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Jonah was not the typical prophet. He doesn’t exactly offer us a great role model to go by. So what were the Israelites to learn from this prophet, and what is our “take-away” for the book of Jonah?
- No one can run away from God. He is everywhere.
- God gives us second chances.
- God loves even the worst sinners and expects us to love them too.
- We can serve God with a willing spirit or begrudgingly. Our relationship with God suffers when we serve begrudgingly.
- Serving God isn’t about personal satisfaction, we are the servants.
- We don’t limit God with our resistance to his call, but we miss his blessings.
- God wins, sometimes in spite of his “called”.
The first three points above are self-explanatory and were discussed in my last post. I mention them here for the purpose of review.
Does it matter how we serve God? Jonah was not a willing messenger, but at least at his second call he went. He hated the people he spoke to as he begrudgingly gave them God’s message. Jonah resented the very God who gave him the message to deliver.
Has your service to God ever resembled Jonah’s service? Have you ever participated in a church function out of a sense of duty even though you secretly resented that you were expected to be there? What happened to your sense of joy in serving the Lord?
Why do we serve God? Jonah wanted to have the last word. He told the Ninevites that God was going to destroy their city, and he wanted to see it happen. To Jonah, it was all about being seen as right when it was all over, it was all about Jonah.
When we serve God, it isn’t about us. It shouldn’t matter if we are recognized as great leaders. What really matters is our obedience to God and our relationship with him, even if the people we are trying to serve don’t seem to respond. The greater prophets in the Bible seldom experienced the joy of seeing revival among those to whom they ministered.
Is God limited by our failures to respond to his call? Not hardly. God is God and he will accomplish his ends one way or another. God was not surprised to see Jonah board the ship to Tarshish. Nor was he surprised to witness Jonah’s pouting when Ninevah was given another chance. Perhaps God chose Jonah because he knew this would be his response. Perhaps God knew the Ninevites needed to see an angry man who would shake his fist at them saying something like, “and He’ll do it too! He just had a whale swallow me in the bottom of the sea and spit me out so I would come here and tell you this!”
What kind of follower of Christ are you? Do you willing do what God asks in his Word? Or do you resist his commands with “I know that’s what the Bible says, but I think…” When you feel the voice of the Holy Spirit leading you to do something that takes you outside your comfort zone, how do you respond? When we fail to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, we lose. We lose fellowship with God, we lose the joy of our salvation, and we lose opportunities to experience first-hand the mighty hand of God at work.
Read Jonah 1:1-3:9. Click on this link to read the passage. You may select the translation you prefer on the Bible Gateway website.
Jonah 1:1-2 This was no small order. Jonah and most of the Jews hated the people of Ninevah. But God told him to go and tell them that He was going to destroy their city because they were so wicked.
Where is there a Ninevah in or near your community? Are you willing to go to them and share the Gospel with them?
Jonah 1:3 What did Jonah do? He bolted and ran in the opposite direction. He spent his own money to purchase a ticket to run away from God.
What do we do in response to God’s directive to teach the Gospel to the world? Are you reaching out to the Ninevah in your community? If not, what is holding you back?
Jonah 1:4-17 Jonah paid a high price for his disobedience. Not only the price of his ticket to board the ship, but the price of being thrown into the sea and being swallowed by the fish (whale).
What price(s) have you paid at times when you rebelled against God?
Jonah 2 Then Jonah came to his senses. He hadn’t run far enough to get away from God, and God came to his rescue. Jonah’s prayer from inside the whale is powerful. It tells of his desperation as his life was ebbing away, of his vow to keep his promises to God. Then God commanded the fish (whale) to vomit him on dry land.
When have you been in the pits of despair and prayed for God to rescue you? Can you relate to Jonah’s prayer? Sometimes this is the manner that God must use to get our attention. Have you thanked Him for bringing you to your wit’s end so you would again reach out to Him? If not, thank him now.
Jonah 3:1-2 Again God called Jonah to go to preach to the Ninevites.
Has God given you a second chance to respond to his call?
Jonah 3:3-4 Jonah went immediately this time. It took him three days to cover the city and give the message to all the people.
Have you taken advantage of second chances to obey God’s call on your life?
Jonah 3:5 The people heard Jonah’s message and repented at once. I’m certain that Jonah’s appearance helped him to get their attention, and his explanation of why he looked like he did caused them to take God’s message seriously. If God could cause a fish (whale) to swallow Jonah and then spit him out again after three days, what might He do to the city of Ninevah?
Have your hardships ever opened doors for witness that you might not have experienced otherwise?
Jonah 3:6-9 Even the king repented and commanded all people and all animals to fast in sackcloth and ashes.
If it happened in Ninevah, perhaps it can happen in the USA. Where is your Ninevah? Are you willing to go to them?
Father God, give us listening ears and willing hands, feet, and hearts to hear your call when you speak to us. Enable us to be willing to see the Ninevahs in our community and to reach out to them. It wasn’t comfortable for Jonah to reach out to the Ninevites, but you didn’t accept that as an excuse from Him. Neither should we expect you to accept that excuse from us. Grant us courage of heart and willing spirits to reach out to others with your Gospel and your love.
