“The People In The Line”
May 12, 2016
Message Summary: We have been enjoying a song titled, “The People In The Line” sung by the Talleys. It’s one we can unfortunately identify with, and after listening to the words, we suspect many of our readers will as well. (A link to video is below.)
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“But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.’ The Lord said, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry?’ Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant” (Jonah 4:1-6).
We both enjoy a variety of musical styles in regard to Christian music. The last several years we’ve been listening to more southern gospel music where Brooksyne has her musical roots. One aspect we like in southern gospel is how so many of the songs tell a story. We have been enjoying a song titled, “The People In The Line” written by Sue C. Smith and sung by the Talleys. It’s one we can unfortunately identify with, and after listening to the words, we suspect many of our readers will as well. (A link to video is below.)
Essentially it seeks to give you a perspective about those who may test your patience while standing in front of you in a line or cutting you off in traffic by reminding you that you really don’t know what they may be going through. “But things being what they are, chances are good there’s a broken heart standing in front of me.”
The song can be a source of conviction regarding our own impatience and inconsideration of the difficulties others may be experiencing.
Jonah is an interesting Bible character. He is best known for his “Motel Whale” experience. In the four brief chapters of Scripture that describe him we read of fear, prejudice, and reluctant obedience. But we also have an outstanding example of petty selfishness.
After his initial reluctance to take on the mission God called him to he had what every preacher dreams of. The people of Ninevah responded to his message and repented. It’s like the whole city responding to an altar call. His message was hardly one of passionate conviction but rather a solemn warning, summed up in the phrase, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” Can you imagine America repenting at that direct, non-wishy washy message?
Amazingly, the secular Ninevites believed God and repented as a result of Jonah’s preaching. “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened” (3:10). What a cause for great rejoicing! How many preachers have had an altar call with a 100% response?
In chapter 4 we have one of the most outstanding instances of pettiness and obliviousness to the needs of others in the entire Bible.
“But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.” What prompted this displeasure and anger was the repentance of the Ninevites and God’s forgiving response! He camped outside the city and waited for the judgment that he still hoped would come! But Jonah was not a happy camper. He really wanted to see the people of Ninevah judged, not saved. He was selfishly focused on himself and failed to see the needs of those around him. God graciously provided a vine to shade Jonah as he sat and stewed and this shade made Jonah “extremely happy”. He was extremely happy about the plant but greatly displeased and angry that the people of Ninevah had repented. Do you suppose his priorities were slightly misplaced?
The next several verses chronicle an interchange between God and Jonah that graphically illustrates Jonah’s pettiness and misplaced priorities. Instead of rejoicing in the salvation of many souls Jonah found great pleasure in a vine that sprung up overnight! I suppose regarding plant types, vines wouldn’t be among my favorites, but today’s lesson reveals how easy it is to be petty about so many issues in life and, as result of that, misplace our priorities. Consider that so much of what concerns us on a day by day basis is really not a “big deal”. Spending several days visiting a loved one in an intensive care unit and seeing the needs of others can sure give you a perspective jolt.
Another convicting line in the song concerns situations when other drivers do something stupid like cutting us off. Again the song reminds us to consider what they may be going through with this line, “I pray to have more grace for things that I don’t know, about the people on the road”.
God had allowed a worm to destroy the vine that shaded Jonah and Jonah lapsed into incredible pettiness over this and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” Jonah replied, “I do, I am angry enough to die.” That these are the final words spoken by Jonah is an interesting detail regarding one of the more famous Bible characters!
But God has the final word and it’s been described as among the greatest missionary expressions of the whole Bible, “But the LORD said, ‘You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?'” (Jonah 4:10,11).
What about us today? What are we so concerned about? Although I’ve never been as upset as Jonah about a vine I sure realize how often I slip into petty attitudes and can be oblivious to the needs of others such as those standing in the line in front of me..
Today, let’s consider what really matters and be cognizant of the needs of those around us. If we make this a regular practice when we’re out and about in public places we will be more prayerful, more understanding, and more patient. We might just make a difference in another’s life when we don’t stand in the main aisle carefully assessing which is the shortest line or those whose carts are loaded with the fewest groceries. Often, time is a premium, but other times we can extend a friendly “hello” and even seek to brighten the countenance of one who just may be going through a difficult time.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, You are well-acquainted with my weaknesses and the condition of my heart. You know that I am often more concerned about my own comfort and my daily schedule than the needs of those around me. I know I can’t save the whole world, but I can listen to Your still small voice as You place individuals, even strangers, upon my heart. Show me ways that I can make a difference. May the character of my life reflect the heart of Christ as I reach out to others in love and in obedience to Your calling upon my life. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
The final verse in the song calls us to consider the people in the pew, those who may be near us at church every week with heavy burdens. A handshake calling them by name, a loving hug, a reminder that you are praying for the need they’ve made known publicly can bring such wonderful comfort.
the ones sitting next to me and you.
The Mom whose face is frozen in a frown,
her son sitting in a cell downtown,
a man crying as we sing the songs,
a girl with needle tracks all down her arm,
we’ve all got something that we’re going through.
Here’s a photo of our baby robins taken yesterday afternoon 5/11/16
Due to early morning chaplain visitation we prepared this message Wednesday evening and will be unable to post a photo from Thursday morning.
You can view these photos on each previous message back to when there were just 4 eggs in the nest 4/28/16.
“The People In The Line” Video The Talleys (Dramatized version)
“The People In The Line” Video The Talleys (Song only version)
“Orphans Of God” Video The Talleys
“Hidden Heroes” Video The Talleys
“Broken World” Video The Talleys
“Hope Of The Broken World” Video Selah
Do you have a “standing in the line story”?
I will readily admit there have been many times I’ve grown impatient with others in public places, thinking at the time how justified I was. Yet I must admit many of those instances were probably quite petty in hindsight. However I do recall a time when I was on the other side of the story. Back in the eighties we took in children from overseas with severe medical needs for treatment. In fact that’s how Ester originally came to us. Two weeks before Ester came to us, Mirza, an 8 year old from Guatemala with Spina Bifida, came to live with us during her surgeries and treatments. We took her to Erie, PA around Christmas 1989for her doctor’s visit and stopped at a large mall in Erie on the way home. It was snowing as I parked our little car using a handicapped parking spot. As I stepped out intending to lift Mirza out of the car and place her in a wheel chair a woman pulled her car over, rolled her window and loudly scolded me in the most unlady like way for parking in the handicapped parking spot. She went on and on as I proceeded to pull out the wheelchair. I would like to say she said she was sorry for jumping to conclusions, but she just drove on.
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