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Jonah was an Old Testament prophet who had a problem with anger, bitterness and unforgiveness.
His life and ministry was severely affected by his unresolved anger. He was a man who had the "words" of God, but not the "heart" of God. He actually had one of the most successful city wide revivals in the history of scripture, yet ended in failure because of his anger and bitterness of heart.
"...and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them,.." (the Ninevites) "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry." Jonah 3:10-4:1
.... "Then the LORD said, "Is it right for you to be angry?" Jonah 4:4
...."Then God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry..." And he said, "It is right for me to be angry, even to death!" Jonah 4:9
One of the primary hindrances to usefulness in prophetic ministry is unresolved anger in the heart of the prophet. The prophet is called to be a spokesman for God. But he must take care to communicate in such a way as to make his truth receivable. Anger in the heart of a prophet does not communicate God's heart; makes his "truth" abrasive and unreceivable; and in fact, can even bring a degree of defilement to those to whom he ministers... "See to it ...that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." Heb 12:15
God had called Jonah to minister to the Ninevites.
"The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, Arise, go to Nineveh the great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." Jonah 1:1-2
To fully grasp the dynamic involved here it is important to know the general mood of Israel toward Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. It was known as "the Robber City" because the Ninevites would overrun and rob other countries to enrich themselves. They were responsible for a number of Israel's greatest disasters. In the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. they invaded Palestine again and again, looting and burning cities, laying waste the countryside, and deporting the inhabitants. The inhabitants of Nineveh were more hated by the Israelites than the people of any other city.
Nineveh was also a very immoral place. It was originally founded by Nimrod and thus had ancient occultic origins. The city itself was named after the pagan goddess Nina and was a major center of worship. The goddess Nina was the Assyrian rendition of the Babylonian Ishtar, the Canaanite Ashtoreth; and the Egyptian Isis; - the goddess of fertility, love and war. Its worship was characterized by lurid and perverse immorality and violence.
Israel - the "Remnant of God", the "Holy Nation" - had an original understanding that they were called to be a redemptive agent in the earth through whom grace and truth would one day reach all men (Isa. 42, 60, 61, etc.). However, in the years after the Exile there grew up in Israel a spirit of bitterness and vengefulness toward other lands. The nation had endured so much at the hands of enemies that there was little inclination to keep alive the vision of Israel as God's servant through whom redemptive truth would come. Their most passionate desire was that God's wrath should utterly consume all of Israel's enemies.
Into this context we find Jonah called upon to prophecy to Nineveh, warning of it's destruction. But Jonah despised the Ninevites. The first evidence of Jonah's poor attitude comes from his refusal to obey God in Chapter 1 verse 3a. "But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD."
The reason, however is revealed in Chapter 4:2,3. After realizing God was going to show mercy, he was angry and said to the Lord.. "Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, One who relents from doing harm. "Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!"
His refusal to minister to them was actually because he hated them and didn't want God to save them. He knew that if they responded rightly to his warnings, God's anger would turn into mercy.
ANGER is often at the root of isolation and rebellion and is ultimately rebellion against God.
- GOD'S ANGER IS HOLY
- "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries." Heb 10:26-27
- MAN'S ANGER IS NOT (HOLY)
- "for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God." James 1:20
- ANGER FROM GOD
- No personal loss or gain involved. (No personal ax to grind)
- Comes through one's "spirit" apart from our soul. (Emotion)
- Is always reconciliatory
- ANGER FROM MAN
- Originates from wounds
- Is judgmental and condemning
- Is not reconciliatory
- Is compulsive in nature (e.g., lacks peace)
("But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.... But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." James 3:14-18)
When we as prophetic ministers have unresolved anger, bitterness and offense in our heart...
- Our "spirit" or attitude will filter though our message.
- Who we are will often speak as loud or louder than what we say.
- A contentious attitude will often be what makes our message unreceivable.
- When we fail to mingle truth with grace and judgment with mercy, we fail to rightly represent the Lord and His Kingdom. A prophet with a warning must always know God's heart of compassion - that God ALWAYS wants repentance and consequent restoration, reconciliation and healing.
Exod 34:6-7 "Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth; who keeps loving kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."
Luke 9:53-56 "And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."
Of course Jonah's rebellion lead him to the bottom of the sea in the belly of a great fish. Anger will always lead us on a path down into torment and captivity. After having been disciplined by God to within an inch of his life, the word of the Lord comes again to Jonah in chapter 3; "... saying, Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you. So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD." Jonah 3:1-3
However, Jonah's trip to Nineveh was out of mere compliance rather than any conviction or burden. There has not been a change in Jonah's heart, and he had not dealt with the root issues that were feeding his anger. Stopping bad fruit requires dealing with the root.
Heb 12:15 "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;"
John and Paula Sandford's definition of a root of bitterness: "Roots of bitterness are based in offense and unforgiveness toward a particular person or group that has been allowed to remain in the heart, thereafter affecting our ability to love and forgive others."
There are serious personal as well as ministerial consequences to unresolved anger. THE PROGRESSIVE CONSEQUENCES OF ANGER IN JONAH WERE REBELLION, ISOLATION, BITTERNESS, AND ULTIMATELY DEPRESSION AND THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE.
Jonah 4:3,9"Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life. Then God said to Jonah, Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant? And he said, I have good reason to be angry, even to death."
I Jn 4:20-21 "If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also."
Mark 11:24-26 "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."
Matt 18:21-35 "Then Peter came and said to Him, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. .... Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."
After we have a peek into God's personal discipline of Jonah in chapter four, and His object lesson with the withered plant; we never hear from Jonah again. His notoriety comes from the belly of the fish incident, but one cannot help but wonder why a man with such a dramatic encounter with God and His word trailed off into obscurity. He was a man who had a very fruitful "revival" campaign but, never the less, allowed his unresolved anger to render him personally depressed and ministerially neutralized from any further work for God.
Let us take to heart the exhortation Paul gave to the Ephesian Christians which applies to all Christians but certainly applies to any who would be a spokesman for God:
Eph 4:29-32"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you."