But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing 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.” Jonah 4:1-2, NIV
The story on the book of Jonah started out when God gave a command to Jonah to preach a message of judgment against the people of Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, which was then a powerful yet evil empire. God had a plan for the Ninevite people. Yet, Jonah ran away from God and fell into a big trouble. He rode a boat going on a different direction opposite from where God wanted him to be. God sent a violent storm to shake the boat in order for Jonah to realize that he can’t escape God. Jonah realized that because of his disobedience, he is endangering the lives of other people. He eventually suggested to the sailors to throw him overboard to spare their lives from severe damages of the storm. Jonah has plans to escape from God, yet he can’t escape God’s plan.
That’s basically how life works for most of us. We make our own plans in life and somehow God’s plans overrule ours. We know God has a plan already for all history and He has a plan for each one of us since the beginning of time, yet we try to make our own plans, maybe by hindsight, or coming from a motivation to plan for our future, or wanting to have a better and comfortable life. But by default, we are still subject to God’s plans. God create circumstances and events that would shake us up in order for us to realize that He’s still in control. He has an overall plan, a master plan, and He is pursuing to finish the plan in His own way. If a plan will be altered because someone is not following His orders, the same w/ Jonah, then He makes ways.
For us, we make our own individual plans. Financial plan, retirement plan, educational plan for our kids, nutritional plan. In each of those plans, we have goals. But once our plans or goals are not met, how do we feel? We feel a little bit frustrated, right? And that’s just for our individual goals, like losing some pounds and wanted to do exercise: wanted to run or jog 3x a week, yet you missed two days, then gets frustrated and thinking if your plan might work or not; or like wanting to save money for a particular item you want to buy at the end of the year: wanted to save P1,000 a month, yet because you were hungry when you went to a mall last week and spent around P300 on eating not really from your budgeted plan, then even though you were satisfied with the food you ate, yet felt frustrated or guilty because you spent a money from your savings and thinking if your plan might work or not. Did you get what I’m trying to say here? And that’s just only for your individual plans.
How about if your plans involve other people? Like a house or building plan, a family vacation plan, a financial plan for your company, a church plan, a parenting plan, a marriage plan, a wedding plan? You make this particular plan, set some goals, communicate with the people involve, and yet someone would try not to follow your plan or deliberately disobeying your planned actions, how would you feel? For example, your carpenter is not following your house plan, making his own. You might say, “Did you just listen to me or what?” Or an executive in your company is making his own way of disbursing company funds out from your master budget. “Were you not listening to our just-ended board meeting?” Or in a wedding plan, if you’re planning only a simple wedding for only your family and closed-friends, and then suddenly, your fiancé/fiancée started to invite his/her extended family members, and friends and classmates from his/her elementary and high school years, and then you’re the one spending for the wedding, what are you going to do? How would you feel? Well, it depends upon your personality, but more frustration, I guess.
We make a plan because we can see what the bigger picture is coming out from it. Some call it ‘visions.’ We feel intimidated or really unsecured when someone is trying to mess up with the bigger picture we have in mind. Of course, for us, people, we need to be subject to criticism and corrections in order to check our visions or plans in mind because we have our own shortcomings, or maybe others could see loopholes in our plans, and/or others could suggest a better way to achieve our vision. But how about God? In His perfection, can He still be subject to criticism or a better suggestion? Or in another case, can He allow some people to mess up with His own beautiful plan, a beautiful picture He has set in His mind?
In the book of Jonah, we can only see God’s beautiful plan at the end of the book when the Ninevites come to repentance before God. But in the case of Jonah, he couldn’t see that bigger and beautiful picture. Jonah had his own plans, in contradiction to God’s plans. Yet, throughout the course, he listened to God and eventually obeyed. Even though he obeyed the 2nd time around, he forgot to learn from God’s own heart…mercy and compassion for people. He might be listening and obeying God now, but he forgot learning from God. Same goes with the religious leaders in Jesus’ time, listening to God’s law, but failing to learn His mercy & grace.
A Personal Project: Be thankful to God for His beautiful plan, which includes your life in it. Listen to Him and learn from His heart of being merciful and gracious.