My daily Bible reading is currently taking me through the prophet books, and old feelings surface as I read Ezekiel, Obadiah, Amos.... God was ticked!
Then I get to Jonah and read, "...go to Ninevah...and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up against Me," and I think, There He goes again.
I'm whisked back to a time in my life when God was as mad at me on a daily basis. He bristled when I yelled and rolled his eyes when I nagged. He plugged his ears when I whined and shook his head in shame when I got too close to a doctrinal edge. He folded his arms and tapped his foot impatiently, waiting for me to grow up spiritually so he could finally put me to use.
At least, that's what they told me God was like. And I listened.
I lived on the roller coaster that is religion for three-quarters of my life:
guilt~grace~guilt~grace~guilt~grace...He was the God Who loves me, loves me not, depending on how well I behaved.
When you see God like that, you become that way toward everyone else. You exact from them the perfection you think God exacts from you.
Jonah took off, thinking that being out of sight meant being out of God's disapproving mind. You know the story: God yanks him from the hold, dumps him overboard and meets him in the acid wash. Jonah decides that good behavior was safer after all. He goes to Ninevah and cries, "Learn from me! See this hair loss? See these burns?"
And they get it. (How could they not?) Even the king makes a decree that everyone should fast and mourn in hopes that this angry God might not destroy them.
"Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands," the king proclaims. The people listen and God lets them off the hook.
Meanwhile, Evangelist Jonah is sulking on a hilltop, waiting for fire and brimstone to fall from the sky on Ninevah.
"I knew you were like this!" he finally rails against God. "Why do you think I ran in the first place? Because You! Are! Too! Nice! (I can see him punctuating each word with a finger pointed toward the sky.) You would always rather show mercy than judgment! That's the thing about you!"
And then Jonah asks God to kill him.
I wonder if Jonah was the world's first angry evangelical. And I wonder if I've been wrong about the Old Testament God all along, this God who rescued his beloved prophet from the sea so he could preach to the violent, heathen nation so God could save them. Because he loved them. Because he was so unlike Jonah.
Because He is so unlike me.
"Then the Lord said, 'Is it right for you to be angry?'" Jonah 4:4