Go...There Part 4

What Should We Do When We Feel Angry With God?

Tim Lundy
Jun 5, 2021    35m
What should we do when we feel angry with God? As we conclude this study in the Book of Jonah, we find that Jonah is angry with God for showing mercy to the Ninevites. By examining his reaction to God, we can learn healthy ways to express our emotions with God. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Tim Lundy: [00:00:14] Well, Venture, as we finish out this weekend in Jonah chapter 4, we finish out what probably is my favorite part of the story. You know, this whole message has been entitled Go There, the series, because God gave Jonah a specific command to go there, to go to Nineveh. And we get to Chapter 4, I've entitled this message, Went There, Now What? And I think it's an important message for us, because as we see how Jonah interacts while God is doing something awesome in Nineveh, he hasn't given up on Jonah either.

Tim Lundy: [00:00:51] Now, I've got to warn you, maybe if you're watching this, you're engaging this weekend, and you're not a Christian, maybe you're not engaged in church. I'm just going to go in and tell you in advance, I've got some bad news and some good news. The bad news is, everything that maybe you're skeptical about, everything that you've wondered about with Christians, whether they're hypocritical, whether they can be judgmental, whether sometimes they're jerks, this passage is going to confirm those things. You're going to see it lived out. That's the bad news of it, and it's a recognition that as Christians, as followers of God, we can struggle with those things. Now, here's the good news for you, though, you're going to see in this passage, God doesn't like those things either. In fact, God forces us to deal with it because he doesn't want it to be a part of our character.

Tim Lundy: [00:01:46] We see it in full force with Jonah. Just to recap for you, remember, God tells Jonah, go to Nineveh, Jonah tries to go to Tarshish, goes the opposite direction. God sends a storm, and he's thrown into the sea, the fish or the whale comes and swallows him, he's there for three days, spits him on the shore. Jonah finally obeys, goes to Nineveh, preaches this, frankly, lousy message, just one quick message of judgement. But then God does this amazing thing, and in it, he's changing the city. And you'd think everybody would be happy about this, but remember I told you, Jonah's got an attitude problem.

Tim Lundy: [00:02:23] Let's read, starting a verse 4, the fact that the Ninevites are confessing, the fact that the Ninevites are actually repenting to God, but notice, "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry." I mean, he is literally fit to be tied, that's a phrase my mom used to use when she was angry. And look, "And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish." He says that's why I ran to begin with, I knew this was going to happen.

Tim Lundy: [00:03:00] And what is it that made him know this? Look at the point you can see in it, Jonah knew that the character of God would result in the mercy of God. He knew that God's very character was going to result in the fact that the people that he hated were going to be forgiven. How does he know that? Look, as the passage continues, he says, "For I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster." Now, when he uses this description of God, Jonah's is not just coming up with these things off the top of his head, it's not like he said, oh, let me give you a list of things about God, he's actually using a definition of God. In fact, you'll see this verse and this description of God, it's one of the most defining verses of God in the Old Testament scriptures.

Tim Lundy: [00:03:56] This exact verse actually goes back to Exodus 34. Back in Exodus, remember the children of Israel, at one time, they were slaves in Egypt. God rescues them and he takes them to Mount Sinai. And when they get to Sinai, remember, Moses went up on the mountain. And up on the mountain, God gives him the Ten Commandments. And while Moses is there with God getting the law, the children start getting restless, the people. And they start wondering, maybe we're doing this wrong, maybe Moses is dead, maybe we should worship like the other people do? And so they convince Moses' brother Aaron to take their gold, and they melt it down, and they form a golden calf, and they're literally dancing and worshipping this idol. Moses comes down off the mountain, if you've seen the Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston, he's holding the Ten Commandments and he sees it, and at that point, he breaks the Ten Commandments. He's like, I literally can't believe I've been gone for a few days, and you're already worshipping an idol. And when Moses goes back up on the mountain, God's angry, God says to Moses, he says, you know what, I'm going to just wipe them out, we'll start over with just you. And part of it, God's testing Moses in it. And Moses prays and he says, Lord, you're God have mercy, please forgive them, and God chooses to forgive them in that moment. And in that passage, Exodus 34, that's the first time we get this definition of God. And Moses uses the exact words, he says, "You're a gracious God." This word in the Hebrew, it's only 13 times in the Old Testament, it's only used of God, he's the only one that gives this kind of grace. He says, you're merciful, or it's sometimes translated compassionate. That's the word that's used of a mother caring for her baby, a mother's love for her child.

