Let's talk about Jonah...
It wasn’t that long ago that I spent several days reading and re-reading the book of Jonah. Now, before you applaud my amazing commitment to Bible study, you should know it's only 4 chapters long. You could read it in its entirety in like 5 minutes.
So just to review Jonah is a prophet and a prophet was and is someone who receives a message from God and then delivers that message to the people and as you already know, prophets generally fall into one of two categories. Category one, "Great job everybody" and category two, "You guys are going to get wiped out if you don’t shape up." Jonah falls into category #2 in that God had instructed Jonah, as one of His prophets, to go directly to the Assyrian capital city of Ninevah to deliver a message of coming destruction if the people didn't repent and turn back to God.
On Bible Gateway Jonah 1:1-2 (NASB) says, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
Now before you disconnect, take a minute to recognize how similiar you and I are to Jonah. He does what some of us might do when tasked with a significant challenge, he does what comes naturally to many throughout history, he runs. He runs as far in the opposite direction as possible. He heads to the port of Joppa, boards a ship and makes off for the city of Tarshish.
Jonah 1:3 (NASB) says, “But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
Some of you are familiar with the rest of this account but for those who aren’t, God comes back on to the scene and in a way that only God can He ever so gently attempts to grab Jonah’s attention.
Jonah 1:4 (NASB) says, “The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.”
Let's push pause here for a second? How many of you know that there are times in our lives when we go through storms? Nuff said, we all get it right? I bring this up because I think too often we blame God for the storms we experience in life. We say things like…
"What we forget is that sometimes the storms we experience in life are brought on us…by us."
Why did Jonah find himself in the midst of a storm? He found himself in the midst of a storm because of his disobedience to God. Sometimes we can create our own storm by our poor decisions or our poor judgement. We get impatient and we don’t want to wait on God, or we disagree with God’s calling or His answer so we take things into our own hands and then when the storms come we're looking around in disbelief that God would allow this to happen. So before we go any further I want to just pause here for a minute and ask you to evaluate the source of your storms. Following Jesus isn’t easy to begin with but we make it so much more difficult when we choose to ignore His leading.
Jonah’s account goes on in verses 5-8...Jonah 1:5-8 (NIV) says, “Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.” Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
Up to and until this point Jonah was just this faceless stowaway on the boat, the guy who quietly slipped in, slid his way to the bottom deck and found a quiet corner to hide in, suddenly he’s thrust into the spotlight. Now these sailors want answers. These are guys whose livelihood and at this point their very survival is based on the success of this voyage and here they are standing in front of Jonah demanding some answers.
Listen to Jonah’s response in verse 9 of chapter 1. Jonah 1:9 (NASB) says, He answered, “He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”
We read that verse at first and we’re like, “Yeah, Jonah was a Hebrew…” What’s the big deal?" But notice what he says in the second half of that verse, he says, “…I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Let’s think about that verse again in the context of what was actually happening in Jonah’s life at that moment. Jonah makes the statement, “I worship the Lord, the God of heaven…” as he’s on a boat headed away from God’s plan for his life.
As I read that verse over and over again, I was struck by the ridiculousness of what was being stated. Jonah was "saying" that he worshipped the Lord, the God of Heaven yet he was on a ship headed away from where God was clearly calling him. How do you justify that? As I read that verse again and again I kept thinking, “Could Jonah really identify himself as someone who worshipped God and yet still completely ignore His leading?”
That’s the question I would ask us as well. “Can we really identify ourselves as those who worship God while at the same time be running away from what He’s calling us to?” Be encouraged and keep moving forward.