Attitude Adjustments: A Lesson from Jonah

How should we respond to our disappointments?

What should our attitude be, when things do not go the way we would like?

In the Bible, the prophets of old went through many difficulties, as they learned the ways of Yahuwah Elohim [the Hebrew name for the LORD God]. Sometimes they had to make attitude adjustments in order to maintain their faith and obedience.

Their experiences were recorded in the Scriptures as examples for us, so that we too might learn to make attitude adjustments, as we go through life’s difficulties.

The testings, trials, failings and victories of the prophets of old are written down for our instruction. It is through patience and the encouragement from the Scriptures, that we will gain understanding and hope, and eventually obtain “a good report” (Romans 15:4 and Hebrews 11:1-2).

One of the prophets of old was Jonah (See Jonah 1:1 – 4:11).

What Jonah went through, and his efforts to obey Yahuwah, reveal some important insights for us. The events recorded in the Book of Jonah contain many lessons for our instruction.

One of these lessons teaches us the importance of maintaining a proper attitude.

The Lesson From Jonah

The “Word of Yahuwah” [the LORD] came to Jonah, and told him to go to the city of Nineveh, and warn them of God’s coming judgment on them because of their wickedness. But Jonah’s first reaction was to run away:

1) Now the word of Yahuwah [the LORD] came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2) Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 3) But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of Yahuwah [the LORD], and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of Yahuwah [the LORD]. (Jonah 1:1-3)

Jonah was afraid of the Word of Yahuwah, so he fled. As we shall see, Jonah’s fearfulness revealed a deep-rooted reason for running away.

A Well-Known Attribute of Yahuwah Elohim

Yahuwah [the LORD] wanted Jonah to proclaim a warning to the people of Nineveh:

Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. (Jonah 1:2)

Jonah did not want to obey this Word of God, and as a result, he ended up being swallowed by a ‘great fish’!

But after being in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, Jonah, who was in great distress, began to cry out for God’s mercy. God heard Jonah’s prayer, and caused the fish to spit out Jonah onto dry land.

After Jonah’s deliverance from the belly of the fish, Yahuwah told Jonah once again, to go to Nineveh to preach the warning. This time Jonah obeyed Yahuwah, and went to the city to give warning:

And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. (Jonah 3:4)

The fact that Yahuwah sent Jonah to warn the people before judgment fell, is an excellent example a particular feature of Yahuwah’s nature:

For Yahuwah Elohim [the LORD your God] is a merciful God (Deuteronomy 4:31a).

Yahuwah the LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. (Psalms 103:8)

Let us fall now into the hand of Yahuwah [the LORD]; for His mercies are great! (2Samuel 24:14a)

With the merciful, You [Yahuwah], will show Yourself merciful! (Psalms 18:25a)

The above verses are just a few of many Scripture passages that teach us that having mercy on others is one of the heavenly Father’s primary characteristics.

In the matter of the city of Nineveh, it was very merciful of Yahuwah to send Jonah, to warn Nineveh of soon-coming destruction!

We should not overlook the fact that Yahuwah Elohim is absolutely righteous, good, and holy! He is the God of truth, knowing the end from the beginning, and He does no wrong! (Deuteronomy 32:4)

However, it is Yahuwah’s abundant mercy toward us that continually astounds us, drawing us to Him more and more!

But Jonah had a problem with showing mercy toward others.

God Was Merciful and Turned Away His Anger

When Yahuwah saw that the people of Nineveh repented and turned from their wickedness, He then displayed His abundant merciful nature again:

And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. And God repented [out of compassion, He turned from] the evil that He had said to do to them, and He did not do it. (Jonah 3:10)

As a result of Nineveh’s repentance, God turned from the calamity He said He would do, and did not do it!!

But Jonah was exceedingly angry at this expression of Yahuwah’s merciful nature:

1) But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2) And he prayed to Yahuwah [the LORD], and said, “O Yahuwah, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in kindness, and repenting [out of compassion, turning from] doing evil!” (Jonah 4:1-2)

Jonah knew that God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in kindness! Yet Jonah was angry that God was merciful and had turned away His anger, and did not punish the people of Nineveh. Jonah did not want mercy given to those wicked people!

