The following is a rewritten chapter from Bittersweet Refinements. If you would like to read the entire book, from start to finish and in the proper order, please go [here].
The Sum of Our Fears
“I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Be assured that this also applies to the kind of lives that we are to live in this world. For we are all led down paths that we would not naturally want to go [Proverbs 16:33].
The Prophet Jonah stands as a good example of that. For he certainly did not want to go to Nineveh [Jonah 1:1-2:10].
Yes, it could be argued that the wayward prophet brought all of his misery down upon himself by being so disobedient, but can the same be said of the Prophet Ezekiel? Be assured that it cannot. Yet: The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners.” So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded. Then the people asked me, “Won't you tell us what these things have to do with us?” So I said to them, “The word of the LORD came to me: Say to the house of Israel, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary—the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword. And you will do as I have done. You will not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners. You will keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet. You will not mourn or weep but will waste away because of your sins and groan among yourselves. Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.” [Ezekiel 24:15-24 NIV]
Special circumstances? I would think so, but if one life is just as important as another unto our Heavenly Father [Ezekiel 18:32], are we not all living under special circumstances in this world [Romans 8:18-21]?
No, it is not that I have some sort of a great desire to sully the glory of our Heavenly Father, but many do—albeit unintentionally. For by denying that He has anything to do with this or that, they portray Him as being be far less than He absolutely is. Whereas, what He actually says is absolutely true about Himself is: I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. [Isaiah 45:7 KJV]
Alas, is it not time to come out of the darkness of spiritual ignorance [1 John 1:5-10]? For what good can come from insisting that all of our problems are of our own making when there is absolutely nothing that we can do about them [Zechariah 4:6]?
No, that is not what most want to hear [2 Timothy 4:2-4]. For it sounds oh so very noble to take full responsibility for our own actions [Proverbs 14:12].
Moreover, there can be no self-esteem, which is just a more politically correct way of referring to self-righteousness, without personal responsibility. For when we make that vow to do better, in whom are we really depending upon to make it happen [Jeremiah 17:5-7]?
Far worse to most, however, is having to give others the benefit of our doubts until told otherwise [John 7:24]. For as in the case of Judas Iscariot [Luke 22:3-6], it may not be their fault when someone has done wrong.
The Prophet Jonah would certainly attest to that. For it is written: But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live." But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?" Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live." But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die." But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" [Jonah 4:1-11 NIV]
No, Jonah was not angry about the vine dying. For he absolutely hated the Ninevehites, and the last thing he wanted to see is them repenting of their wickedness and being spared utter destruction, which is exactly what did happen after he obeyed his call to go Nineveh [Jonah 3:1-10].
Alas, are not our hearts so very wicked by nature [Jeremiah 17:9-10]? For making sure that everyone gets just exactly what we want to believe they have coming to them is paramount—especially when a perceived wrong is considered personal, which is one of things that the parable of the prodigal son is all about [Luke 15:11-32].
Regardless of whether someone is truly at fault or not, we would do well to listen to our Heavenly Father [John 14:26] when He reminds us that mercy triumphs over judgment [James 2:12-13]. For all who demand justice will receive what they are willing to give [Matthew 7:1-5].
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