“But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarhish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarhish; so he paid the fare thereof; and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarhish from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3).
In an earlier post, “And Moses Went Up” I spoke of the value of being obedient to God, Moses’ obedience was of significant benefit to Moses, the Children of Israel and the world. Good servants are obedient servants and I believe the scripture “To obey is better than sacrifice” is a powerful and clear indicator of the priority of God’s commandments to all who would serve him. There are countless promises of reward for obedience and an equal number of penalties for disobedience. Moses disobedience near the borders of the Promised Land caused him not to be allowed to enter it, and has become the example of disobedience leading to denial of the promises of God by God.
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). Jonah was a man called by God to take a message of repentance to the people of the great city of Nineveh. However, like so many of us, Jonah passed judgement on the people and decided to withhold God’s word from them. He justified his feelings based on the history of the people, overlooking the will of the Lord. True as it was, Nineveh had a history of evil ways and violence, however great it may have been it was not beyond forgiveness in the eyes of God. Jonah had a different opinion. Jonah felt that the history of the people of Nineveh made them less than worthy of God’s forgiveness.
How often do we give our judgement priority over the instructions of God? Sometime it is a result of second-hand knowledge of the wrong-doings of someone and sometime it is first-hand because we are either witness to or a victim of the sinful ways of others. Today, you are presumed to be prejudiced if you form an opposing opinion of a person without first-hand experience of a person’s history, character or condition. It is safe to say that this man of God, Jonah, was prejudiced toward the people of Nineveh.
In this state of mind Jonah was driven to put his interest ahead of the will of God, consequently, he would suffer dearly for doing so. Jonah forgot that it is not a servant’s prerogative to decide for his Master. The apostle Paul teaches that the purpose of God according to election stand, not of works but of Him who calls. He (God) who calls said unto Moses; “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” What was true for Moses is also true for Jonah and everyone who would believe and would serve God. It is not for us to decide for God, we are to obey.
“So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea” (Jonah 1:15). Jonah was so determined to have his way until he was willing to volunteer to be cast into the raging sea at great risk to his life. This is a powerful example of how a person can be so obsessed and wedded to their thoughts and feelings that we can see the error of our ways yet we will march on refusing to change. But God, in His infinite wisdom is familiar with the ways of man and will not allow you to escape His purpose for your life even if you are willing to sacrifice that life in trying to escape. “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).
There are several key lessons in the story of Jonah for every believer to learn and live by: (1) God’s will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven, (2) Your will can never surpass the will of God (3) You may offer yourself in sacrifice to save others but an unholy act of sacrifice will not be accepted by God and (4) You can run from the will of God, but you cannot hide. I am certain you can find other lessons for your benefit and I caution you do not be reluctant or disobedient. Yield and get on with the work or ministry that God has called you to fulfill. It may be as simple as a prayer ministry in your church or community, obey God.
“And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying go unto Nineveh, that great city and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee” (Jonah 3:2). The story of Jonah brings an important thought to mind, he was a man and he was a man of God. As a man he exercised his free will and placed it before the will of God, and as a man of God, the Lord sent His word unto him a second time. “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself. It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
When Jonah preached the word of God to the people of Nineveh they believed God, the power was not in the tongue of the messenger but in the words of the sender, God. When God’s word reached the King he arose from his throne and removed his royal garments and clothed himself in sackcloth and sat in ashes repenting of his evil ways and the violence of his people. The king decreed that everyone in the city “cry mightily unto God” and turn from their evil ways and from the violence in their hands. “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger that we perish not?” (Jonah 3:9)
Your life is not the only life at risk of the fierce anger of God in answering the call to deliver His word. The message God has given you may be for one person or one-hundred and twenty thousand. Let the need to obey dictate your actions and not your feelings, God knows the heart of man. “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said He would do unto them, and He did it not” (Jonah 3:10).
Jonah’s spirit-filled delivery of God’s message to the people of Nineveh leads to the greatest revival in the history of humanity. Your message may not save a city, but if it saves one soul God rejoices when the fulfillment of His purpose in someone else life is seen in work obediently performed in yours. Amen.
Grady Norman Greene, Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Our Christ
- The Lord has Compassion – Lent 5 Midweek Sermon (daringlutheran.net)