Tim Lundy: [00:05:54] He says that's your character toward us, God. He's slow to anger, he's patient, he's not a God who just flies off the handle, he's very forbearing. Abounding in steadfast love, this one is a key one, the word in Hebrew for this is, hesed, it's that faithful covenant love. And this one was particularly important to the Israelites, because they would have said, man, that is that special love that God has for us as his people. But here, we are seeing in Jonah, that God doesn't just have that love for Israelites, he doesn't just have it in today's terms just for Christians, man, he is willing to extend that love, that agape, sacrificial love.

Tim Lundy: [00:06:45] Final term, he says, you're one who's willing to relent from disaster. And what he's talking about here is, the punishment that we deserve? Now, it doesn't mean that God always gives up on punishment, like God is a God, he threatens us a lot, but he'll never really punish you. No, God carries through on his judgment, but he's always willing to relent, he's always willing to give an opportunity. Like what the Ninevites, man, he sends a Jonah so that they can hear the truth and they can change, they don't have to experience it.

Tim Lundy: [00:07:22] See, Jonah goes through this, and he says, I knew this about you, I knew this was your character, I knew you would do this, I knew you forgive them. And he's so mad, he says, "Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” I mean, he so hates them, that now that they've been forgiven, he just looks at and says, I just want to die. And it's ironic, I mean, as he's going through this, look at how he describes it, he's describing the fact that we as the children of Israel, man, you have forgiven us, you have loved us, you've been good to us. When you should have wiped us out, you didn't wipe us out, we're so thankful you gave us the grace, but I don't want to give it to anybody else, and he's struggling with that. Here's the point, and I think he's not alone in it, we are people who desperately need grace, but we struggle with giving it freely to others, especially, people we think don't deserve, people that hurt us, people that are kind of outside the bounds of what we think you should live your life in. And we look at it, and God, in his grace, gives them this offer of forgiveness.

Tim Lundy: [00:08:42] Jonah is a lot like the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. Remember when the prodigal son comes home and the father wraps his arms around him, and the father forgives him, and the father has a big feast, a celebration for him? And the brother comes in and he's like, what is going on here? And at the core of it he says, he doesn't deserve this, man, he's done everything wrong. And then notice what he points out, and here I am doing everything right, and you're going to lavish him like that. That's how Jonah is right now, he is struggling with the fact that God would forgive his worst enemy. And the reality of this is, we struggle with this more than we like to admit. I mean, I think maybe we can forgive people if we don't know them well, but when someone has hurt you, and some of you, you've been hurt very deeply, and it's hard to think of God's grace on that person's life. Now, hear me, I'm not telling you to put yourself back in a position where they can continue to hurt you, sometimes there needs to be healthy boundaries. But I think in all of our hearts, can we reach that point that we would extend the same grace to them that God gives to us?

Tim Lundy: [00:10:01] You know, one of my heroes is Corrie ten Boom, she's just wonderful writer. Her story, maybe you've seen the movie The Hiding Place, where she and her family, during World War Two in Holland, they were hiding Jews in their home so that the Nazis couldn't take them off to the concentration camps. And when they were caught, her parents were killed, and Corrie and her sister Betsie, they were sent to Ravensbrück, the concentration camp. It's a horrible place, her sister ultimately died there. Corrie talks about 1947, post the war, she was in Munich, Germany, and she was lecturing to Christians about God's forgiveness.

