Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lessons from Jonah

Consider Jonah. A man chosen by God to reveal the words of God to the people. What a calling! God also called him to preach to a highly feared and violent group of people - the country of Nineveh. He did what almost any of us would do or at least think of doing - he ran. He is swallowed, broken and Jonah preaches. However, the story isn't about Jonah. It is about God!

Jonah is the picture of any child of God that goes astray - the child that stamps his foot and says my way is better.  God met Jonah in the middle of sea.  Romans 8: But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Including the middle of the sea.

God, in His great mercy, took a hold of Jonah and put him in a place that he was alone and would have to listen. And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah. I love that word - appointed. God in mercy does that same to us. What circumstances does he arrange to get us alone? How does the Father that loves us pursue His children? He who began a good work in us will complete it.  Jonah cries out. "I am dying. Lord help me. "  There doesn't seem to be a lot of repentance. He recognizes salvation is alone from God. He confesses who God is. He is given mercy. God gives him a picture of what He wants to do for Nineveh. He wants to pour out mercy. Then, in His sovereignty, he spits Jonah back into the center of His will. God does what he needs to to make Jonah obey. He disciplines those He loves, even if like Jonah, we go begrudgingly. Mercy. 

Jonah goes to Nineveh. It is kinda funny to me. You don't see a great sermon. You don't see a passion for the people. You don't see some great program planned. You see simple and reluctant obedience. "Forty days, God is going to kill you all!" I can't imagine any preaching a sermon like that. Did he say more? I don't know. It isn't written down. It seems to me the writer of Jonah wrote down the gist of it. "Forty days, you're dead." Looking at the humor of it, I am amused to think they didn't kill him because they would have had to touch him. He just spent 3 days in the belly of a fish :). However, the truth of it is, God works in the hearts of men. A magnificent sermon isn't needed. Just God. God in His mercy drew the Ninevites.

Jonah was called to share in the work of God. Jonah was called to see God's mercy at work. God drew Jonah to Himself in the belly of the whale. God extended mercy to Jonah. Jonah missed the point. Jonah missed a blessing. He missed knowing God better.
 I will have mercy on those whom I have mercy. He has had mercy on me and may I show that mercy to others.  His will is never thwarted and His work in those He calls is always completed.

What a wonderful book to give us a glimpse into the heart of God! To Him be all glory!