While reading the first two chapters I couldn’t help but think about the fact that God continuously calls the least likely people to carry out some of His toughest assignments. Jonah is commissioned to bring God’s message of warning and repentance to the people of Nineveh instead, he engages in absurd avoidance.
-He decides to run away from God by finding a way to get to Tarshish
-He goes into the hold of the ship to have a nap while the others are throwing cargo overboard in hopes of saving themselves
-He allows the men to cast lots instead of immediately admitting to them that he is the cause of the storm at the hands of God
Thankfully the writer of Jonah knows the power of exaggeration. The story seems silly and completely unrealistic, but the author knows that our attempts at avoiding God’s commands and the uncomfortable things in life are sometimes absurd. In hindsight, sometimes they are as comedic as these two chapters.
A more serious topic from the first chapter is the most extreme measure that Jonah is willing to take in order to avoid God. In 1:2, Jonah tells the men to throw him into the turbulent sea. Jonah would rather die than cry out to God and say, “O.K. God, I get it, I will go to Nineveh, prophecy to the people and give them a chance to hear your words and repent in order to be saved!” He could have done that and the crashing waves might have stopped at once, saving the lives of everyone on board and those of Nineveh. Instead, Jonah chooses the most selfish option which is to ask the men to let him die.
Dead men don’t have to serve God
Jonah is so against the idea of bringing the good news of repentance and salvation to a group of foreigners that he would rather die! The non-Hebrews on board are more afraid of a God they do not worship than Jonah is. These men hesitated at having to take Jonah’s life while he didn’t give a second thought at dying.
The comedy continues with Jonah being swallowed by a very large fish. Even in the belly of this sea creature he realises after three days and three nights that he can’t escape God. Jonah offers a psalm of thanksgiving to God and is vomited (spew means to vomit) out of the fish. I’m sure the big fish felt much better after getting rid of Jonah!
It’s easy for us to say that we don’t want to be like Jonah, but most likely we are. Here are problems with Jonah’s actions and behaviours:
-He says he worships God, however, he does not obey God
-He does not care to bring to the message of repentance and salvation to people he considers “others”
-He would rather die an honourless and selfish death instead of dying for God
-He engages in constant avoidance of reality
-He is selfish and doesn’t care about others (the other men on the boat, the people of Nineveh)
Are there honourless (worthless) things that you would die for?
Are there people who you dislike or view as being unworthy of God’s message of salvation?
What are your usual habits and tactics when God calls you to do something you are uncomfortable with?
Pray about the answers that you provided for the three questions above. Ask God to continue to soften your heart and grow in his strength.
Take time to think about this past week. Ask God for clarity in revealing any instances where you were avoiding being loving, kind, or caring towards “others”.
Hoping that your second week of Lent has been a blessing of personal growth and drawing closer to God. Let’s not be like Jonah, let us run towards, not away from God. We can’t escape from God, and how awesome is it that we can’t escape His love and forgiveness either! AMEN to that!