Tim Lundy: [00:10:45] And as she finished the lecture, she noticed a gentleman walking toward her, kind of a balding man, a little bit overweight, he had a brown coat on. But as soon as he started walking toward her, she noticed who he was, he was one of the guards at Ravensbruck, one of the German guards. And immediately, everything in her tensed up. She said immediately, her mind went to the pictures of the stacks of shoes and clothes of those who had been killed that were just piled together. She remembered the shame of being paraded in front of the guards without any clothes on and watching her body waste away. She remembered the horror of her sister dying. This gentleman walked up to her, and he smiled, and he said, Fräulein, thank you for your lecture. I especially liked the part where you said that God takes all of our sins, and he casts them to the bottom of the sea. And even as he said it, Corrie said she just she couldn't look at him hardly. And then he said, you know, I was at Ravensbrück, I was a guard there. And since that time, I've become a Christian, and it means so much to me that God would forgive me. But, Fräulein, I would ask you, would you forgive me; and he stuck out his hand. Corrie says that it probably was only seconds, but it felt like minutes, she sat there wrestling with God, could I extend forgiveness to even him? And in a desperate prayer to God, she said, Jesus, give me the strength to do this physically because I can't do it emotionally. And as an act of faith, she stuck out her hand and she shook his hand. She said even in that moment, she could feel the Holy Spirit just wash over her and release this, forgive, you can't carry this. And it began a journey for her in her life, that she was able to minister to so many other people who had to take those same steps of forgiveness.

Tim Lundy: [00:13:06] It's interesting, we are people that we so need grace, all of us need grace, but at times, we really struggle giving it. And Jonah is at this place, and he's just so angry about it. Look how God ends round one, just this one verse, "The LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” He just looks at Jonah, is this really a good thing, is this anger serving you well? And Jonah doesn't answer him, in fact, he kind of storms off. And in verses five to 10, we see round two in the octagon, where he's going to wrestle with God, and he's going to wrestle around these emotions and what he's feeling in it. Read with me, "Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant" You've got this roller coaster of emotions. he's exceedingly angry at God, exceedingly angry at that the Ninevites, and he goes, and he positions himself outside the city.

Tim Lundy: [00:14:30] That's very telling to me, God's doing this unbelievable work in the city, he wants no part of that, he puts himself outside of the city. He creates a little booth there, this plant grows up that God's going to use in his life, that's giving him some shade because it was hot. And so in the direct sun, it would be that much hotter, so he gets some shade from his little vine there and his position. And basically, remember, God said 40 days and then there would be punishment or turn. And I think there's a part of Jonah that's sitting there looking at the Ninevites and he says, this won't last. Yeah, they're sorry today, they won't be tomorrow, they're going to return to their ways. And I've got a front-row seat to watch the judgment of God on people I don't really like. And as you look at that, you know, even that image is striking to me, I look at it here, Jonah positions himself outside the city hoping for judgment. He doesn't want to be in where God's working, he puts himself outside of it. And the interesting thing is you look at cities. I mean, cities are unbelievable places. In fact, that's one of the reasons, remember, God sent Jonah there. He said go, because Nineveh is a great city, it's a large city, it's a center of influence.

Tim Lundy: [00:15:48] There's a reason when you read to the New Testaments, the apostles often went to the cities, the movements that started through cities because cities are influential places with a lot of people. But the reality is, cities are often on the front edge of being evil places as well, cities are places that oftentimes turn against God in the culture of a city. And you know, when you're in a large city, in a metroplex, you can feel that culture. You know, as Christians, we often can respond like Jonah. Sometimes we look at what's going on in it, and we'd rather position ourselves outside of it, we'll just kind of be safe over here and watch what God's going to do to them, instead of being right in the heart of it.

