For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard the story of Jonah in the belly of the Whale.
As a mother of young children, I told the story as a teaching tool prior to disobedience and and “remember what happened to Jonah” speech when the kiddos acted up! You know, “God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and he disobeyed God. Jonah ended up in the belly of the whale….” with all the voices and actions that go along with all that. I even had my own rendition of “I’ve got the Joy, joy joy joy down in my Heart” to go along with being in the belly of the whale! I would say, it worked well. My kiddos have never given me a difficult time. They each have very healthy levels of honor, fear and reverence for our Lord. And for WHALES, come to think of it!
However, what I hadn’t grown up hearing in my children’s church, or even as an adult was the follow up of Jonah. What happened AFTER the WHALE spit him out?! He got a second chance. He was told to go to Nineveh again and this time he WENT! Can you imagine what he was imagining could happen if he disobeyed God again?! He spoke to the people in Nineveh. The people of Nineveh took Jonah’s warning from God seriously and the Lord spared them. Jonah was not happy about this! So, he did what many of us do when we think the “bad” people don’t get what they have coming to them…we get mad, offended, and we pout.
Jonah is the Prince of Pouting here! Jonah provided himself a shelter to sit under…God went one step further and made a tree to grow up and give him better shade. It was cooler shade to cool him off in his sulking and pouting. Have you ever experienced the shade of a tree versus the shade of something man-made? There is definitely a difference! As scripture tells us, that tree didn’t last! Jonah didn’t do anything to cultivate that tree. And THAT made him mad too! (I can relate!)
Much like Jonah, I’ve been given shade trees in my life, haven’t you? Trees ~ presented at times when I really needed them! God has been so faithful to give me that cool covering, especially when I was at a place where I needed a cooling off period! Now, today, I am identifying many of these shade trees I have not cultivated or nurtured. I do not want to wake up one morning and see that a worm has destroyed what God blessed me with! I want to daily (and more often) check my heart, spirit, mind and actions to keep them in line with what God desires I do.
In Micah 4:4 the Word of God says we will all have our shade tree. This scripture is even more specific as to say it is a fig tree. A fruit bearing tree. I want to have trees that bear fruit! An orchard! I was speaking with one of my best friends yesterday telling her my heart so desires to bake fig newtons! Urgency in my spirit is pressing me to nurture the trees in my life… different areas of my life have trees that are thriving and others that are wilting away.
Have you identified your trees? Attitudes about life? What’s thriving? What’s wilting? Are you cultivating? Are you just sitting in the cool of the shade? Carrying offense? Walking in disobedience? Living in the belly of a whale?
From the belly of the whale to the shade tree…wow…God is so faithful.
“Whale” I’m off to Pinterest to find instructions on how to hang a hammock and make fig newtons!
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New International Version (NIV)
Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Compassion
4 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.”
4 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
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[a] 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.”
9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 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?”
The Message (MSG)
“I Knew This Was Going to Happen!”
4 1-2 Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, “God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness!
3 “So, God, if you won’t kill them, kill me! I’m better off dead!”
4 God said, “What do you have to be angry about?”
5 But Jonah just left. He went out of the city to the east and sat down in a sulk. He put together a makeshift shelter of leafy branches and sat there in the shade to see what would happen to the city.
6 God arranged for a broad-leafed tree to spring up. It grew over Jonah to cool him off and get him out of his angry sulk. Jonah was pleased and enjoyed the shade. Life was looking up.
7-8 But then God sent a worm. By dawn of the next day, the worm had bored into the shade tree and it withered away. The sun came up and God sent a hot, blistering wind from the east. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head and he started to faint. He prayed to die: “I’m better off dead!”
9 Then God said to Jonah, “What right do you have to get angry about this shade tree?”
Jonah said, “Plenty of right. It’s made me angry enough to die!”
10-11 God said, “What’s this? How is it that you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere shade tree that you did nothing to get? You neither planted nor watered it. It grew up one night and died the next night. So, why can’t I likewise change what I feel about Nineveh from anger to pleasure, this big city of more than 120,000 childlike people who don’t yet know right from wrong, to say nothing of all the innocent animals?”