Jonah 4 – Do you do well?
As I prepared to share the last chapter of Jonah, I must admit I was a little haunted by this phrase. In the story of Jonah, the rebellious prophet responds to the overwhelming mercy and love of God by pouting and demanding that his own will be done in place of the Father’s. The Lord, who is all-powerful and all-knowing asks the foolish prophet one question, “Do you do well to be angry?” That question hounded me for the rest of the day as I prepared my Wednesday night message. I am not an angry person on most days. I’m not a pouter, nor do I tend to spend most of my time demanding my own way. But as the Spirit worked in me through the power of God’s Word, I could not escape the depth of the question. “Do you do well?” Do I, as a disciple of Christ, as a teacher of His Word, as a father, as a husband, as a son, as a friend, do well? Does my perspective, my scope, my will line up with the Father’s to the point where I am merciful when He is merciful? Am I at peace when He extends His overwhelming peace to me? Am I discontent when the Spirit softly whispers its conviction? Do I do well?
The question of course is not really for us to answer. We as broken, sinful human beings cannot ever really see the true state of our hearts. Jeremiah says that our hearts are deceitful before they’re anything else (Jeremiah 17:9). Solomon tells us that there is a way that seems right in our hearts but in the end destroys us (Proverbs 16:25). The question is not meant to drive us into introspection and self-contemplation. It is instead a means for the Spirit to get our attention. You can be sure that if the Lord is asking a question, it is not so that He may further His understanding of the situation. It is to draw our attention to how far off the path we have wandered. It is to expose us. And make no mistake, before Almighty God we are exposed. Every heart motivation, every thought, every selfish ambition is exposed when dealing with the God of the universe no matter how self-righteously we try to justify it. The Father, through the work of the Spirit, constantly wants to draw our attention to the places in our hearts where we are relying on our own understanding. He wants to open us up to be examined and to cut away the flesh that still remains within us.
Too often, I’m afraid, we miss the point in the last chapter of Jonah. As we’ve discussed already in this study of Jonah, we often like to put ourselves in the heroic position in these stories. We like to believe that we are on God’s side in this fourth chapter. We are transcendentally above the petty, childish behavior of Jonah. We’re on God’s side. We’re children of the Enlightenment. We are the good guys. And so we stand behind God, nodding our approval. We must learn to allow the Spirit to show us who we truly are. We are the pouting, angry prophet who wants his way or else. We are the childish, selfish human who cannot see the bigger picture. We are the whiner who wants what makes him comfortable more than he wants anything else.
In chapter 1 of Jonah, we acknowledged that God does whatever pleases Him. That is a far-reaching claim that goes far deeper than our finite minds can fathom. Part of what that means is that God has placed you in the family you are in, the school you go to, the job you work, the circle of friends you run with, the church you attend because that’s where He wants you to be. That’s where you are called. That’s where God wants to work in you and through you so that He gets all the glory. So in light of this fact, do you do well where you are placed? Do you do well as a teenager living with your parents and siblings? Do you do well at your school? Do you do well at your dead-end job? Do you do well in the group of friends that you do life with? Do you do well at your church? Or do these types of life circumstances tend to bring out the pouting, selfish persona that we find in Jonah. Instead of serving and obeying your parents, you tend to get angry, complain, rebel, and/or argue. Instead of being a good student, you tend to act out, talk back, be lazy, and/or disrespectful to those in authority or your fellow classmates. Instead of doing all things as unto the Lord, you tend to complain, undermine your boss, and/or emotionally and intellectually check out the moment you arrive at work.
On and on we could go, running through scenarios of different situations with relatives, spouses, children, or beggars on the street. No matter where we find ourselves. No matter how good we have it or how hard, the question lingers. Do you do well? It’s a matter of perspective. Does your view of where you are line up with God’s? Do you see your family, spouses, friends, co-workers, waiters and waitresses, and checkout people as mission fields? Or do you simply seek what is most comfortable for you? May we all allow the Spirit to examine our hearts and show us if there be any grievous way in us. I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace,