Recently I have been running through a sermon series and personal devotional on Jonah. It’s a story I think most humanity is familiar with, whether it’s a story you were told at bedtime …
Recently I have been running through a sermon series and personal devotional on Jonah. It’s a story I think most humanity is familiar with, whether it’s a story you were told at bedtime or you heard in a sermon just the other day.
Jonah is often known more for the miracle of the whale swallowing Jonah than for the God of the miracle. So, I do remind people the book is called Jonah and not “Jonah and the Whale.” It’s a story of a man not so much swallowed by a whale but a man swallowed up by self and how God in his redemptive nature brings Jonah back to obedience.
In this story, Jonah is asked by God to go to Nineveh, a city full of wickedness and, by God’s view, doomed to be overcome. God wants Jonah to go and speak his words of warning to them. However, when Jonah hears this call, his first response is to look at the messy, wicked and doomed situation Nineveh is in and runs away — to get as far away as he can from where God has asked him to go. As he runs, God does what God does best and he reminds Jonah that if he expects to be in relationship with him, he can’t run from God’s call, but he must embrace it even then in the belly of the whale.
So, when we get to chapter 3, we see a different Jonah, not entirely different, but different. While Jonah may have still carried some of the bitterness in his heart that kept him from going in the first place, the fact remains in chapter 3, we see an obedient Jonah: A Jonah who is going to the people that God has asked him to go to. Jonah speaks a simple message of doom, that in most cases today wouldn’t work very well, but it was spoken in obedience and God uses it and the nation of Nineveh repents — which gives us a simple reminder that God can use any word when spoken in obedience.
In this story we see two versions of a person: One who sees a doomed situation and chooses to run away from it, and the other who sees a doomed situation and runs toward it. It’s interesting to me how this still happens today. When a doom and gloom situation happens, like a Boston bombing or a Sept. 11, there are many people that justifiably are running away, but there is always a select number of people running toward the doomed situation with the intention to help.
I can’t help but see a connection for humanity to understand here. There are many doom and gloom situations that we are forced to interact with every day and regardless of whether you believe in Jesus, the fact remains you are either one of two people: A person who runs toward a doomed situation with the intention of helping or a person who runs away from a doomed situation in the interest of self. It’s my prayer that the nation of God would start running toward the doomed, messy and often wicked situations of this life, realizing that we cannot pick and choose who God has asked us to be Jesus to. Because the fact remains, Jesus loves them all, and there is not one soul that Jesus wants you to run away from. They are all worth his love spoken through us.
So be reminded that there is so much more that can be helped than your own situation. Jonah ran away because it was easy to do that — more convenient, safer. But we aren’t called to easy, convenient or safe. We are called to go and be the hands and feet of Jesus, in hopes that even one person might know a love that transcends understanding, that transcends this world’s mess.
This can only happen if we choose to be a person who runs toward the doom and gloom knowing that we cannot pick and choose who we are to be Jesus to.
(Matthew Tygart is the pastor of Harvest Community Church of the Nazarene.)