Date Posted: May 7th, 2012
“This is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.” Jonah 4:2
Jonah disobeyed God when he got on the ship to Tarshish, and his disobedience led him into a storm. But God was merciful to Jonah and sent a fish to save his life. Jonah repented, and God forgave him. So, he moved forward in ministry and God blessed him.
But now, a few weeks later, Jonah wants to explain why he went to Tarshish. He feels that there was some justification for what he did: “Lord, I see now that there were some very good reasons why I did that.” As soon as you start explaining why you sinned, you undermine your own repentance. Does that sound familiar?
The great struggle: repentance and self-justification
“This is why…” Jonah 4:2
Repentance says “I did this. I take responsibility. I am sorry, and I trust myself to the mercy of God.” Self-justification says, “You need to understand the reasons why I did this. Let me explain my disobedience.” A great struggle goes on in every human soul between repentance and self-justification.
Even after you repent of a sin in your life, you may find yourself thinking “Actually, there’s another side to this. Look at the pressure I was under, the difficulties I was facing, the lack of support that I had. It’s easy to understand how I fell. In fact it would have been amazing if I hadn’t fallen!” And now suddenly, you are undermining your own repentance.
A man has an affair, but he takes responsibility and says he is sorry. A few weeks later his tone changes, and he begins to explain himself: “Here’s why it happened,” he says, and the explanation undermines his repentance. It turns out, actually, that it was someone else’s fault. “I’m sorry I lost my temper, but you said…” He just undermined his repentance.
A subtle shift
“I knew that you are… a God who relents from sending calamity.” Jonah 4:2
There’s a subtle shift going on in Jonah’s heart: He used to see himself as a sinner in need of the mercy of God. Now he sees himself as a man who can explain the wrongs in his life to God. There’s all the difference in the world between these two things!
Jonah’s reasoning has changed: “I went to Tarshish, and I know that was wrong, but actually, God, it’s your fault! If You judged the wicked like You should, there wouldn’t have been a problem, but I knew that you are a God who relents from sending calamity. That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.”
Here’s the pattern…
“Now, O Lord, take away my life…” Jonah 4:3
When you feel that you can offer an explanation for your sins, you undermine your own repentance. And the tragedy is that when a man undermines his own repentance, it won’t be long before he is angry with God: “It’s all God’s fault. God made me like this. God put me in this position.”
Explaining sin is big business in America, and the tragedy is that it leads many into the dead end of long-term anger with God. If you’ve been encouraged in some way to explain away your sin, this is where it leads.
Jonah spent much of his life running from the God he set out to serve, but you don’t have to. That’s why Jonah wrote this wonderful book about the faithfulness of God. Jonah is telling us, “God knew how to deal with me in my rebellion and in my anger. I ran from God and He brought me back. He met me in my anger, and He brought me through. Salvation is from the Lord. He can do the same for you.”
This LifeKey is based on the message “Resent God’s Providence in Ruling the World,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, from the series, “How to Avoid a God-Centered Life” preached on February 1, 2009.