Monday, May 18, 2015

The Great Pursuit: When God Won't Let Us Get Away, Jonah Week 1

We sang songs as kids about it.

Bible scholars and critics alone have argued over whether it was a literal whale or simply a metaphor for a greater truth.

Sunday school classes talk about it with great fanfare and flourishes.

But have we ever really read and contemplated what the book of Jonah is all about?

The book of Jonah in the Bible opens with a bang:
"The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.'" Jonah 1:1-2
The Lord was direct with what He wanted Jonah to do and why. 

Verse three tells us Jonah's response, and while it isn't what God wants, it's probably how most of us would respond if we're totally honest with ourselves.
"But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish." 
Tarshish, the commentary in my Bible tells me, was the absolute farthest point, and the complete opposite direction, from Nineveh,

Jonah was on the run!

I found myself wondering at this point, "Why was he disobeying God? What would make him run away...literally?"  

{If you want a sneak peek about why, glance at Jonah 4:2...but then come right back!}

So, Jonah jumped on a ship and set sail. The sailing wasn't so smooth, though. It wasn't long before the ship was tossed upon the waves. The crew was terrified and began throwing cargo over the side in an effort to keep the ship from sinking. In their panic, the crew discovered Jonah, below deck...sound asleep.

The crew demanded to know who he was and what he did to land them all in the center of a violent storm.

I find a few things interesting here:

1. Jonah is "in a deep sleep" even though the ship and crew around him are being violently tossed about. {Are you kidding me? He was able to close his eyes to God's directive and close his eyes to the chaos all around him-that he caused-mind you.}


2. Verse 10 gives a little nugget of info in that Jonah was open with the crew about being on the run from God. {Not only was he directly disobeying an order from God, but he made no attempt to hide it.}

What the crew didn't understand was that Jonah was on the run from THE God...the Hebrew God "the God of Heaven, who made the sea and the land" (verse 11).

As the sea continued raging, getting worse as time went on, the crew begged Jonah to tell them how to make the storm stop. Jonah told them to "throw [him] into the sea."

Don't you think it's intriguing that the crew members didn't want to do that? Even though they feared for their own lives, they didn't want to harm Jonah...even though he'd suggested that very thing!

Side note: Sometimes I'm astounded by the level of compassion shown by those who don't have a relationship with Christ. While they didn't follow God's ways, they still had a code of conduct that precluded them from harming an innocent man. In the end, however, their code of conduct came second to their desire for self-preservation.

Instead, the men of the ship did their best to right the ship without harming Jonah. When it became clear that the storm wasn't going away and they weren't going to wrestle control, they begrudgingly did as Jonah had suggested:
"Then they cried to the Lord, 'O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man's life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O Lord have done as you pleased.' Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm." Jonah 1:14-15
I just had a light bulb moment as I realized that even though Jonah knew what was going to calm the storm, and he knew he was endangering every life on board the ship because of his disobedience to God, he wasn't willing to throw himself overboard. He required the men to do the heavy lifting, literally and figuratively. Whether he was being belligerent or was too terrified to act on what he knew was right isn't spelled out in the scriptures.

How many times have I known darn well I was disobeying, knew what needed to be done, knew I was dragging others down with me, knew I was being a horrible testimony in that moment, and still wasn't willing to change my ways? I've been so deep into my sin and so blatant in my disobedience that I was on a crash course that I couldn't or didn't want to veer off of.

Yes. That's fresh conviction you smell.

Those men believed they were sentencing Jonah to a death sentence by throwing him overboard. They regretted doing it, and actually begged the Lord not to hold them accountable.

But God had other plans.

"But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three nights." Jonah 1:17

Ask we think about chapter one, let's ask ourselves these questions (also found in the FREE PDF Download you can get HERE.)

1.What does the description of Nineveh make you think of in our modern-day culture?

2. Have you ever run away from God's calling? Literally or figuratively? Did it work?

3. Like those on the ship with Jonah, have you ever considered that running away from the Lord could affect others?

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