Have you ever been so attached to something, anything, and found yourself crying because it may just be the end? A dog? A cat? Any and all animal lovers have gone through this same thing time and again. We recently had a scare with one of our dogs, they are 10 years old, with a six month difference between them. As you get older, those pets become family…just like your own kids, even though they are not.
One belief is that when you take on the responsibility of an animal as a family pet, they too are accepting you as part of their pack. Which in one sense makes some sense when they get sick, they tend to become very clingy to you. The thought of your pet being in pain or suffering, let alone having to put them down is almost unbearable. The possibility of them being gone creates a void that seems unlikely to ever be filled, again.
I was talking to a coworker, he tends to be the same way, cry like a baby when they have to go. It is hard, almost worse than losing a parent. I didn’t cry when my mother died after a 2 year long battle with cancer, because you knew she was going to another place without pain or troubles of this world. I was grateful that she had passed on. As mentioned before, dogs are like our kids. you see them everyday, they wag their tails at you, they are happy to see you when you come home, they are sad to see you leave, etc.
I have been listening to a commentary on the Book of Jonah, by Dr. J. Vernon McGee for some time now. And the fourth chapter seems to fit right in here. Although, Jonah’s attachment to the vine that protected him from the hot sun occurred overnight, it was much more advanced than that of a family pet which takes it’s time to weasel it’s way into your heart. But the overall idea is the fact that Jonah harbored a great hatred toward the Ninevites, because he did not want them to be saved. Jonah knew God that well, that if they turned to God and were truly repentant in their hearts, that God would turn aside His great wrath from them and forgive them, proving that God truly is the God of the Jew and the Gentile before Jesus’ ministry ever came about.
Also, the hatred that Jonah had truly makes sense. Consider what is happening today in this world with respect to the Muslim extremists and what they are doing to the Christians in the Middle East. It is not far fetched an idea for one to believe that Jonah has some close contact with the brutality of the Ninevite warriors and their heinous treatment of others they had conquered. It is not the type of hatred one would have if they heard, or read, of this behavior; in my opinion, it had to be something he had to have seen firsthand. Again, this is my opinion. While it would seem odd that a man of God, a Prophet, would possess such feelings for another, I must remind you that these men of God and Prophets are men and possess the nature of man.
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh to proclaim His warning of judgement that is upon them. But Jonah ran in the opposite direction. How many of us have done the same? God places a purpose upon our hearts and we do not always get it right, because we have a tendency to run in the opposite direction of where He directs our path, we are creatures of habit and fear. But in the end, Jonah recanted and learned his lesson; then, he moved on to the Nenevite people to proclaim God’s message of judgement and the Ninevites repented and were forgiven.
But now, God had to win over His own prophet. Because he was still angry with God over the fact that he foretold what God would do. Namely, save the Ninevites. That was when Jonah left and went to the outskirts of the city and watched from the hill. That vine grew up over night, it protected and gave a certain amount of comfort and solace to Jonah. Then the next day God created the worm (a very hungry one at that) that would eat the vine and its leaves; thus, destroying any protective qualities that Jonah had received benefit from…now he wished he could just die!
God reminded Jonah that he had not worked or labored over the vine, nor tended it; so why was he so distressed about it’s destruction? God needed to remind the prophet that the Ninevites were just as much His own people as the Jews were. That they had as much right for warning of judgement and forgiveness as the Jews. After all, both were the creation of God.
“But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”” ~Jonah 4:10-11 NIV
God was letting Jonah know, in no uncertain terms, that the Ninevites were a great people who “…cannot tell their right hand from their left…” God takes “…no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live…” (ref: Ezekiel 33:11) According to a note in my study bible, it states: “Like small children, the Ninevites needed God’s fatherly compassion.” Also, the mention of “…many animals…” indicates, or infers that God’s concern extends even to domestic animals, and/or cattle. God, in essence, was telling Jonah that He wanted him to go & proclaim God’s Word and His righteous warning of judgement upon them because God loved the Ninevites, not because Jonah loved them. God just wanted Jonah to go and do His bidding and task.
There is a purpose to all things that God tries to teach us, but are we really listening??? It can be something good, or some great travesty, but God can use all things for His good purpose. We needn’t wait for a feeling, but rather take the word of God to all those out there, with whatever means possible, because God loves all of His Creation, not because you are expected to love them. And eventually, you will come to love them too. But this is a great teaching that Jesus was telling us to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘ (ref: Matthew 22:39) IF we would Love God with all our hear, sold, and mind, then we will do as He commanded us and tasked us to do! As in the Great Commission, for starters.
Our pets, kids, family member, and friends are all tools to teach us something. God is funny like that. It seems obvious, that Jonah had no friends. After all, he loved that vine and wanted to die due to it’s destruction.
What is God calling you to do? Have you gone in the opposite direction due to fear, or simply not wanting to do it? We have all done such things. But we need to find our way back to being in God’s will by fulfilling the task He has set before us. We might not have a great fish in our path, but there is something there to make us think, perhaps even repent of our disobeying Him. Reflect for a bit and get back to God, He loves you and wants you to do what is right and just.
For the living know that they will die,
but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
and even their name is forgotten.
And, if you would, just consider for a moment…that coworker next to you, the friend just around the corner from you, your aunt or uncle…if this were the last time you would see them in the flesh, what would you say to them? What do they need to know?? Is your soul worth that moment of time in which you may, or may not, feel embarrassed over the discussion of eternal life? You need to keep in mind that if you do not warn them, you will be held accountable at the day of judgement, as written by the prophet Ezekiel:
““Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.” ~Ezek 33:7-9 NIV
We will be held accountable for their loss, because we (the saved) are called to be watchmen for ALL the people. We are charged to inform and guide them; although, they have the choice to decide what they wish to do with their lives. We have a mission to inform them of Christ, salvation, the penalties of sin, and that Heaven & Hell are real eternal places. All we do is plant the seed, God and the Holy Spirit accomplish the rest.
As a final note, we all know that our pets will not live forever, but their death is never convenient or easy on our hearts. But then when is their, or any person’s, death easy or convenient? Never! Sometimes, God uses our pets to get our attention to get back in His will. Just in case you are wondering, I believe it is biblical that our pets and other animals shall make their way in to the Kingdom of God, but that is a topic for another blog posting.
Until the next time, May God Richly Bless You All!
MK Murphy, PhD, DD