Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose 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 on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. -Jonah 1:1-3 ESV
Hello friends. I hope that you’re all doing well. I’ve spent some time studying the book of Jonah this past week and I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned from his story.
Lesson 1: Running from God’s call is a waste of time…
In the first chapter of the book, God clearly tells the prophet Jonah that He wants him to go to Ninevah and tell the people to turn from their wicked ways. The Bible doesn’t even say Jonah thought about it, wrestled with it or anything. It simply says that he immediately decided that He was going the other way. And as much as I hate to admit it, I have a lot in common with Jonah. I knew that I was a gifted teacher and mentor when I was barely a teenager, however, I ran from that calling to pursue a career path with more money. Not only did my running from my calling cause me to waste time, it also caused me to waste money! When God says “go,” we should move then. Not in a week, a year or when we feel the time is right. Abraham moved without knowing where he was going so we have no excuse. And, generally when God has to wait on you to finally do what He told you to do, it’s more complicated the second time around. Be obedient first!
Lesson 2: The crowd can’t save you and your disobedience puts others in danger.
When Jonah decided that he was going to Tarshish instead of Ninevah, he hopped on a boat in Joppa with other people obviously thinking that God wouldn’t find him or deal with him in the presence of others. Was he wrong! God is like that parent who will come in class and beat your butt up in front of your classmates for acting out lol. Not only did God get Jonah’s attention with the storm He sent, but everyone else on the boat became frightened in the process. We can’t run from God’s call by blending in with people who aren’t saved, called and/or being disobedient too. It won’t work! God knows where we are all the time and He’ll deal with us wherever He feel good and ready. If we just happen to be with our friends when He decides to get our attention, we can only pray that He has mercy.
Lesson 3: Prayer is always the right move.
Often times when we are in bad situations, we think that we can’t go to God in prayer. I can imagine that Jonah probably had that “I can’t pray now” feeling once he realized that his own disobedience had gotten him into the belly of the whale. But that feeling comes from satan. When we feel unworthy to reach out to Him, it’s usually when we need Him the most. The entire book of Jonah turned around after Jonah prayed to God from the belly of the whale. When in doubt, pray. When feeling ashamed, pray. When completely clueless as to how to get out of a horrible situation, pray. Paul & Silas were in jail and Daniel was in a lion’s den but God showed up. ALWAYS pray!
Lesson 4: God will lead us in witnessing…
When Jonah was in Ninevah, he preached a simple message. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” I know that at times, I over think witnessing. I think I have to explain everything immediately, know the answer to every question and always be a perfect shining light for Christ. It is good to be knowledgeable about the things of God and be a good witness, but know that God will give you the words to say for the people He wants you to reach. It may not be complicated, long or drawn out. It could simply mean telling someone that you care about them or that you love them. It could mean giving a homeless person a few dollars to get a meal. It could mean praying for someone during a tough time in their life. God knows how every person can be reached and the Holy Spirit will lead us in reaching them.
Lesson 5: Salvation isn’t selective…
In the last chapter of Jonah, it’s clear that Jonah isn’t happy that God has mercy on the people of Ninevah and he actually tells God he’d like to die. When I first read this, I didn’t understand why Jonah would be mad. Some commentaries say that as many as 120,000 people repented and turned to God as a result of Jonah’s ministry. Any pastor that lead 120,000 souls to Christ in 2012 would be well-known and revered. But after further research, I learned that the people of the Assyrian empire including Ninevah, were enemies of the Israelites. They were also best known for their torture and killing of the people they captured. I found that they would capture men, impale them on stakes and lean them over the fortress walls to show that they had been there. Another account says that they would carve people’s skin off and pile them up, then completely cover the area with blood. Another speaks of taking 3,000 men and carving them alive. Removing their arms, ears, noses, gouging out their eyes and hanging their heads from trees. They also burned children to death with no regret.
It’s quite clear that these were dangerous, unGodly people. Since we can’t really relate to these actions so well, let’s translate this to our culture. How many of us are willing to witness to people we consider dangerous, that live in “bad” neighborhoods or projects and who maybe sell drugs or tote guns? What about prison ministries? If God tells us to make disciples of all people, why is it that the people in the “bad” neighborhoods around some of our beautifully decorated churches don’t know who Jesus is? Is the gospel not for these people too? Or maybe we just don’t want these kinds of people saved because then they’d be our church’s “problem.” No matter what the reason is, it’s wrong. Fear isn’t a good excuse. If we run or purposely avoid witnessing to anyone, we are just like Jonah. I’ll be the first to say I’ve done this. I go to a huge school and have missed many opportunities to share Christ. BUT, I’m praying everyday that He continues to open doors for me to witness and helps me to witness with my life.
Reading Jonah gave me a lot to think about and reflect on and I hope that this blog post does the same for you! If you want to discuss any of the points, feel free to comment!