When I recently returned from a large convention, the theme of which was ‘Longing’, I knew I had to make two decisions in obedience to the word of God to me personally. There was a deep longing in my heart for God’s presence that was accompanied by a true desire to obey Him and share the longing in His heart for the lost, the broken and people groups who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus. The Bible makes it clear that the thing God desires most from His children is obedience. In His eyes this is better than any sacrifice or what we might see as service (1 Samuel 15:22).
Jonah was chosen to be a tool in God’s hand to take His word to the people of Nineveh and bring about their redemption. However, he deliberately chose to disobey the command to go to Nineveh and instead got a boat to a completely different city. Jonah’s disobedience had consequences both for him and for everyone on the ship. A terrifying storm arose, which subsided when he finally took responsibility for his disobedience and was thrown into the sea by the sailors and swallowed by a great fish. Maybe, like me, you can point back to a time when you were disobedient to the Lord. Consequently, you were engulfed by a storm which did not simply affect you but had consequences in the lives of others.
Distressed inside the great fish Jonah cried out to God in anguished prayer that included some very telling words, ‘Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit God’s love for them’. Jonah saw his disobedience for what it was – idolatry (Jonah 2:8). His prayer of confession was heard and answered. Embraced by love and compassion, with a shout of grateful praise, he was vomited out of the fish. Maybe we need to see more of God’s holiness and His righteous call on our lives, so that we don’t choose something or someone above His will and become guilty of the same idolatry. We also need to know that, through Jesus, there is always a way back from disobedience to restored relationship with our Lord.
Jonah’s second chance to go to Nineveh was not long in coming. The command was loud and clear. This time, without hesitation, he obeyed and went to a people he didn’t want to go to. When they turned to God in repentance, Jonah was not at all pleased. To him it seemed wrong, because they were enemies of God’s people. He was distraught to see enemies receive compassion. He became so depressed he wanted to die, despite the fact he knew God to be ‘Gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity’ (Jonah 4:2-3).
God’s plans always succeed, despite how we feel. How do you feel when His love and grace reach out to your enemy? Do you feel bitter, or do you feel pleased because you are living in the joy of God’s unlimited forgiveness to you? Maybe, like Jonah, you need a second chance to go to someone you would never choose, to tell them the message Jonah was given of undeserved forgiveness, unmerited love and unending compassion. Remember the words of Jesus (whose heart is for the lost), “You are my friends if you do what I command”(John 15:14).
Prayer: Father, I acknowledge You are holy and righteous in all Your ways. You demand and deserve obedience from hearts surrendered to You. Thank You that Your purposes will always succeed and that You really are the God of the second chance. Please forgive me for the times I have put my will before Yours and failed to give You uncompromised obedience. I ask for Your love to be shed Jesus. Amen.
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