Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jonah in the counseling office

Jonah is a very interesting character that we all loved since we were kids. For those who are not familiar with his story I have attached a video that presents his life in a satiric and funny way. But what it’s even more interesting … it’s God’s way of counseling him in his depression episode.

God is having one of the best counseling session in the history of mankind with his servant Jonah. Here is the story in few words: God is asking Jonah to go to one of the biggest city of his times, Nineveh, (about 500 miles from his home town Goth Hepher) the capital of Assyrian Empire, and tell the people that God’s wrath is about to come over them because of their sins (Wilson, 1995). Probably Jonah would have gone straight to them but the fact that the Assyrian Empire was the biggest enemy of his nation made it really hard for him and not just that he didn’t go, but he ran in the opposite direction to Tarshish. After God is teaching him that he can not stay against His plan and His call, Jonah finally gets to Nineveh and walk through the city announcing God’s wrath over the city. His message was a simple one: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (NKJ) and the people believed it and repented starting with the king and till the last one. Then “Jonah went out of the city, yet remained near at hand, as if he expected and desired its overthrow” (Henry, 2009). Now Jonah gets mad and angry because God used him and made him an instrument to bring salvation to the worst of his enemy. In this episode of anger God is asking Jonah only one simple question: “Have you any right to be angry?" Jonah’s anger and bitterness slowly makes him become depressive. When the plant that was giving him shade dies, he becomes even angrier, so angry that he wishes to die. “But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?’ ‘I do,’ he said. ‘I am angry enough to die.’ Jonah 4:9 (NIV)

God has a really interesting approach in counseling Jonah. He is asking him a question then gives him a practical lesson. By killing the plant that was providing Jonah with shade and comfort he is challenging Jonah to think how much sorrier must God feel or a whole city if he (Jonah) is so sorry for a plant. After Jonah is faced with this fact, God is revealing to Jonah His compassionate heart not only for the people from the city but also for animals too. A practical lesson followed by God disclosing his heart makes Jonah repent and it heals his anger and depression. How do we know that he was healed and repented for his anger? We can not really be 100% sure but we can conclude that, because he wrote the story and the book that bears his name.
It is so interesting how we can see both attributes of God in the way he is counseling Jonah. We can see him as an Advocate for the people of Nineveh with a lot of compassion and love. Even Jonah says: "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee 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.” Jonah 4:2 (NIV) The love and compassion it’s not just towards Nineveh but also towards Jonah.

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