Tim Lundy: [00:16:39] I mean, here's this remarkable revival, people are are turning their lives around, and instead of going in and saying, OK, God help me, use me, let me train them, let me be a part of what you're doing, Jonah's still hoping this isn't real, this won't last, judgment will come out of it. As you look, though, look what God does, "When dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant." We've seen this word appointed a lot, when Jonah tried to get on the boat, God appointed a wind and a storm. When they threw him off the boat, God appointed a whale. Now, we see that God appointed a plant to grow, and then God appointed a worm. You know, the whale gets a lot of publicity in Jonah's story, I think the worm should get a little more publicity. I mean, this worm, little wormy here, attacks the plant, takes it out, and it withered. "And when the sun rose," God's not done yet. "God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”. So Jonah is out there in his tent, he's got his plant, he loves his little plant, his plant gives him shade, God appoints a worm, the worm chews the plant, the plant dies, then God appoints a wind. And you look at this, and you go, why is God picking on Jonah? God's not picking on Jonah, but God wants Jonah to have to deal with what's going on.

Tim Lundy: [00:18:18] And I think it's a great point for us as well, we need to recognize this, God will use any object or circumstance to get our attention. God can use anything, and as he does this, and maybe you're at a place right now, you look at the circumstances in your life and you go, man, I don't know what's going on, just one thing after another. It's a great place to pause and go, God, are you trying to get my attention for a reason? And it might be like Jonah, man, you're running from God, you're angry with God, and so God's going to use those circumstances to force you to deal with it. That's not always the case, Job had more than his share of circumstances, and it wasn't because of anything Job did wrong. It's because God was using Job for righteousness, he was using Job as a testimony to the rest of the world. But when you see your circumstances like this, sometimes I think we just underestimate a God who actually is in control of this world. He's in control of the wind, and the waves, and the whales, and the worms, he's in control of all of it, he can use any of it in our lives.

Tim Lundy: [00:19:27] As you look at this, and it continues on, "God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” You've been so angry, now you're angry about the plant. And I love how Jonah just finally erupts, "He said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” I mean, he's angry enough, he just kind of uncorks on God. He's been kind of throwing out there, I just wish I could die and die. And finally, he looks at God, he goes, you keep asking me if it's OK to be angry? Yes, it's OK to be angry. And I'm angry enough in this moment, I just want to die. I had one little thing, my little plant, my little thing that I enjoyed, I can't just have my little piece of happiness. I'm angry, yeah, you called it God, I am so angry.

Tim Lundy: [00:20:17] Now. I'll give Jonah credit, he's honest enough that he's willing to tell God. He's willing to do what a lot of people won't do, they would so rather avoid anger, or stuff to anger, they'll never get honest with God. And I've got to give Jonah credit, he's willing to do that. And I think this is a turning point for him, because as he's expressed this to God, how he feels. God said, all right, now I want you to hear what I feel, I want you to hear what I know, “The LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night." You're so upset about that plant, you're so upset about something that you didn't plant it, you didn't grow it, it was here for one day and it's gone the next day, and you're going to blow up over that? You got that attached over that?

Tim Lundy: [00:21:14] And God continues, he says, "And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left." They don't know which way to go, they don't know the truth, they don't know what you know, Jonah. They don't know my character. they don't know that I'm a gracious God, they don't know that I want to relent, they don't know that I'm compassionate, they don't know that they can have the same kind of steadfast love that you've known your whole life. Because you've heard Exodus 34, and you've heard it your whole life, and you've been a part of it. He says you get upset about plants; I get upset about people. People who don't know, and I want them to know.

Tim Lundy: [00:22:14] Man, you want to talk about a wake-up call. And here's what God's pointing out to him, see, he says, I care about people more than stuff. But if we're really honest, all lot of times we get this backwards. A lot of times we get fixed on our lives, and our stuff, on our comfort, our little plant, as long as it's going OK, we're fine. And sometimes we get really confused, we confuse what we think we deserve with what God has given us. God's so gracious to give us so much, but at some point along the way, we can mistake that grace that he's given and think we deserved it. And then when something goes wrong, or God chooses to take it away, man, we can turn in a moment, we can turn on other people. we can even turn on God. And God is using all these object lessons to go, Jonah, man, this is my heart, this is what I care about, and I would desperately want you to care about it too.