Yes, the people of Nineveh were extremely wicked, but they repented! Nevertheless Jonah had an attitude problem — anger and resentment. Jonah did not like it that God decided to spare the city, and turn from His ‘fierce anger,’ as the king of Nineveh had hoped and prayed for.

We do not know if Jonah ever repented of the anger within his heart, but thankfully, he did eventually obey Yahuwah’s Word, and went and preached repentance throughout Nineveh.

Blind To God’s Mercy

Jonah was very angry and greatly disappointed that destruction did not happen. As a result, Jonah went out of the city, fuming with anger, pouting like a spoiled child.

Jonah was angry that the proclamation of soon-coming destruction had resulted in Nineveh’s repentance. Jonah wanted vengeance and punishment to be poured out on Nineveh!

Jonah’s anger blinded him to the great mercy of Yahuwah. Jonah seems to have completely forgotten God’s great mercy toward him by rescuing him from the belly of the great fish!

Sadly, many of us are like Jonah — blinded to the mercy of God that surrounds us in countless ways!

Like Jonah, many of us tend to angrily demand vengeance and punishment to the wicked!

But Jonah’s problem was deeper than mere anger.

Hatred: A Prevailing Attitude

There is a root problem within anger that is often hidden: the problem of hatred.

Anger and hatred, within the hearts of many, is a prevailing attitude within our culture. Such an attitude is a direct violation of the Scriptures:

You shall not hate your brother in your heart (Leviticus 19:17a).

Without realizing it, we can behave toward others with hatred, hidden deep within our heart.

We are all capable of deceiving ourselves into thinking we have no hatred toward anyone. Yet we can probably think of a specific ‘someone’ who really irritates us, who we secretly hate, perhaps without recognizing it.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, and examine our behaviour, we will see that hatred is the root cause of why we think and say and do certain things toward someone.

Hatred within our heart can cause us to be impatient, demanding, and arrogant. Hatred hidden within our heart can cause us to justify our behaviour and evil words as being the right response to offences.

If we deny the hatred within our heart, then we will have no sense of guilt for our behaviour. Our hatred prevents us from having any remorse or empathy for those we are hating. Hatred makes a person blind and insensitive to the abundant mercies from the heavenly Father that surround and protect each one of us.

Hatred is a very dangerous spirit to hold within our heart:

Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1John 3:15)

Hatred, which is the same as murder, disqualifies us for obtaining eternal life. What a dreadful, fearful prospect! Do we really want to harbor a hateful spirit within ourselves?

Notice the result of two other examples of hidden hatred.

First, in Matthew 18:22-35, Yahushua Messiah [the Hebrew name for Jesus Christ] described an ungrateful servant who angrily refused to have compassion on his fellow servant. The ungrateful servant would not be forgiving and extend mercy, even though the Master had been merciful to him. As a result, the ungrateful servant was delivered to “the tormentors”!

Second, in 1Chronicles 15:25-29 and 2Samuel 6:16-23, Michal, the wife of King David, “despised David in her heart”. She did not like David’s joyful expressions of “leaping and dancing before Yahuwah”. What was the result of her hidden attitude of hatred? “Therefore Michal, the daughter of Saul, had no child unto the day of her death”.

Oh Dear Reader, may our hearts never be so full of anger and hidden hatred!

Patient and Merciful is He!

We all need Yahuwah’s mercy and forgiveness, repeatedly!

Each one of us can probably remember a great remorse when we completely ‘messed up!’ — when we angrily lost our temper and said things we deeply regretted!

But think of how patient and merciful the Father is toward us! He does not immediately punish us whenever we ‘mess up’ and do an ugly, sinful blunder, especially if we are sorrowful and quick to repent of what we did!

Whenever we do some sinful ‘mess-up’, we naturally expect mercy and forgiveness from God whenever we fall short of ‘perfection’, because “Hey, I’m not perfect!” But, would we extend that same mercy to others??

