Location: New England, United States

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Fear of Appearing Foolish

"But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD." Jonah 1:3 Why did Jonah flee from the presence of the Lord?

Jonah was the son of a prophet. He had witnessed edicts coming from the Lord through his prophets to the Hebrews charging them to change their ways; to repent. When Israel repented the Lord would withhold the punishment and all would be forgiven. So Jonah knew God to be merciful and good, and this is why he fled to Tarshish.

God had charged Jonah to warn Nin'eveh that if they did not change their ways, destruction would surely come. Jonah's fear was that Nin'eveh would change their ways and subsequently, God would restrain his hand against this nation. If Nin'eveh was not destroyed, then Jonah would appear foolish.

Fear of appearing foolish to others is a sin of pride, placing more importance over self and peer esteem than the esteem of God. In the case of Jonah, he preferred Nin'eveh's destruction rather than face allegations of a false prophet if Nin'eveh was not destroyed. Remember, Jonah was the son of a prophet, so he had a legacy to protect.

As Christians, when we do not share our faith with others, we are in the sin of pride just as Jonah. We trade another's destruction (eternal damnation) for our self or peer esteem.

Will you go to Nin'eveh?


Blogger Bryan said...

Thanks for giving me occasion to revisit the book of Jonah!

God used Jonah's stiff neck to accomplish His end. The people of Nin'eveh worshiped a fish god; so when a prophet of God is spit up by a fish on their beach they are inclined to listen to him. For three days he walked straight through the city proclaiming their coming destruction. And they believed him and repented!

Jonah becomes angry that Nin'eveh is spared. You are not alone in claiming this is because that Jonah knew that he was being "set up" with a "false" message. However, I suggest it was because Nin'eveh was Israel's mortal enemy at that time.

It would be like going to witness to the person that had taken everything you owned and then beat you up. And knowing that the fact that you had been robbed and beaten would cause your enemy to repent, you choose not to witness. Then you face justice until you cry out to the Lord for mercy; and as a result of that experience your witness becomes even more powerful to your enemy who finally does repent. Unfortunately, instead of receiving the news of their repentance with joy, you then become bitterly angry with God.

Jonah didn't want mercy for Nin'eveh, he wanted justice. God gave him another example in the gourd that grew up and shielded him from the sun breifly before withering away. Jonah wanted "mercy" for the gourd for his own selfish sake, but wanted justice for his enemies. At the last God asks Jonah why he has pity for a gourd, yet is angry at God for sparing 120,000 innocent children and a multitude of animals.

I hope that Jonah's heart was finally broken and he repented.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

Thank you so much for your insight!

9:34 AM  

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