The Futility of Jonah

The Futility of Jonah
Pastor Stephen "Red" Shumate
June 3rd, 2018
Photo by Sho Hatakeyama on Unsplash


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The Futility of Jonah
Jonah 1-4

In the story of Jonah, God gives Jonah the call to go preach to the evil, cruel, enemies of Israel, the Ninevites.  But Jonah hates them and doesn’t want them to be saved, so he runs in the opposite direction.  At which point, God turns him around and makes sure he goes, by causing a storm and then a large fish to swallow Jonah and spit him back up on dry ground. 

So, Jonah finally goes to the Nineveh and preaches.  They in turn repent and begin worshiping God and God forgives them and they are saved.  This of course is the model of salvation.  We hear God’s word, we turn and repent from a sinful life, and we are saved.

But Jonah’s story isn’t finished here.  At this point, Jonah gets mad that they were saved and not destroyed, and essentially acts like a spoiled child.  So the story ends with God trying to teach Jonah a lesson about how he has no right to be upset that God saved a people he doesn’t like. 

Jonah is a short story, and I encourage you to read it in it’s entirety to better understand today’s message of the Futility of Jonah. 

The Futility of Running
The word Futility means pointlessness or uselessness… so really what we are talking about here is the pointlessness or uselessness of running from God. 

And I think to really get our heads around this, we really need to think of our relationship with God as a parent – child relationship.  Because when we start to see Jonah as the child, and God as the father, it becomes obvious how useless it is for Jonah to run.  And when we see ourselves as a child and God as our father, it becomes obvious how useless it is for us to run. 

I was at the airport the other day and there was a father with a small child there.  The father was pretty smart and was letting his child burn off a little energy before they got on the plan by letting the child run around a small area in the airport.  And as I watched this child run, what I noticed is that the child could not run fast enough, to outrun his father.  Now the child wasn’t really trying to escape, but instead was playing a game, but the reality and the illustration here is that every time the child tried to run away, the father was there in a matter of two steps to turn them around.  The child simply could not run or hide from the father. 

And just like this child couldn’t run or hide from his father… there is no place we can run or go to that God is not there.  So, no matter how far or how fast we run, we can’t run away from God and His call.

The Futility of Hating 
The next thing we want to look at is the futility of hating or the pointlessness of hating what God loves (and loving what God hates). 

Our world is already too full of hate, racism, class warfare, sexism, political party “ism”…meaning prejudice and hate because you lean one way or the other politically…  Our world is already so polarized that the only way we know how to connect with one other is either: friend or unfriend - I’m right so you have to be wrong - if we agree fine, if we don’t you’re an idiot and I hate you.  We live in a world where we simply no longer understand how to get along with one another.

But what does all of this hate get us?  Nothing… absolutely nothing.  We lose far more than we ever gain when we hate.  And in general, I don’t think this is a huge problem for us, but it is a problem for us in much smaller ways. 

The other day, I was reading an adoption story, where the child who was up for adoption, wasn’t up for adoption because their parents made some bad life choices and they weren’t up for adoption because of some problem the child had that the parents weren’t equipped to handle.  The child, from what I could tell, is a normal, happy, little child and the reason this child was up for adoption was because of selfish reasons and choices that the parents made.  They felt the child was too much trouble for them to keep on being their parents. 

Now let me just say… I don’t normally get hot.  I typically can find a reason to have compassion on a parent who has to give up a child.  But this story got me hot, boy it got me mad… I mean, I may or may not have thought…boy there is special place in hell for people who are so selfish and self-absorbed they can’t find room in their home to keep this child. 

But what this story in Jonah teaches us, is that I have no right or authority or even reason, to have this mentality.  It is useless to have this mindset. And the reason is, because God loves them and my hate accomplishes nothing. 

We must remember, God loves us all and wants to have a relationship with all of his creations, no matter what we think of them. God wanted a relationship with Nineveh, no matter what Jonah thought of them.

So, it is useless to hate something that God loves, by the same token it is useless to love something that God hates. 

Loving sin is useless too… but many of us still do it.  God hates that which kills us, and sin kills us spiritually.  And yet, there are sins that we love and have a hard time letting go of.  But sin, produces nothing positive, so it is useless for us to continue loving these things….

The Futility of Anger 
The last thing we want to talk about is the futility of anger or the uselessness of being angry.  And again, I really want us to see ourselves as children and God as a father.  Because if we can step back and see ourselves and our actions as those of a child… I think we will begin to see just how useless this is. 

Let me ask you this question… Have you ever seen a child get angry and then goes and pouts?  I think we all have.  And this is essentially what Jonah does in Chapter 4.  But have you ever seen pouting result in something positive or useful? I can’t think of one situation, where I’ve seen someone be pouty and mad, and it turns out productive.  So, it is useless…it is pointless… it is futile. 

What does this look like in our lives?  I think this tends to happen when we see people be successful when we don’t think they deserve it.   And for us it seems these people always have the best dumb luck (when we don’t).  And next thing we know we get this attitude, of “Boy,I hope it backfires on them”  or we get mad because we think… They don’t deserve that kind of luck and we start to let these things eat us up and we become pouty.  This is what happened with Jonah…He saw God save them when he didn’t think they deserved to be saved and he became pouty.

I was talking to someone the other day, and this attitude started to creep up in my heat.   We were talking about one of our co-workers who somehow always ends up with the best deal, the best job, and making the best money, but doesn’t do anything different than we do and usually does even less.  And next thing you know, in my heart, I’m a little mad and I begin to think it’s unfair. 

But what we learn from this scripture is that this mindset is useless.  In fact, it’s wasteful. God says, we have no right to care more about things, than we care about the people who have those things.  But we do… Our priorities of what or rather who we should care about get mixed up.  This is what happened to Jonah.  Jonah began to care more about the plant that grew up one day and gave him shade, than he did about 120000 people who were destined for hell. 

We must get our priorities straight.  LIFE… both spiritual and physical… should be among our first and top priorities. 

At the end of the day, running from God is futile, hating WHO God loves and loving WHAT God hates is futile, and being angry and pouty gets us nowhere…

Is there futility in your life?


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