to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice *
September 30, 2019 – Monday
Jonah 4:5-8 NIV
5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.
6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant.
7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
You won’t find the words obey or obedience or disobey or disobedience in the verses above, but you will find the second time Jonah wrote that It would be better for me to die than to live. Before going any further a quick explanation about today’ verses of the day. A friend (Thank you Phil) wrote me Saturday morning and in his email he wrote:
I heard an enlightening teaching last night from Greg Laurie on Jonah 4…He asked the question, “How do I know the Bible is the true inspired word of God? ” His answer: because Jonah wrote chapter 4, describing his own rebellious attitude and God’s merciful response. Greg also compares Jonah to the prodigal brother in Matthew’s gospel, the one who stayed home and became bitter at his father, when the wayward son came home.
This really caught my attention and much of this morning had me running down what Greg Laurie had taught on this and I found this audio (note: “follow” this ministry is required to view – well worth it!) and this writing plus this video on the prodigal brother in Luke which inspired me to continue with Jonah from last Friday’s verses of the day. I recommend Laurie’s teaching on the Prodigal Prophet (Jonah) both parts as well as The Message That Brought A Spiritual Awakening found here.
However, my focus today is on Jonah’s statement It would be better for me to die than to live. He said it at the end of the opening of chapter four and when he said it, he was clearly angry.
1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Then God asked Jonah a question in the very next verse Is it right for you to be angry? Was it right for Jonah to be angry that the evil and wicked people of Nineveh had been spared by God? This is where Laurie makes a comparison to the prodigal son who returns home where the father receives him with great gladness, but the faithful brother is angry like Jonah is angry that Nineveh was saved when they repented.
Would we be angry? I believe Jesus would not want us to be angry which is why He said we are to love our enemies and pray for them in both Matthew and Luke. Looking at Luke six we find:
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Why would this be so? When we have walked with God for a period of time we often forget that we started out as enemies of God, unworthy of His love and His salvation. Yet through His Son Jesus we received an incredible undeserved gift of grace and salvation. In case we had forgotten Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 5:8 when he says For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. We were once darkness (!), just like those who lived in Nineveh and no more worthy of God’s mercy. Yet He showed mercy on them when they repented, just as He showed mercy on us when we repented and accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Now let’s return to the verses of the day where the plant giving Jonah shade from the hot son has died because a worm provided by God chewed on the plant causing the plant to die. Then with the hot sun and a scorching wind Jonah said It would be better for me to die than to live whereupon God asked him a question much like the first question Is it right for you to be angry about the plant? Incredibly Jonah answered God saying It is. And I’m so angry I wish I were dead. Now it’s not anger about God’s mercy on the people of Nineveh, but about his own misery due to the death of the plant that had given him shade.
All this now from Jonah without realizing it was God who in His mercy provided the plant for Jonah’s shade and then in His judgment had the shade removed by providing a worm to cause it to die and wither. Jonah’s immediate desire for relief from the sun and the wind made him truly appreciate the plant and the mercy it provided from the heat of the sun and the hot wind. With the plant gone, Jonah is angry and wants to die in his misery and that is when God rebukes him saying You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight with the message the plant came from Him.
Jonah was angry when the people Nineveh were granted mercy and spared and yet again when a single plant died. Jonah’s lack of understanding of God’s incredible mercy was made plain to him. Then God concluded by saying:
And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?
Guzik writes Jewish tradition says that after God said the words of Jonah 4:11, Jonah then fell on his face and said: “Govern Your world according to the measure of mercy, as it is said, To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness.”
I remain incredibly grateful for God’s amazing mercy and forgiveness.
(to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice)
* Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)