Daily Devotion 20 July 2020
Jonah 3:10-4:4 ‘God Spared the People of Nineveh…and Jonah gets Angry’
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. 1 But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. 3 And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?
We have had every right to be angry over the past few months. The suffering caused by the coronavirus has seemed to be indiscriminate, but we have had graphic reminders of the way in which the poor and the marginalised have been worst affected. It is likely that, as in 2008, the poorest sections of society will suffer most from the inevitable economic recession that is looming. And over all this, in the wake of the violent death of George Floyd, the spectre of racism has again cast its ugly shadow. Yes, we have every right to be angry. And we have only to read Psalm 94, for example, to be reminded of the fact that righteous anger is nothing new.
Is not God himself angry with many things that happen in this world? The picture above is by the Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco and dates from the early 1920s. Its title – Christ Destroying his Cross is as disturbing as the painting itself, for it portrays Christ, angry at the violence and injustice for which human sin is responsible.
The sadness and anger which God must feel at the world’s suffering, made me think of the little ‘end-piece’ of the Book of Jonah. Famous for the story of the ‘whale’, it teaches us something important about anger. Yes, there is a place for righteous indignation that should spur all Christians to strive for justice and peace in this fallen world. But ultimately, judgment belongs to God, in his time and way, not ours. More importantly, judgment and mercy go hand in hand – which was a lesson that Jonah had to learn. And consider this: when we think of God’s judgment upon us, would we really want to dealt with according to strict rules of justice? For none of us would see salvation. Thank God he is merciful!
But we make his love too narrow
by false limits of our own;
And we magnify his strictness
with a zeal he will not own.
For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
Frederick William Faber (1814-1863), StF 416
Merciful God, there is so much in this world that troubles and angers us.
Save us from complacency, and help us to use all our talents to work for your Kingdom of justice and peace. Fire us with your love, but fill us with your compassion, that we may faithfully follow in the footsteps of our Master, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
Reflection & Prayer © 2020 Barrie Tabraham.
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