land as ours. i am (by His grace and not my earning!) extremely blessed to be living in such a wealthy country that allows me to worship freely. so what if i don't have the coolest clothes like lady gaga (just kidding!) or the athletic ability of kobe bryant or the beauty of miss america... i have more than i could ever deserve because Jesus Christ died on the cross for me to appease his Father who should be unleashing His rage on me for the sin that wreaks havoc on my life.

but, just as the vines come and provide shade, there are worms that God places in our lives to give us a little sun. (He must like sun-kissed skin too!) all jokes aside, be thankful for sun. He is exposing us because He knows that we will not burn to a crisp under the heat of His greatest star. so, although you may not want to sit out and feel the heat, realize He will not let you burn, He will provide some water and some shade until the time has come for you to feel the coolness of night. and while that hot eastern wind blows, be thankful for the air that fills your lungs. be thankful you are alive to feel the breeze against your skin and realize that, just like in the bible, one feels most alive when life is reminding you it's not an easy thing.

remember the words of a very tried man, job, "...the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away." -Job 1:21. that was written in the first chapter of a 42 chapter book. what chapter would you write that in yours?

make a list of the vines, the worms, the winds that God brings to develop your perspective into one that focuses on the immense blessings showered on us by Him. don't just count your blessings, but attribute them to the Almighty King that deserves much more than we could ever bring to Him. and just remember His sweet blessings on your life the next time you are grouchy about the calling He has for you.

song of the day:
who am I
by: casting crowns

who am i to deserve the things He gives to me? i'm not. He is.