WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JONAH?

…thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness…
Jonah 4:2

Jonah was so convinced of God’s mercy and grace that he preferred running away to Tarshish than running to Nineveh, the assignment God had given him. After all, Nineveh was wicked, and the Assyrians had been the oppressors of his people for generations. It wasn’t fair that God should forgive them. So Jonah ran away.

But the same gracious and merciful God prepared a fish for him and sent him right back in the direction of Nineveh. To Jonah’s consternation, the Ninevites, from the king down to the animals, demonstrated repentance, and God saw and heard. And Jonah was angry.

Jonah with his disobedience, his nasty attitude, and his unforgiveness couldn’t understand God’s patience with Nineveh, many whose population was so young they didn’t know their right hand from their left. God saw and withheld judgment.

While we may be shocked at Jonah’s hypocrisy, I wonder if we would be grateful if God showed mercy to someone who deserves judgment or if he pours out grace when we know punishment would be just? Isn’t it a good thing that, because of Jesus, God’s mercies are new every day, and we don’t get what we deserve?

Father, your steadfast love never changes, and your mercies never come to an end. Thank you that the chiefest of sinners can repent and accept your forgiveness. That’s us, Lord, and we thank you. AMEN.

BLESSINGS

…he maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45 (KJV)

After a drought of approximately five years, Texas has been saturated with rains—some gentle and some causing serious flooding. The wildflowers have been glorious, and we are seeing lush landscapes such as have been nonexistent for years. All because of the rain.

Has it occurred to you to notice that the rain falls on good people and on people we might judge to be bad? That’s what Jesus says in the Matthew passage above. God sends blessings—like rain—on everyone. Romans 2:4 goes on to say that God’s kindness is poured out to bring people to repentance.

If we wanted someone to repent, would we want to beat him into submission or would we, like God, saturate that person with kindness? Even our folk wisdom tells us that we can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Father, again you teach us that your love, your mercy, your goodness changes us in ways that no amount of criticism or disparaging could ever do. Remind us of your kindness to us and help us to reflect that every day to the people in our lives. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

GRATITUDE

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. I Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

That day we had vaccinated 155 dogs and 17 cats as part of a vet team in another country. The hours had been long and intense, but, happily, we had been working in shade with a cool breeze.

We had been told not to expect gratitude, but still something troubled me. Only one person of all the people whose animals we had treated said thank you. That wonderful team of 28 people had given their time and expertise and had spent money to leave their comfort zone to come to help. And only one person was thankful.

The week went by as we moved to various locations with much the same response. On the final night, a local business that had provided transportation, drivers, and warehousing for the medications gave a lavish fiesta for the team complete with delicious local cuisine, entertainment, and gifts for us all. When it came time for me to receive my gift, how did I respond? I forgot to say thank you. All week long I had quizzed myself over the failure of so many who had received so much, and when I was in the same spot, I forgot.

It was easy for me to see something troubling in someone else, but when the same shoe was on my foot, I saw how easy it was to take generosity for granted. God’s standard is higher: “…to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required…”

Father, you have given us all so much. Forgive me for forgetting to say thank you. Work gratitude into my heart so that I remember the Source of every good gift and always express thanksgiving. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

JUDGING

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2 (NIV)

“So how is he going to be judged?” I was asked at lunch. Do you ever think people are getting by with things? That they ought to suffer for what they’ve done? It’s so easy to be tempted with those kinds of thoughts. And then we look in the mirror and are so grateful for mercy.

My mom used to say that when we judge someone, we’re assigning motive to their actions, which is arrogance on our part. And however do we know why anyone does anything? Only God knows the heart.

The very instant we begin to judge each other, we lose our peace, and the more we concentrate on their perceived wrong, the more we become distracted from what God has called us to do. Oswald Chambers says there’s always one more thing in that person’s life that we do not know—one more thing that affects his behavior.

Interestingly, even Jesus said he didn’t judge—that was the job of his Father. He allowed that the wheat and the tares grow up together lest the wheat be torn out with the tares if removed prematurely.

Staying focused on Jesus, abiding in him, and rejoicing always in him leaves us no time to look for flaws in others. Actually, judging is a job best left to God who alone knows all things, especially our hearts.

Father, forgive us when we take your job into our hands. All of us need your mercy, and we all should show mercy. Remind us of that when we are tempted to be judgmental. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.