We expect to maintain our usual ‘niceties’ — like being peaceful and quiet in our own home, eating our dinner, sleeping in our own bed. These nice, comforting, ‘little’ things are evidence of Father’s sustaining mercy! For some, such ‘niceties’ are luxuries!

We should open our eyes to Yah’s abundant mercies that surround us! Yah’s mercies toward us are not to be taken for granted! As we saw in Turning From Darkness to Light, we must guard our heart against the darkness of pride and hatred, and not think so highly of ourselves! We need to be grateful for every bit of Father’s mercies that come to us.

Be As He Is

Yahuwah wants us to maintain a humble, merciful attitude, learning to BE as He is — extending mercy to others, as Yahushua taught us:

44) “… But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45) that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

There is no one who is free from sin, and yet the heavenly Father extends abundant mercy to each one of us.

All of us are FAR from perfect! Yet, the Father loves us, has mercy on us, and forgives us multiples times!

Can we not be patient and merciful toward others, being merciful as He is merciful??

We exhibit the loving nature of the heavenly Father, when we do for others what He has done for us:

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 8:12)

Can we be a testimony of the great mercy given to us, through Yahushua Messiah?

Discern Our Heart’s Motives

I do not deny that there are definitely times for instruction in righteousness, for giving correction, reproof, discipline, or counsel!! Correction or chastisement are needed expressions of our love also (Proverbs 13:24 and Proverbs 3:11-12 and Proverbs 27:5).

Yet we must not harbor hatred within our heart and try to justify our behaviour as though we are entitled to being critical, angry, and hateful. We must discern our heart’s motives and condition, confessing any hatred and seek to eliminate it completely!

There is only one remedy for deliverance from the ugly and dark spirits of hatred and anger!

The only remedy for such sinful behaviour is honest, heart-felt repentance, and the cleansing power of the blood of Yahushua Messiah. We must cry out to the merciful heavenly Father, asking for His forgiveness and for the complete cleansing from such wickedness, in the name of His Son, Yahushua Messiah:

3) When I kept silence, my bones waxed (grew) old through my roaring all the day long. 4) For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. 5) I acknowledged my sin unto You, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto Yahuwah [the LORD]; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalms 32:3-5; see also Psalms 51)

7) But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Yahushua Messiah [Jesus Christ] His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1John 1:7-9)

These Scriptures teach us of our need to confess and forsake the secret sin of hatred.

Thankfully, Yahuwah is tender-hearted and quick to forgive us, when we come to Him with a genuine heart of sorrowful repentance. Experiencing His mercy and forgiveness is indeed humbling, liberating, and restoring!

Oh let us be so very thankful for Yahuwah’s great, great mercy toward us!!

The Aroma of Life

Giving mercy and forgiveness is an aroma of life, not only for us, but also for those who never expect mercy from us.

Extending mercy [or withholding mercy], can be a tipping point in a person’s life. Let us therefore extend mercy to others, showing ourselves to be merciful and forgiving, especially to those within our own family.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for us in offering mercy, is showing mercy to our own family members.

As much as we love our family members, it seems at times, that they are the ones we find hardest to tolerate and forgive. Yet they are the ones we need to extend mercy to the most!

Family members need to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness through us. This is one way to be a testimony of the ultimate mercy given to us through Yahushua Messiah.

We All Need Mercy

None of us are without faults! We all need mercy and forgiveness.

Yahuwah is consistently merciful toward us. His mercy surrounds us, envelops us, guards us, protects us!

Father’s mercy toward us is expressed in countless ways, including the many warnings He gives us in His written Word:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not yourself in any wise to do evil. (Psalms 37:8)

He that hides hatred with lying lips, and he that utters a slander, is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)

Harboring hidden hatred is opposed to the Spirit of Messiah that lives within Yahuwah’s children.

We are called to walk as Messiah walked (1John 2:6), allowing Messiah to live His life through us! That includes extending mercy to others, even to the unthankful and the evil!

And this, Dear Reader, is an important lesson from the book of Jonah.

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