Fear conquers fear.
The story of Jonah is not about a fish. Yeah, you read that right: it’s not about a fish.
God tells Jonah to head to Nineveh. To “call out against it.” In other words, to pronounce judgment on it.
Which Jonah must have LOVED. Because the Assyrians people (Peeps who lived in Nineveh) were cruel, strong and everyone was afraid of them. So pronouncing judgment was a good thing. Everyone wanted them gone. Everyone wanted God to wipe them out. So it’s all good in the hood.
But Jonah was afraid nonetheless. Not of their judgment. But of God’s goodness. Seriously. Which is a wrong fear. Put another way…it’s a fear of the wrong thing.
So the whole boat/storm/fish vomit thing happens. And Brother J winds up in Nineveh. And he calls out to the people what God told him to say: “You dudes sucketh mightily. So you got, like, 40 days. Then you’re toast.” And this part makes Brother J all kinds of happy.
Except he’s still afraid. He’s still filled with fear. Not of the judgment. But of God’s goodness. Which is a wrong fear. And his fears are realized.
“…the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” Even the King got in on it and they repented and prayed and asked God to spare them.
Oh…crap. Like, major Oh Crappage. Brother J is in a corner, rocking. Repeating, “Please don’t do it. Please don’t do it.”
And God does it: “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them”- he gave them…grace.
“…it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry… 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 steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Dude…really? Yep- really really. Cuz that meant the Assyrians would still be around. And that made Brother J shake in his boots. But- listen! He NEVER had to run from God. He NEVER had to fear. He NEVER had to get angry when God showed grace. IF, just IF, he feared God more than he feared the existence of the Assyrians. Because God is greater. And fear of man is simply a failure to understand the greatness, the power, the goodness of our God.
Fear conquers fear. Unrestrained fear of men is simply a lack of fear toward God. Fear of men makes us shake. Makes our minds go crazy with “what if’s?”. Proper fear of God sets us free to face everything else. Because a right fear of a God who loves us is respect for his power and holiness. And trust in grace. Always.