Wednesday, November 30, 2016

TheStoryOfJonah : Rebellion 1:1-3

If we step back and look at this first section of the book of Jonah, it's incredible. There is so much present that I couldn't help but choose only write about these three verses as they, really, are the beginning and spring-board to everything else in the book. The synopsis of this section, in simple terms, is 1) Jonah heard from God, 2) He didn't like what he heard, 3) So he fled (from the LORD; hypothetically speaking, as we'll discover). So, we need a bit of background...

Nineveh was in the region of Assyria, and enemy to Israel. Before they would be destroyed, God wants to spare them and asks Jonah to be the mouth-piece for His words. Wiersbe writes in his commentary: 'God had called His people to be a blessing to the Gentiles (Gen. 12:1–3), but, like Jonah, the Jews refused to obey. And, like Jonah, they had to be disciplined; for Assyria would conquer Israel and Babylon would take Judah into captivity'. 

Unfortunately, the old adage creeps up into my mind - what goes around comes around (similar to the Joseph series also on my blog). What we basically have here is racism. Jonah did not like these people due to their ethnicity and would rather not give them a chance. He had too much baggage in his mind towards these people. We are told, historically, that the Assyrians were often very cruel to the Israelites and, because of this, Jonah felt it his duty not to give them a chance. Not God. God had other plans. It is very clear all through Scripture that God has designed His people to be in unity, even though we may come from different backgrounds or even have a different colour to our skin. God does not tolerate racism and this book very clearly shows this aspect of the LORD's heart.

God desired the people of Nineveh to be given an opportunity to repent. God wanted them to see His grace and chose Jonah to be that grace-giver. It's incredible to think when, at the most strangest of circumstances (in our perspective), God shows up and convicts us or shows us His heart for people. God's heart has always been for His people. Jonah didn't see these people as worthy as being given a chance, but God did and He was wanting Jonah to be a part of that plan.

As typical of a prophet in the Old Testament, Jonah heard from the LORD, but instead of obeying, he fled. It's an incredible piece of information that we have provided for us here. Jonah actually heard from the LORD. It is, and forever will be, a great privilege to hear from the LORD - but sadly, Jonah didn't see it this way. Jonah saw that he had a choice. He didn't see it as a privilege to act on that privilege of hearing from the LORD by obeying, but instead, he chose not to listen to the LORD and fled. Jonah was disobedient to the call on his life from the LORD. He simply forgot the privilege.

We could easily say that if we were in this circumstance and heard clearly the voice of the LORD to Go!* we would drop what we were doing and follow, wouldn't we? Let's be careful not to be too judgmental of Jonah here, as I think we can see ourselves in this story.

How often have you and I known that we heard very clearly the prodding of the LORD to Go and we turned and walked (or ran) the other direction? It's one of those concepts that I don't think I'll ever be able to wrap my mind around completely - God allowing us to make our own choices - yet, notice, as we continue in this small book, that though we may think we can make choices contrary to what the LORD would have for us, He does bring consequences - sometimes in the form of whales - to prove his wonderful Sovereign plan is always best.

We, as followers of the LORD, would do very well to learn from this story. I'm learning again and again that the LORD does not promise an easy route, but He does promise His presence. Escaping harm by fleeing, we just very well might be fleeing from the very thing He needs for us to experience so we have a greater appreciation for His character and provision for us in the midst of any and every circumstance we find ourselves in. The fact is, the LORD has a specific plan for us - He created us, so He would know what would be best for us - but it's often within the circumstances we find ourselves in, good or bad, that the LORD shows up and gives us hope in Him. Yet, like Jonah, we need to learn the hard way. But God is still there with grace.

*I'm very much reminded of Jesus' calling us to Matthew 28 - are we going and making disciples? Or are we fleeing from His calling on our lives?

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