The past few weeks we have had a sermon series on Jonah at church. Excellent as always. It is a fascinating book which includes a fantastical tale of a man living in a fish for 3 days and 3 nights. A man called by God who runs away from that call. A man who sees there is no way out, confesses his sin, is released from his fishy captivity and goes to fulfill God's call on his life.
When Jonah gets there I really don't imagine a ton of enthusiasm in his message. Nineveh isn't a place of God. It is filled with sinful people living sinful lives. That is sort of the whole reason God is going to destroy it and the whole reason Jonah didn't want to go in the first place. I sort of imagine him wandering the city square muttering under his breath, "the end is near, the end is near". No call to repentance since he did not believe nor want God to save them. He wandered over to the temple, preached his message with no engaging stories or convicting finger pointing. Just your basic, "you are all a bunch of sinners and God is going to destroy you" message and then sitting back down. He did this while waiting for God to do the deed. I imagine he planned to smile smugly at their destruction, knowing they deserved it, God said so, and head back where he came from.
But this crazy thing happened. The people heard him, believed, and turned to God. Confessed their sins and begged for mercy. And then! THEN! To Jonah's horror, God accepted their confession, forgave them and called off the destruction plan! Can you imagine?
So Jonah had a little tantrum, God tried to give him an object lesson and the book is over.
And we tell this story to our children in Sunday School lessons and in little story books and in veggie tales movies.
I sort of relate to Jonah. I mean God makes a very big deal of sending him to warn Nineveh of its destruction. He goes around telling everyone God is going to destroy the city and then God makes him look like a fool by changing his mind!
I hate looking stupid. Seriously hate it. So while I can look at this overall story and see how ridiculous Jonah was being about the whole thing, if I step in and stand in his shoes, I get it.
This week I have been thinking about times in my life where I really felt like I was following God's call and in the end things didn't go they way I expected. And I am standing there looking a little foolish and wondering what I did wrong. Did I hear wrong? Do I know God at all? I shrink back to my corner hoping nobody noticed and vow not to make any bold statements again. Who am I to know the mind of God? I will just hang back and watch life play out, no need to be a player, just observe and lick my wounds.
But maybe, MAYBE, it wasn't that I heard God wrong but that circumstances changed. Maybe I don't know God's full plan.
I suspect that God's message all along, what He sent Jonah to do, was a call to repentance. While he was prepared to destroy Nineveh His ultimate goal was to bring them back into fellowship with Him. And the people fully did so. If Jonah had a heart for the things of God rather than being more aware of his own desires and actions, he might have seen the truth and been able to rejoice with God and the people of Nineveh. If he was really paying attention and looking at his life he might have even put on sackcloth of his own and fasted and prayed alongside the Ninevites.
I am reminded that God's plans are bigger than my plans. He sees the whole picture, knows the hearts of an entire city. I can only see my very limited and earthly view of things. Will I be like Jonah and hold a grudge against people never letting them change or reach out to God? Will I go sit in the desert and demand God bring them destruction? Or will I join God in his work? Rejoice when I see repentance and trust that His plans, His ways are far above my own.
I have been thinking about praying for revival this week. And I was reminded of a story I first read in the book, "The Circle Maker" of a man who drew a circle on the ground, sat down inside and asked God to create a revival inside that circle. Revival starts with us. Any revival I want to see must start with me. And it starts with confessing our sins and submitting ourselves to God's purposes.
That is what I am doing this week because while I may relate to Jonah, I don't want to be Jonah.
Care to join me? Here are a couple great articles I found to help get me started:
How to Have a Personal Revival
Preparation for Personal Revival