Thursday, April 14, 2016

When God Says GO

“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.
But THE LORD SENT out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. 

Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.  So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” – Jonah 1:1-6

Poor Jonah.  Anyone who knows his story knows his disobedience to God.  How hard it must have been for him to be known for his fault instead of his faithfulness.
Imagine being Jonah.  You’re called to go somewhere you don’t want to go.  According to “Veggie Tales” cartoons, he didn’t want to go because the people there “slap people with fishes”.  But that wasn’t the case.  The people there were sinful, evil people.  I suppose Jonah was disgusted with their lack of respect for God, and didn’t want to bother himself with them.  A little self-righteousness?  A little self-pride?  Probably so.

But when God says “go”, no matter what the circumstances or the location, obedience is always better than disobedience. 
God will sometimes take our “no” as an answer, and leave us in our disobedience.  While it may feel like we’ve dodged a bullet, the truth is we haven’t.  Disobedience causes a wedge between your heart and God.  That closeness and soul communion with Him is broken, much like strong words between a parent and child.

Then there are times that God refuses to take “no” for an answer.  Jonah found out what that was like.  On a ship, about to capsize and throw him into the deeps of the ocean, He must have thought about his decision with great sorrow.  But God, knowing the future as history, expected this to bring about his repentance.  God even “prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah”. 
The story books all show Jonah sitting upright within the belly of a large fish, considering his situation.  But the truth is a fish’ stomach isn’t make like a room in a house! It’s an in-and-out drainage for all sorts of ocean edibles.  If you’ve ever cleaned a fish, you know this is not a place you want to put your nose, let alone your whole body!  Jonah’s “no” came with consequences. As Jonah put it in his prayer to God from within the fish, “The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head”.

And Jonah’s “no” also came with forced obedience.  The fish could have spit him up anywhere in the world, even in the bottom of the ocean where he would have died.  But it didn’t.  In God’s mercy, he was spit up on the shore, just a three day journey from Nineveh. 
God used Jonah to bring about a great revival in Nineveh, who all fasted and prayed for God to spare them.  But that’s not what he’s known for.  He’s known for his disobedience and God’s punishment.  Few preachers have been used in such a great way as Jonah, but it is his disobedience they remember. 

When God says “go”, take it as a command, not an option.  Obedience has great rewards, and disobedience is always a downfall.  Jonah’s reputation could have been much different if he had just submitted to God’s will.

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