Cruising Route 66
How to Avoid Being Fish Food
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.” But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
Ever been like Jonah? Ever run from God? Jonah didn’t expect to be successful, but he didn’t care because they weren’t people he had much love for. In the Book of Nahum, Nineveh is referred to as “the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims!” (3:1-4)
Jonah’s success was the result of only one thing, his obedience. However, he had to work a few things out first. Namely, who he was and who God was. Not unlike most of us, he wanted to be in charge of his own destiny. God had other plans.
In a moment of distress, Jonah came to grips with the fact that Almighty God was his God, then he did what we all do.
From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave, I called for help, and you listened to my cry. Jonah 2:1-2
There’s nothing to compare with a crisis when it comes to finding out what is hidden within the soul. We can mask it, ignore it, even try to reject it, but take away the cushion of comfort, remove the shield of safety, inject the threat of death, and it’s fairly certain most in the ranks of humanity will begin to pray.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city–a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. Jonah 3:1-5
Take note: “The LORD came to Jonah a second time.” I cannot number the times God has had to come to me again and again in order to get my attention so that I might submit to His will. God tells Jonah what He has been telling all of us for so along, “proclaim the message I give you.” Jonah does as he was told, and the world around him changes. Are we not up to our nickers in a world that desperately needs some changing?
If you feel that you are not equipped to share God’s word with others, then you are in good company. Jonah couldn’t rely on his communication skills either. His sermon consisted of only 5 Hebrew words, and his audience didn’t understand Hebrew, they spoke Assyrian. His message wasn’t riveting. He had little mercy for Nineveh, and down deep, he didn’t want them to escape God’s judgment.
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” But the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?” Jonah 4:1-4
I can relate to Jonah, his frustrations, anger, and misjudgments. When he tried to outrun God, I thought of times when I had been out of the Lord’s will, run from His presence, and resisted His word. I reflect on times when God did great things in spite of me, and I wonder why. Jonah’s prejudices resurface after the people of Nineveh repent, reminding me how often I tend to see people differently than God does. Jonah’s attitude of intolerance, preconception, and bigotry, exists in all of us, some greater than others.
Jonah’s story is repeated throughout the Scriptures. There is the angry brother of the Prodigal son, those who watched as the harlot poured the costly perfume on Jesus’ feet, the workers who labored all day in the parable of the Vineyard, and the disciples who wanted lightning to strike those who were preaching the gospel but were not part of their little group. A list of similar traits can be found throughout the Old and New Testaments.
This book isn’t about Jonah, though it bears his name, it’s about God, a God who demands righteousness. It is about a God who tells His people what they are to do and won’t take no for an answer. It is about a God that controls the winds, the waves, and the fish of the sea. It is about a God that can hurl a great wind, prepare a great fish, and sustain life in any situation. It is about a God that will hear the cries of an agnostic nation and forgive them and use the story of a rebellious man to teach a lesson about submission and love.
This is the story of a God that can do the impossible and takes notice of great cities, lousy prophets, and you and me.
Until next time,