Tim Lundy: [00:23:33] You know, we had round one, God and Jonah. round two God and Jonah, but, you know, there are three rounds in this story. And you get to round three, and if you look at it, round three, you can see it in your notes, I put God and, and I just put it blank. Because the third round, is God and each one of us. So in my notes, it says, God and Tim. And I encourage you, put your name there. Because the story ends, and if you look at the text, it's almost weird, it ends so abruptly. You're like God says that to Jonah, and then it's over, and we don't know anything more. You're like, well, did Jonah, get it? Did he go back? What happened with him? And part of that is by design, there are places in the Bible, some of these stories, they end abruptly because the author of the story wants you and me to wrestle with it too.

Tim Lundy: [00:24:35] Mark does the exact same thing with the resurrection of Jesus, it just kind of ends the book so abruptly with it. Because part of it is, as the disciples are seeing, that Jesus rose, they're supposed to take the story forward. The same thing is happening here in Jonah. Where Jonah, and I appreciate his humility in writing it, because it would have been easy for Jonah as he wrote the book to kind of end it with, oh, and Jonah learned the lesson, and he became a good guy, and he was really a loving person for the rest of his life. But Jonah ends it at this abrupt point because he doesn't want you and me to miss it, he wants us to wrestle with it.

Tim Lundy: [00:25:18] Because, you know, as I began this, that sometimes the perception of Christians and evangelicals today, is that we're these kinds of people, we're judgmental, we're angry. So as we finish out, I've just got a few questions that I'd just honestly like to ask you, and I'm asking them of me as well, as we think about this with us and God.

Tim Lundy: [00:25:41] Here's the first one, and this is not for everybody, but for some of us. How's your anger working for you? Some of you are angry, and you feel it in the church more today. I'm not talking about our specific church, but, man, you feel it. You feel it on social media, you feel it in our country, people are angry. And some are angry about politics, some are angry about covid. some are angry about the economy, and angry about different functions that are going on, I mean, there's all this anger that's out there. I want to ask you, if you find yourself angry, how's that working for you? Is it well to be angry? And you might respond right now and go, well, Tim, it's a righteous anger, I'm angry about wrong stuff, and it probably is. But, you know, there's a time limit on righteous anger, there's an expiration date, as humans, we can only hold it for so long. It's like milk, if you hold on to it too long, it just goes sour. And so maybe something in your life that was a righteous anger, maybe somebody in your life that they really did hurt you and it was right to be angry, it reaches a point, though, that you've got to let go of it. That doesn't mean you dismiss what they did, but God says vengeance is mine, give it to me, I can take care of it, but you have to release it. I just think as Christians today, it would be really healthy for us to go, man, what is getting us so angry, and are there things we need to release to God in it?

Tim Lundy: [00:27:30] The second question I would just ask out of that, have you excluded anyone from God's mercy and grace? Is there anybody in your life, anybody in your sphere, anybody in your world, that the reality is when you think about God giving grace, when you think about God giving mercy, you don't really want it for them, they don't deserve it? Maybe it's just people so separate from your world. Maybe you've excluded somebody racially. Maybe you've excluded somebody politically, man, they are so different from me. Maybe you've excluded somebody morally, you look at their lifestyle, you go, oh, man, they'd never turn to God. Maybe you've excluded, because it's personal, they personally hurt you, and it's just hard in your own pain to really see God giving them grace when they don't deserve it. That's that place where I would just ask you, man, if there's anybody in your heart that you can't extend it to, you've just got to be honest with God. You've got to tell him, and ask him, just like Corey did, hey, God, do something in me that is not natural to me. I don't want to do this, but because you extended that grace to me, I want to extend it to others.

