This is Part 3 of 5 parts looking at the “Heart of the Issue relating to people.”
Asked Questions Rather Than Impose Divine Discipline
Even after the Ninevites repented, God did not impose judgment on Jonah. Instead, the Lord was trying to help Jonah at the heart level. God asked Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jon. 4:4 NKJ) Jonah was MAD that God relented on punishing the Ninevites. After all, they deserved to suffer! Jonah was like the older brother in the prodigal son account (Luke 15:11-32). He wanted to exercise judgment! But God exercised mercy toward the Ninevites and was exercising mercy toward Jonah.
When God ordered the plant to grow and provide shade, Jonah enjoyed it. So God took the shade away by directing a worm to eat the plant. And then God ordered the east wind to blow on the plant and on Jonah and Jonah became faint from a bad sun burn. He was still mad. God again asked him, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” (Jon 4:9 NKJ) Jonah wanted to exercise judgment, but God was exercising mercy, so that he could reach Jonah’s heart.
Mercy or Judgment
Which are you better at – mercy or judgment? When we want someone’s behavior to change, at times we’ll express an attitude (or actions) that reveal we’re ready for judgment. We’re like Jonah and assuming judgment is the correct course of action!
But God is always working to change the heart. Even when Jonah was rebellious, God did not put him in a squeeze play to crush his spirit. God certainly let Jonah suffer as the fear of drowning and sitting in the stomach of a great fish would be almost incomprehensible. But in the Divine discipline, God was always seeking to reach Jonah’s heart, because Jonah was the means by which God was going to reach the hearts of 120,000 Ninevites.
Did God reach Jonah’s heart? By reading the account of Jonah, you might not think so. However, Jonah is the author of Jonah and prior to recording the facts for all of us to read for the next 2800 years, Jonah repented and humbled himself before the Lord. God reached his heart. He stayed with Jonah and kept tenderly talking to Jonah to get one thing – heart change.
Make Application to Every Area of Life
This can be applied to every area of life. We are often so self-focused and want people to behave in a way that meets our needs or tends to what matters to us. We may be concerned about someone’s heart, but we often easily give up and are willing to throw him under the boat, if we have to, in order to get what satisfies us.
What does a parent do to a rebellious child? When he is under five, the parent will make decisions to get the job done or the behavior moving in the right direction. However, as the child grows, the parent will continue to reach for the heart so that the child will want to change himself. When the child wants to change, he will be forced to also learn how to depend on God by faith. He’ll learn that the flesh doesn’t want to obey the Lord and there may not be an adult who makes the decision for him. But don’t throw the child under the boat. Let him suffer the consequences of his decisions, but always stay with the child to reach his heart. That takes loving, patient and deliberate proactive engagement.
What does a customer do for a cashier who is out of sorts and makes many mistakes? That is more difficult today, because so many things are computerized and the cashier only has to swipe the products and then give out change. Yet, do you treat the wayward cashier as a business appointment or a ministry and do you exercise mercy or judgment?
Part 4 will be posted tomorrow.