Saturday, December 14, 2013

Jonah and the Hard-Headed Ninevites

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Saturday, December 14, 2013: Jonah 1:1-4:11

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.  Jonah 1:1-3 (NKJV)

If you ask the average person about the Book of Jonah, he'll tell you it's about a guy getting eaten by whale and living to tell about it -- Jonah and the whale.  Actually, that's not the focus of the book at all.  It's just the most remarkable part of the story. 

How God Prepares Us

Jonah is about PREPARATION.  One of the recurring words in this short book is "prepared".  When Jonah ran from God's presence, God sent/prepared a great storm (1:4) that nearly sunk his ship.  Then God prepared/appointed a great fish (1:17) that swallowed Jonah.  Later, after revival came to Nineveh, Jonah went off sulking and God prepared a plant (4:6) to almost instantaneously grow beside him.  Two more thing were prepared: a worm to eat up the plant (4:7), and a strong east wind to turn up the heat (4:8).
The word "prepared" could be translated "appointed" or "commissioned".  It's a strong word used in the same way a king would appoint an ambassador.  It implies intent and purpose.

In all of the above instances, God prepared some outward circumstance in order to move Jonah in the right direction.  Through all of this, God was PREPARING JONAH.  God was shaping everything around Jonah to get him to do God's will.

Here's the problem:  Jonah was running from the clear instruction of God.  God told him to go to the Ninevites.  I can imagine the conversation:

God:  "Hey Jonah, I want you to go preach to the Ninevites."

Jonah:  "What!!!  You've got to be kidding.  I hate the Ninevites.  Don't your remember what they did to my uncle Elias?"

God:  "Doesn't matter.  I love them and I'm sending you to them."

Jonah:  "No way.  Can't do it.  You're asking too much of me.  I'm not emotionally prepared to do this.  NOBODY could get through to those hardheaded Ninevites."

God prepared a whole host of hardships to convince Jonah to do what He originally called him to do.  All along, God was preparing Jonah.  The only thing harder than the Ninevites' heads was Jonah's head.

Down, then Up

Another key word in the Book of Jonah is DOWN.  When Jonah ran from God's will, the Bible says he went "down" to Joppa (1:3) then hopped a ship to Tarshish and went "down" into it (1:3).  On the ship, he went "down" into the lowest parts to sleep during the storm (1:5).  From there, the sailors threw him "down" into the sea (1:15).  He ended up down in the guts of a great fish.

Here's the lesson:  No one runs from God and gets away with it.  You will end up in the belly of the beast.  All directions away from the will of God are DOWN.

Learning to Do What God Says

Have you ever heard a hard word from God?  Perhaps it was something you felt was beyond your ability.  Jonah has major resistance to answering God's call.  But, in the end, God not only blessed a whole city, He taught us all a lesson.

God's way is always best.  It will stretch you.  It will break you.  But in the end it will bless you.  The easiest thing in the world is to say "YES" to Jesus.  The hardest path is to say "NO." 

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