For the last several years, our country has become so divided. “The poles” that the politicians quote so freely show that politically the division is very close to being 50-50. In other words, and in most views, half of us share the right opinions while the other half is wrong. With everyone having an opinion…and stubbornly holding on to it as we do…how can our country possibly ever move forward?
There is only one answer to this problem and, as with all problems, it can be found in God’s Word. Many on both sides of these issues claim to be Christians, so how can we, as God’s people, be so divided? No matter how steadfastly we claim to know what is best, God is the one in charge and the only one that knows for sure. We have to stop looking at those with opposing opinions as our enemies.
One important trait our Lord has is compassion. His desire is that not one of us should perish and miss out on His promise of salvation. We must always hold fast to our faith and our convictions, but we also must be willing to listen to both sides of an issue and learn that our way may not always be the way God would have us to go if we took time to honestly seek His will and follow it.
The book of Jonah teaches us about stubborn man and God’s compassion for people when they are willing to turn from their wickedness and give Him the glory. Jonah, a Hebrew prophet, was very familiar with God and His ways…and he also was familiar with the city of Nineveh, a city he found to be full of evil, pagan people whom he felt didn’t deserve God’s mercy…is that how we view the people who disagree with us?
In the first and second verses, it tells us that the word of the Lord came to Jonah and told him: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.”
We all know that many prayers have gone up in the last several years asking God to heal our nation and bring us back into His ways. Perhaps this (prayers of the people) was how it had come up before Him concerning the situation in Nineveh…and He had reached a decision as to what to do about it.
In the next verse, we see that Jonah defied God and went the other direction to Joppa, where he got a ticket on a boat and headed for the city of Tarshis. But God sent a great wind and Jonah wound up being thrown overboard into the stormy waters where he almost drowned. Instead, he was swallowed up by a huge fish. After being in the belly of the fish for three days, Jonah knew that God had saved him from drowning and realized: They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy…then he thanked God and agreed to do as requested of him because: Salvation is of the Lord. The Lord told the fish to release Jonah and he was vomited onto dry land.
Finally, Jonah went to Nineveh and preached as the Lord told him, crying to the city, “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” The people believed God and He was pleased to see them obey and turn from their wickedness. He decided not to destroy the city after all. Jonah 4: 1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
He told God, “Isn’t this what I said would happen? I knew you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger.” He knew Nineveh would not be destroyed…as he had hoped it would. “Take my life from me,” he begged. It is better that I die than to live.”
Why is Jonah so angry that God chose to spare the city of Nineveh? Perhaps, being a prophet and telling the people their city would be overcome in forty days, then to have it not happen was more than he could take. Would the people ever believe a prophesy from him again?
God’s response was: “Do you do well to be angry?”
Then Jonah went out of the city a way and prepared himself a shelter and sat down to observe what might become of the city…to see if the people were sincere, I suppose. God then caused a gourd (vine) to grow… a shade, to further protect Jonah from the sun. For this shade Jonah was grateful and glad. In the morning though, God prepared a worm to come and destroy the vine. He also prepared an east wind to blow causing Jonah to get so hot that he fainted, wishing again that he could just die.
God asked him, “Do you do well to be angry for the gourd?
Jonah said, “I do well to be angry, even unto death!”
God said, “You have had pity for the gourd, for which you have not worked or made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night. And should I not spare Nineveh, that great city where there are more than 120,000 persons (babies and young children) who cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also, much cattle?”
It is clear Jonah is thinking only of himself and his comfort. Being a Hebrew, a member of God’s chosen people, perhaps Jonah also felt like he was better than the people of Nineveh and more deserving of God’s mercy. Do we consider ourselves better than those we disagree with? Do we get “angry even unto death” because of the direction we see our country taking?
The whole story of Jonah could be the story of many of us. At times we try to hide from God, to avoid doing what we know He would have us to. But still He protects us and works with us, just as He did Jonah, until hopefully we see things His way and decide to follow. We get angry at those who disagree with us and situations we cannot control. But do we do well (have any right) to be angry if we haven’t prayed and worked at finding solutions to the things that make us angry?
We are supposed to pray for each other. Also, we need to pray that our anger is directed towards sin and not the sinners. We must have compassion on those who are lost. Yes, the wickedness of our country has been brought up to God. He is our shade, the protection that we have enjoyed for over 200 years, but, like the shade He sent Jonah, it can be taken away in a day…unless we tend it daily and invite others to share it. For salvation is of the Lord.