Jonah. The Reluctant Prophet.
Jonah 1 - 3.
The wind ripped the tops off the waves and the 10 meter ketch almost snapped in two. The storm had arisen unexpectedly, and the sailors were desperately trying to buoy the boat. Luggage and personal effects were dragged out onto the decks and thrown into the tempestuous sea. Water lashed the crew and the boat was crushed by a roguish wave. The men began to falter, fearing for their lives. As they sought to lighten the load, and increase the buoyancy of the floundering vessel, one of them stumbled onto Jonah, fast asleep in a bunk below deck. *. *. *.
There was a serious downside to being a prophet. Where as God frequently communicated with His children, mine was a much more vivid intervention.I was enjoying a few weeks puttering around my home in Northern Israel, tending to the garden and restingwywyywyw in the shade of my Sycamore trees. It was on one such day that my sleep was interrupted and God appeared before me like He had many times in the past. These were not tranquil visits, but rather mind jarring assaults. The Lord manifests Himself, to different people in different ways. But for me it was always the same.. He came to me when I was in my deepest of sleep. And as if by the throat, He yanked me out of my sleep and right into His presence. He never made suggestions, He only issued commands. And this time He commanded me to go to Ninevah and to warn them of impending doom. Ninevah was a Godless, rebellious city. Surely they would imprison me or even stone me, if I were to go there preaching about repentance and catastrophic measures. Surely they would never listen. They would laugh and they would chide, and then, as likely as not, they would kill me, a common death for the bad news messenger. Surely one of their own could be used to bring them the message.
*. *. *.
I awoke in my hammock, drenched in sweat and deeply anxious. I grabbed a few necessities and took off for Joppa. Joppa was a port town and I was sure I could find a ship to take me anywhere but Ninevah. I arrived in Joppa and headed for the first ship I saw. It was a working boat with a few state rooms available for passengers. I paid my fare and went directly down into my quarters. Before I could even settle in, the ship cast off and headed for Tarshish, Spain, the opposite direction of Ninevah. And I, the Reluctant Prophet, exhausted by my efforts to out run God, quickly fell asleep in my room below deck.
* ( It was impossible for me to know, that in the waters off the coast of Tarshish, the Lord had prepared for me a great fish. And even now it awaited me, circling the depths, like a patient carnivore .)
*. *. *. Water was foaming on the decks, and bursting into the berths below. The boat was listing hard to port and the bilge was long overflowed. The ship was one strong wave away from capsizing. The Lord had hurled a great wind upon the sea and the men were scared stiff. They started casting lots, each praying to their own gods. The lots were cast in an effort to see which man was responsible for the unruly sea. The captain had come below and roused me from my sleep, furious that I could be resting through such a terrifying storm. I struggled against the wind and weather to climb back onto the deck where I was informed that I was the one responsible for the calamity that had beset the boat. I told them that indeed it was me on whom God was exacting His anger, and I begged them to throw me overboard. But the crew was hesitant. They did not want my blood on their hands. And then an angry wave, a massive wall of water, smashed onto the decks knocking us all off our feet, and grasping for anything that might keep us from being dragged into the depths of the Mediterranean . The clearer it became that the storm was unrelenting, the more the crew concluded that I had to be tossed. Aloud they prayed for forgiveness to their various Gods, then grabbed me, wrists and ankles, and hurled me into the sea. Even as I was plunged into the churning water the surface stood still, and the winds ceased. The men on the boat saw That God, My God, was truly the God of life and nature, and to a man, they knelt down and worshipped Him. *. *. *.
The white caps and the raging wind, made it impossible for me to catch my breath. I was struggling to stay afloat, while spewing seawater out of my lungs. Just as I thought that the end was here, I saw the water halt and flatten like a pancake, as smooth as a sheet of ice. But even as I marveled at the miraculous calming of the sea, a creature rose up and bared it's massive gums. And in the instant before it devoured me, I could smell it, and I could see deep into it's gaping mouth. Then everything went black, as the great fish swallowed me whole.*. *. *.
Enduring the calamity of the fish's belly, was an incredible challenge. I was jammed into the intestines, a narrow passage of air allowed me to breath. The stench and the near suffocation, was motivational ; I wanted to die. More than that, I pleaded for death, a respite from my foul surroundings. By the third day, the acidic digestive juices were about to devour me, and I was losing consciousness for the very last time. But then the fish convulsed. I was twisted and contorted as the fish prepared to vomit, and seconds later I was spewed from the fish and onto rock and sand. I lay there barely alive. When a massive fish nauseates, and hurls the content of it's stomach, it is a truly violent act. And it was in that moment, and on that beach, that I finally recognized my predicament. I'd been trying to run away from God, to break free of His intentions, reluctant to doHis will.I was disgusted by Nineveh, a city known far and wide, for it's Godlessness and unabated perversity. But it was there, to that God Forsaken city, that my Lord had asked me to go. And when the Father wants our attention, He gets it, and by whatever means necessary. *. *. *. *. *. *.
Jonah was a man of God. But that didn't mean he was perfect. When God came to him, in the tranquility of his land and home, his proverbial comfort zone, and told him to go to Nineveh, he was less than enthusiastic. In fact he was entirely reluctant. So he did, what at some point, all of us have done. He attempted to run from Gods will. But it is therein that we make our most costly mistakes. For the Lord can't truly bless us when we wander out of His will. And it is there, outside of His plans for us, that we so often find ourselves, in the center of a storm. And it's not just ourselves that we endanger. As every crewman, on the ship from Joppa, found their lives in peril, we too endanger the lives and even the souls of our loved ones, so deeply influenced by our lack of obedience.
When Jonah was tossed into the Mediterranean Sea, it was Gods grace that ultimately saved him. The Bible says that " God prepared a large fish" ( Jonah 1:17 ) A fish that would ultimately save Jonahs life. For left to himself and the sea, Jonah surely would have drowned. When God commanded him to go to Nineveh, unlike mankind, He wasn't limited in His modes of transportation. :-)The sea was instantly calmed after Jonah was tossed from the boat. And ultimately Jonah returned to obedience, and Nineveh was spared Gods wrath. Stopping a Storm is always going to take Gods hand. But it's our obedience to Him, despite our reluctance, that leads to a calm and placid peace.