What will it take for us to see God and do what He said?
The story of Jonah one of the Minor Prophets speaks of Jonah’s disobedience, running away from God and his prayer in running back to God. He was a native of Gath-hopher in Galilee. God used him to prophesy to Jeroboam the restoration of Israel to their ancient and wide boundary. He was now being called to go to Ninevah to preach. Jonah didn’t want to go.
As Jonah is speaking here God is teaching us. God teaches by His Spirit as the Word goes forth. He breathes on his Word to perform it. Remember in the beginning as God spoke the Word the Spirit moved on the face of the deep and it was. The Spirit yet awaits us to speak what God says to speak that He may breathe life on what is spoken. Jonah heard God tell him to arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come before me (Jonah 1:2). What has God told us to do and we too like Jonah didn’t want to do it? How many times has God told us to do something and we turned and went another direction?
How do we think we can hide from the presence of God? We pay for our mishaps sometime with our lives. Jonah allowed his feelings to come between him and God. His feelings took him into another direction opposite of what God said. How many times have we missed our season of blessing because we failed to move when God said move? Because God wanted to use Jonah for this season Jonah placed himself in a position to have died. He brought this mishap upon himself; but God was not going to replace him but give him another chance to say yes. God put to death that which Jonah had allowed to prevail over God; his own feelings about what God told him to do. Jonah’s feelings became a Baal to God; an idol. So now Jonah was at peace with what he had done. He had done things his way!
Jonah got on a ship and paid to go to Tarshish down in Joppa. He caused the Lord to send from out of nowhere a great wind, a mighty tempest in the sea that broke the ship Jonah had boarded. The Mariners knew something was amiss. They were men of the Sea, knew when travel was good and watched the weather. While they prayed Jonah was fast asleep in the sides of the ship (how we get comfortable in doing what we want to do). The shipmaster had to awaken him from his rest. How could he be sleeping, not even aware of what’s going on around him? The Church today is sleep while the world is going to hell because they won’t do as God has Commanded; go, speak, say, do. How could these people be about to die and Jonah sleep? On the other hand when we are in obedience and sleep; we are resting in Christ. When Jesus was on the ship with his disciples asleep and the wind was boisterous; they asked him “Master, carest thou not that we perish” (Luke 4:38). Jesus spoke to the wind and it calmed (Mark 4:39); (Matthew 8:23-26; Luke 8:22-24).
Jonah didn’t want to go to preach to the Ninevites. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, a famous city with a large population; Jonah was set to proclaim its destruction; which would be averted by repentance. It was a rich city full of sin by its inhabitants. Jesus made reference in Matthew 12:41 that the men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonas (Jonah) and behold “a greater than Jonah is here”. He used this reference of Jonah when the Scribes and Pharisees asked him of a sign. Jesus told them after reproving and rebuking them that an account shall be made of idle words (Matthew 12:36-37). We have to be careful as to how we handle God’s business; Jesus had to. He made reference to Jonah’s three days in the belly of the fish and the repentance of the Ninevites stand in the relation of cause and effect, and that as Johan died and rose again; and then preached with phenomenal success, so the Son of man must die and rise again before men will believe in him. Jesus willingly wanted to preach going wherever the Father sent Him.
We have to speak up for God even when it is uncomfortable to our flesh. We have to be willing to die for the Gospel, go to prison if need be, go alone if it calls for it and choose to leave some folks if need be. Jonah wished to see Nineveh overthrown for Israel was of the ascendancy and Assyria was on the decline in his heart. Jonah was probably the first Apostle to the Gentiles. He resembled Elijah but there were differences between them. Elijah was jealous for God and Jonah was jealous of God. He was angry at first because Nineveh was spared; he was later angry because the gourd was not spared. He was willing to see a big city destroyed, but unwilling to see a gourd wither. Jonah was a prophet but was full of pride, a self-centered egotist; willful, fretful, pouting and even perverse. He was though a loyal lover of Israel. Jonah was a revengeful, blood-thirsty prophet-patriot; a man in whom the spirit of humanity had been almost killed out by patriotism. Jonah was a man that feared God, but at the same time ran away from his task.
As we see God will not be second to our feelings. He will let us feel something we don’t want to feel just as the Shipmaster and others felt Jonah was the cause of their demise (Jonah 13-15) and threw him over board to save their own lives. Jonah feelings took him to the ship, boarded the ship with him and got him thrown overboard into the belly of a great fish prepared by God. Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17). When we are out of order even the world knows it. The Shipmaster came to Jonah (Jonah 1:5-9) woke him up and told him to “call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us; that we perish not”. They cast lots to see to who was the cause of the evil that was upon them and it fell on Jonah. They asked him of his occupation, where did he come from, what Country was he from and what people he was from.
Jonah in Jonah 1:9 told them “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven which hath made the sea and the dry land”. They were exceedingly afraid then and wanted to know what had made him disobey God! They asked him what they should do with him and he told them to cast him into the sea. He was willing to die at their hand then do what God told him too. They on the other hand prayed that his blood be not accounted to them (Jonah 1:14). They cast him off the boat into the sea but God would not let him die. God meant Jonah would do as he had commanded him. What do we have to go through before we do what God has called us to do?
Jonah 2:2 Jonah cries out to God in prayer. He cried saying “by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell”. Jonah could have cried out to the Ninevites for God when he first called him to. Now he is in his affliction because of disobedience; quite a difference from the first time he rose up and fled from God’s presence. He was swallowed up in the belly of the fish; where did God find a fish big enough to swallow him? Only God! How was Jonah sustained there three days and nights alive; preserved from death and later be returned to life. God has his own way of doing things very opposite of what we think. After he was vomited up by the fish Jonah went on to preach to the Word of the Lord to Nineveh and they repented. The sudden repentance of this great city and its 600,000 meant more to God than this one life. Jonah came to himself and ran and did what was unthinkable even to him; he preached, (a stranger in a strange land) what thus said the Lord.
The people of Nineveh were both ignorant and superstitious and easily stirred to frenzy by the announcement of impending judgment. How much more would happen if we spoke what thus said the Lord? God said thou shall not; we say if that’s what they want to do. We are too acceptable of sin; it’s not alright! Don’t cry out by reason of affliction as Jonah did, preach repentance; Jesus did!
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