© 2009 by Janice D. Green
Jonah 1-4 (Click here to read the book of Jonah. It is only four short chapters in length. You may choose whatever translation you prefer on the Bible Gateway website.)
Tomorrow’s Sunday school lesson is on the book of Jonah. I am grieving over the teacher’s manual that supplements the student handbook for this quarter because the writer obviously does not believe in the account as historical fact but only as a parable. I deeply regret that teachers across the US are given all of this author’s reasons to discount the story of Jonah as a historic book, and I have written to the editor of our Sunday school curriculum about this.
Jonah 1:1-2. ”Jonah, son of Amittai” as he is identified in the book of Jonah was also referred to in 2 Kings 14:25. This lends credibility to the person of Jonah as a true historical figure. It also gives a time frame for the account.
Jonah 1:17. There is no reason to be upset over the Bible’s use of the word “fish” rather than the word “whale” as the story has been traditionally taught. God was perfectly capable of using either. However, I used Bible Gateway to search the entire Bible for the word “whale” in several translations and found it did not exist. This leads me to believe that the word “fish” in the Bible was loosely applied to any and all fish-shaped animals in the sea.
Jonah 3:3-4. The argument was made in the teacher’s edition that the city of Ninevah would have to be sixty miles wide for it to take Jonah three days to cross it. Jonah wasn’t on a hike. He had to stop and give the message to everyone there. He would not have taken a straight path through the center of the city.
Jonah 3:5-9. Would all the people have believed Jonah? In our time that may seem unrealistic, but consider that:
- Jonah would have looked quite strange after spending three days in the belly of a whale. His skin would surely have been exposed to all kinds of gastric juices. His hair would have been affected and his clothing would have been a mess. He probably looked like a walking zombie.
- The people surely would have asked what happened and why. Jonah’s experience would have added both conviction and credibility as he gave them God’s message. It may not have been so unreasonable to believe that the people listened to Jonah and took him seriously.
It is sad when we let the skeptics of out time write our Sunday school literature. It grieves me even more to learn that most of our major Christian publishing companies are being bought out by the mega secular publishers. It is important that we as individuals read the Bible for ourselves and teach it those within our sphere of influence. There is too much to lose if we don’t.
Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ”Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow”— when you now have it with you. Proverbs 3:27-32 (NIV) (Click on this link to read this passage in your preferred version of the Bible. You may select your version after the link opens. )
Who hasn’t yet heard about the earthquakes that devastated Port-au-Prince in Haiti last Tuesday? It has been the dominating topic on all news casts on television and radio stations for the past several days. The devastation and needs are unfathomable.
What is the Christian response for those of us living in our comfortable homes as our TVs, radios, and computers bring the reality of these people’s sufferings into our living rooms. We can go to our kitchen sink or refrigerator and get a fresh glass of water or other beverage – they are unable to find water. We pat our stomachs after a full meal – they may have to fight to get or keep a serving of food. We can turn the TV off to give us a little distance from the suffering – they can’t.
Sadly, the first response many have to meeting the needs when crises like these occur is to run to our closets and pantry to look for things we need to give away – things we won’t miss. Some want to jump on a plane and fly to Haiti to offer physical labor and expertise. But a closer look reveals some bottle-necks that will keep any of these first responses from being helpful. In fact doing these things may only cause increased hardships for a while.
The airport in Haiti is small and can handle only a little traffic. The roads are so damaged that it is nearly impossible to move clothes and household goods, they are only in the way at this time. The shipping ports were also damaged for getting goods into the country. So initially we can only wait patiently until the bottle-neck is cleared.
As Christians, our first line of defense is prayer. There is no bottle-neck preventing us from praying for the people of Haiti.
The second thing that can be donated immediately is money. Cash is flexible and can be used to meet whatever need is prominent at the time. Unfortunately, it won’t be found on a neglected hanger in your closet or in the back of your pantry with the food that has been sitting in your pantry undisturbed for some time. Cash comes from the bottom of our pockets. In our current economy, reaching for cash calls for greater sacrifice.
We may think we don’t have cash to spare. That’s when we need to turn the TV back on and make some comparisons. Can we truly say we have nothing to give to these desperate people?
We can also start organizing other forms of help to have them ready when the bottleneck is cleared. The Haitian people desperately need water, food, clothing, and volunteers. Volunteers need to have these supplies ready for shipment as soon as the all-clear signal is given.
The following organizations are excellent for getting resources to the people. Not only do they work long and hard to meet the needs of the people, they also provide these services in Jesus’ name and offer spiritual encouragement as well.
Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Hab.1: 2-4 Click on the link to read this scripture in the Contemporary English Version. Once opened, you may select from several versions.
I claim no credit for today’s post other than that of discovery. My new Facebook friend, Jean Fischer, is the inspired writer of the blog, God is in the Compost Pile. Today’s post, A Work in Progress, is so on target with what is going on today in politics and in the disasterous earthquake in Hati, that I had to pass it on. Click here to read her post.