Journey with Jonah Week 1
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. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
The question of what we choose to do with our calling is equally as relevant as determining what that calling is. Many of us ponder – or religiously suggest that great pondering is necessary – to ascertain what precisely the Creator is asking of His highest creation. But this question, although tempting in its seemingly unsearchable and therefore passive nature, is not particularly difficult.
We know what we are to do because we know how we ought to pray, namely that the will of the Father will manifest on earth through us, primarily in acts of receiving and offering total forgiveness for wrongs done to us or by us, having daily provision for the hardships of this radically free life and standing incessantly rescued from the highest levels of Satanic opposition to heaven’s cause, of which we have become the heralds. The call of the Creator is, quite simply, love Me as the object of your desire as I have loved you as the object of Mine, and through the sanctifying work of My Son forgiveness has become not merely possible but actionable, with such an extraordinary outcome of grace achievable despite the most aggressive protestations and intimidations of other powerful but defeated rebellious beings. Do not be like them. Be like Me.
So it is not difficult to imagine what we are to do, although its magnitude takes a lifetime to ingest. It is occasionally difficult to gather the specifics of this call – the Scriptures are full of holy men and women earnestly having to search for and receive clarity – but it is not impossible to understand that God wants us to do something, that such a something is important and that such a something will have all specificity we need without sacrificing the faith He desires. We will know enough to act more but never enough to trust less.
Now into this stands Jonah. He is a prophet who moves, as we yearn to say of ourselves, in the power and presence of God. He is quite literally the one who speaks the words of God on earth, chosen for this purpose and fitting for its content. He has abundant clarity – go there. He has sufficient data – say this. But he has one thing which hinders the rest – an unyielding heart. Or more specifically, he is hostile to the reality that God’s heart is quite yielding and merciful, a fact which he openly acknowledges and perpetually abhors. Jonah later will say that the whole problem is that God is quite different than Jonah in matters of love and grace, and this difference provokes such feelings of rebellion that Jonah nearly loses his life – and perhaps even willingly tried to end it – over what the people of Nineveh would suggest as perhaps the most elating revelation of the Creator possible. Jonah is angry about the things over which others rejoice. Nineveh will choose repentance and beauty, and Jonah rebellion and brokenness.
I like to think that what I need is more information from God. But I’m not sure I need more information. It is of little use without humility. It turns out I can know even the very heart of the Father – unadulterated and astounding love beyond comprehension – but it doesn’t matter unless the Father has known mine. I can preach the message, say the words, even show the power as Jesus warned about, but such efforts while perhaps moving the kingdom forward will do little to move me towards its King. What I need – perhaps this is true of you – is to not merely preach to Nineveh, but see myself as its primary resident.
Then perhaps when I sail it will be towards the call and with the Creator, not better than those I preach to but freed by the reality that I am very much the same.