“Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5.
When one of my sons was a small boy, he reached up to my ceramic top stove and burned his hand.
He never did it again.
The child who burns his hand on a hot stove can learn not to touch it again. He knows the pain of being burned. He cries out for help.
He now has some options.
One: he can blame the stove. But blaming the stove stunts his growth and leads to future unpleasant experiences. It also brings bitterness at such an unfair world out to get him. It means he stays in the same place. Immature and hurting.
Two: he can say he’s sorry even as he knows he will touch the stove again the first chance he gets. He is really only sorry that his hand hurts and he got caught. He too will remain immature and hurt. And he will spread the hurt.
Three is the best option: he realizes he wanted to touch the stove. Couldn’t help himself. But he connects the touching with the pain. He stops touching the stove.
Now he knows who he truly is. He is a stove-toucher.
We are all stove-touchers.
Once we admit our status as stove touchers, we may forget the pain of touching, the pain of a bad decision. We see other stove touchers and feel that we are above them.
Or–we can work to remember that we are stove-touchers. We take off our gloves. We let others see the scars. We can warn others before they touch. We can help others heal after they touch.
Others may touch the stove differently, but we’re all the same.
The prophet Isaiah realized he was a stove-toucher just like others in his community. God forgave Isaiah and sent him to preach repentance.
Unlike Isaiah, the prophet Jonah had no empathy for the stove-touchers God wanted him to help. Jonah wanted to die rather than take God’s message of repentance to the Ninevites.
Jonah was angry that God was a “gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.”
The last word of the book of Jonah is God’s unanswerable question to Jonah: “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand (children), as well as many animals?”
God’s compassion extended to the “unworthy” stove-touchers of Nineveh. The grace He showed to the adults blessed the little children who didn’t know right from left and even the animals.
Jonah’s paintbrush of judgment covered an entire city with hatred. He was God’s messenger, but he missed the joy of cooperating with God and celebrating God’s love for an entire city.
God’s great grace reaches out today. That grace shows itself in our own burned hands.
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