Tim Lundy: [00:28:56] The third question that I would just ask, is there anything in your life that you value more than other people? Is there anything you're holding on to? We all have our little plants, we're just like Jonah. And maybe it's not a physical little plant, but it's something that in my life, man, if I have that, I'm happy, life's good. Maybe it's the plant of money, and as long as I can hang out in the shade of financial security, I'm really happy. The plant of success. The plant, a popularity, man, as long as people like me, I want to be really liked, I don't want to rock the boat with anyone. It can be any number of things, maybe it's just the plant of my time. I'll just confess that, man, my time feel so limited, and so when I start thinking about loving people, and extending grace to people, and reaching out to people, even doing a block party. You know, a lot of you, when we talk about calling you to do a block party in your neighborhood, probably the biggest hindrance, is in your mind, you know, if I have a block party, if I start befriending my neighbors, they're going to want some of my time. They'll be a part of my life, I don't know if I want to give any of that away. And in that moment, do you know what we're doing? Man, we're looking at it and going, I just want to hold on to my little security, my little shade, life's good. And we value that, more than the souls of people. God looks at Jonah and he said, man, this is what you value. Then he looks at all these people and he goes, this is what I value, because they're eternal, because they're life, they'll the only thing in eternity you take with you. It's the truth that God's taught you, and the people that are around you. And God says, I value them, I care for them.

Tim Lundy: [00:31:06] The final question that I would just ask, do you care enough to share the good news? Do you care enough for the people in your sphere, in your life, in your neighborhood, in your office, do you and I care enough that we would tell people about our God, that he is gracious, that he is compassionate, that he is willing to relent, they don't have to be punished? Oh, there's a judgment of God, he can't pretend like there is no sin. He can't just say, oh, I don't care about that. No, he's his character's holiness and, man, it demands that sin has to be paid for. But they don't have to pay for it because Jesus did. And that's that message of good news for those of us who know God, we know his character like that, but do the people around us. See, I think this is a great message for all of us, especially at this time in our country and the world, if there was ever a time for the people who know Jesus, to step forward, not as angry people, not as people who are judgmental outside the city, but the people who are in our neighborhoods, who are in people's lives, and we're telling them about the good news of Jesus.

Tim Lundy: [00:32:35] And maybe for you today, you know, we began this as a talk to some of you that maybe you're not a Christian, maybe you don't follow Jesus, do you know that good news is for you too? The good news of what Jesus has done. And as Christians, like Jonah, we can give you a lot of reasons that you can look at it and go, man, that's a bad attitude, we don't always get it right. But we have a God who loves us enough that even when we get it wrong, he doesn't give up on us. He didn't give up on Jonah, and he made him deal with it, because he wanted him to be different. See, that's the God who sent Jesus Christ, that's the God who offers forgiveness to you, that's the God today that he's got this good news, that you don't have to pay for what you've done because Christ did. Guy's that's a message to take into the world, and if you've never done so, that's a message to believe in your heart. Trust him today.

Tim Lundy: [00:33:46] Let's pray. God, I thank you, I thank you for Jonah. I thank you for his raw honesty, I thank you for the humility that he's willing to write these chapters of his life and just put it out there for us, and he didn't button it all up because he wanted us to wrestle with it. Lord, thank you that you're a God of gracious, loving mercy, and you extended it to me. I just pray in this season, that as a church, we would be people who just take the good news out to our friends and neighbors, people that maybe they're lonely, maybe they don't know that anyone cares. Maybe they've gotten such a distorted view of you, and who you are, that it's hard for them to believe that you're this gracious and loving. Lord, I pray for anybody listening to this, that they not only need to hear this message, but they also need to accept it, they need to believe it for their lives, their hearts. That it's not just good news to the world, it's good news to them, Jesus Christ is their Savior, and that changes everything. We pray this in his name. Amen.

Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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