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Feb 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 26, 2017 – Jonah 4:5-8

Giving Up, So Soon?

Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. Jonah 4:5

Intro: Years ago, friends introduced me to Dr. John Southwell

He had been a medical missionary in India before returning to the States and private practice
– he was a creative and brilliant man–and something of a character
• the last time I visited him was shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer
• a hospital bed had been placed in his living room facing a picture window
◦ the view was a panorama of Pacific Ocean near the San Clemente pier
– standing beside his bed, we spoke quietly and I prayed over him
• then very thoughtfully, as though he had just made a discovery in a lab,
◦ he said, “I did not know that it would hurt this much
• his medical knowledge of the pain of this type of cancer was sound
◦ but he had no experiential conception of it
◦ he did not really know the pain — until he felt it

A characteristic of certain types of personality disorders:
– the person is oblivious to the feelings of others
• they cannot imagine the pain, fear, sadness, or misery of another person
– God’s special challenge with Jonah was to work empathy into him
• bare information was insufficient to enable Jonah to feel for Nineveh
◦ Jonah already “knew” the important information

for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness . . . (v. 2)

• God to let Jonah experience for himself the feelings of another person
◦ that other person was not citizen, but God himself

We can title verse 5, “The city and the shelter”

We are suppose to visualize these two settings
– the magnificent city teeming with life and the lean-to in an uninhabited area of the desert
• the words, the city, appear three times in verse 5
◦ was this a reminder of its size? (a three days’ walk)
◦ or was it meant to leave an impression of the city on our mind?
• Jonah left the city, but he was not quite ready to leave the area
◦ perhaps hoping God’s mercy would backfire, he sat and watched
– however, he was not going to wait it out under the desert sun
• he needed shade, though there were not many materials for a makeshift shelter
◦ if he was lucky, he found enough sticks to make something he could sit under
◦ gaps between the sticks would still allow rays of sunlight to stream in
• perhaps shamefully, Jonah wanted shelter from sun for himself,
◦ but he wanted no protection for Nineveh from God’s burning anger (3:9)
◦ Jonah had a box seat for the main event

So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. Jonah 4:6

God upgrades Jonah’s accommodations

We have come across the words LORD and God in the story
– they have appeared separately and strategically
• my favorite example of how they are used strategically is Genesis 1 and 2
◦ in chapter 1-2:3, the Creator is “God,” (Elohim) through the entire section
◦ then, in chapter 2 from verse 4 on, we find the LORD God, (Yahweh Elohim)
◦ the name of God followed by the generic word for deity
• he is still the Creator, but he is also Person — a Someone whose name we know
◦ now his contact with creation takes on a personal quality
Elohim is God, known to all the nations
Yahweh is Israel’s God
(see Pharaoh’s, Who is Yahweh that I should obey His voice . . .? and then Moses’ switch to The God of the Hebrews . . . . in Exodus 5:1-3)

In the story of Jonah, this is the only time LORD and God are put together
– and that draws our attention to the two designations
• we are alerted to look for the way they are used in what follows
• I’ll give you a hint:
Elohim is used in reference to God’s sovereign role as the Creator
Yahweh is used in reference to his compassion for his creation and creatures

Jonah could ignore God (as he did when he answered God’s question in v. 4 with silence)
– but for God, the conversation was not over, so he followed Jonah out of the city
• there God appointed a plant to grow over Jonah’s shelter
◦ I imagine the plant to be a vine with lots of broad leaves
◦ it would fully cover roof of his house of sticks
• Jonah sat under his shelter and God grew the plant over it
◦ again, our key word great (translated “extremely”) – he greatly rejoiced
◦ for the first time, Jonah experiences relief, and we can feel it too
– but his relief was short-lived
• God had more appointments in store
◦ there was something more important at stake than Jonah’s happiness

But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.” Jonah 4:7-8

God steps up the game

We come not to the next stage of his education, training, and enlightenment
– all the stuff of discipleship — and I want to add to the list, “his therapy”
• a psychological healing was necessary for Jonah’s spiritual progress
• but as we have seen, Jonah knows the answers already
◦ more explanations and insights will not work
◦ so we will see how God goes at his mind through his body
But God [Elohim] appointed a worm . . .
• all those lovely leaves were soon withered
• and Jonah’s perfect shade was gone

“But wait! There’s more”
– Jonah’s sticks offered partial shade
• but the east wind blowing through the gaps would feel like an oven
• Israel has an air system like our Santa Ana winds
◦ if the wind was something like that,
◦ the agitation it caused would exacerbate Jonah’s situation
– so the sun came “up” and then beat “down” on Jonah
• this reminiscent of the ups and downs of his sea voyage
• his mood was also lifted up (briefly), but then shot down
◦ our emotions are more vulnerable and volatile when tied to our circumstances

Jonah became faint – he was about to expire
– he was also fainting away in chapter 2 (v. 7)
• in that instance, he prayed for salvation
• here he begs to die – and begs with all his soul
– now, this one line he must have thought was pretty good,
• because he repeats it from verse 3:

Death is better to me than life

• but God’s plan does not include Jonah’s death
• what God has in mind is a revelation and a new heart

It is my opinion that Jonah was being melodramatic
– I can say this, because in the same mood I’ve made similar statements

Phillip Cary observed, “That’s how to open the floodgates of emotion: not just to notice your feelings but to agree with them, to tell yourself at last that you are right to feel this way.”

– my four year old grandson, Calum, when not allowed to do something,
• walks away with his head down, talking to himself in a whiny voice

“I really wanted to play Super Mario. And now they won’t let me do anything! I said ‘please’! They don’t love me any more. They won’t let me have fun ever again. Waaa!”

• and the further he goes, the more he exaggerates and his self-pity escalates
◦ it’s very entertaining to listen to all of that
◦ Jonah seems to be indulging in a little bit of that sort of emotion

Conc: We tend to think of essays as serious writing

That is where we look for facts and figures
– we assume that stories are more for entertainment
• but the real difference is:
◦ essays communicate thoughts,while stories communicate experience
• essays are conveyed from one mind to another mind
◦ stories move from one heart to another heart
– God has given us stories — a book that is full of them
• if we enter them, they give us an experience of his truth
◦ the whole purpose of this story is for us to learn by Jonah’s experience
◦ what way, we don’t have to be swallowed by a big fish

Our experiences are tagged by emotions
• we remember:
◦ what rejection feels like (the feeling may be clearer than details of the event)
◦ what it feels like to complete a big project
• the problem today is that we are bombarded by so many experiences,
◦ we have become desensitized
◦ the problem is not that we feel too much, but too little

I sincerely hope we who are here today, experience the fullness of Jonah’s story
– what God wanted for Jonah is exactly what we are told about the empathy of Jesus

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9:36)

• Jesus saw and what he saw caused him to feel a specific emotion
– this is what we want to gain from Jonah’s experience

To help make this happen, welcome Jesus into your imagination
I am not saying, “Imagine Jesus”
(we do that naturally when we read the Bible or pray)
Rather, as you begin to read or pray, invite the real Jesus to be with you,
to guide your imagination, so that you see what he sees, and feel what he feels

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