Thursday, May 26, 2011
God, R U Kidding me? (part 2)
Text: Jonah 1:2, 4:1-10
We pick up our story of Jonah after God has asked him to go and preach to his enemies, to people hi despises. He wants nothing to do with this. He's thinking, "God, are you serious, are you kidding me? These people have slain my countrymen. I'm not going!"
Again, this illustrates to us that, as servants of God, no matter what He asks, we have a choice. God has, after all given us the choice of free will. God can actually call us to do something, and we can refuse; or like Jonah, run away.
But there is a caveat separate from this current story. We must remain careful that we don't overplay our hand. God doesn't really have to wait for us. His will shall be done. If we find it too inconvenient, or we are too busy, or lazy, God can remove His blessing and His favor, and send another. God's plan will be advanced.
The importance of the Book of Jonah lies in what happens to Jonah after he makes the decision to run away. God says, "Go to the northeast to Nineveh." Having already decided that he’s not going to do this thing, Jonah heads west to go to Tarshish. It’s hard to figure out his frame of mind. Jonah is after all a prophet, and we can assume that he had been undergoing teaching and training at the Temple. He knows Psalm 139. How far would you have to go to get away from God? Duh.
Perhaps he was thinking he could make this a problem for God. You know, if God calls me to a church in New York, I can’t serve if I move to Chicago. God will see that I've got with all these time zones and travel issues to deal with, and that this just isn’t going to work out. He will release me. But I digress...
Jonah is struggling with an issue that many of us struggle with. And that is, God asks us to do something and we really don't want to do it, and so we start looking for ways to squirm out of it. Have you ever had that experience? Well, I’ll be honest, I have. For a long time God asked me to move in a certain direction, but I was preoccupied with family and work. But, He kept pressing in on my heart, until I knew I couldn't run from it any more.
So Jonah is having an experience most of us can understand, even if we don't know exactly what his thought process is when he decides to run. The story gets more interesting, because what Jonah is actually famous for is his inability to get away from God. God does all sorts of things to make that totally impossible.
Jonah gets on a boat, still trying to get away. A storm slams into the boat. The people in the boat are afraid, and wondering what's going on. They start to throw things overboard trying to stay afloat. That doesn't work. As it starts to look like all hope is lost, and they are in danger of sinking, they finally try to figure out who is at fault, and why God is angry with them. So, they cast lots, and Jonah wins or loses, depending on how you look at it. And so they ask Jonah, "What's up?" And Jonah says, "Yes, I am the cause. I am running away from God." They ask, as their boat is starting to sink, "Well, how can we solve this?" He tells them, "Throw me out of the boat. Throw me overboard." This is an uncomfortable idea, but eventually they realize that this is the only option, so they do it.
Enter the whale. God then provides a giant fish to swallow Jonah and actually uses that fish to save him. The big fish comes and swallows him, but the fish is not there to judge him. The fish is there to keep him alive.
Quick review: In Chapter 1, we see Jonah running from God. In Chapter 2, God preserves Jonah as he's running and now Jonah is going to commit his life to God because salvation comes from God. He calls out to God for deliverance, God delivers him and so now he is going to pledge himself to the God who loves him this much, who has been this patient and compassionate with him. In Chapter 3, we come back to where we were in Chapter 1, exactly the same words. "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."