JONAH THE FIRST TO SLEEP ON A FOAM BLUBBER MATTRESS (pg 153-158)
Not many people record their failures as well as Jonah. He revealed the character of God who showed His concern for the Gentiles. Assyria was feared for its cruelty. Jonah did not want that nation to experience the goodness of his God. He himself had a personal experience of God which we read in Jonah chapter 4. A gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
It is an honour to be called by God to be in His service as His messenger. Jonah was called by God to go to Nineveh the capital of Assyria. He was simply to go there. On his way there God would have given him the message to pass on to them. God always works in this way. He requires the first step of obedience before He reveals the next part of His will.
Jonah's immediate response was to flee in the other, direction because he knew in his spirit that God wanted in some way to deal graciously with a nation known for its cruelty. He did not want to be part of that. So he did something very foolish. He acted hastily without thinking about it. He thought he could flee from the presence of the Lord the creator of the sea and land. He paid the fare for a ship leaving for Tarshish in the Spain of today. He fell asleep in his cabin. God sent an unusual storm out of season, & Jonah was shown to be the culprit. The only solution to be thrown into the sea. God had prepared a whale to be the means of getting him back to the land to the Fertile Crescent to go to Nineveh. No purpose of God can be thwarted. Jonah really prayed inside the fish. God answered him. He knew then it was not the end. He cried for help & God heard him. He thought it was the end, but somehow God told him that he would once more see his place of worship.
Jonah 1:17 Despite his sinking deeper in the sea God had managed to keep him alive. He prayed, he really prayed. He realised he had clung to his own idea of how God should work & who He should use. Anyone who did what he had done would lose the grace that could be theirs.
Grace is God’s undeserved favour when God invades a person’s life in love meeting all their needs, physical, spiritual, psychological, mental needs. Jonah knew he had lost out when he tried to flee from the presence of the Lord. He discovered God had not left him. He had work for him to do.
Still inside the fish, Jonah praised God in advance and wanted to worship Him. Then he was reminded of a promise he had made, “ I will do whatever you want me to do & go wherever You want me to go.” God’s reply, ”Go to Nineveh!”
Jonah promised God, “What I have vowed, I will carry out.” Deliverance comes from the Lord even inside a fish!
The Lord commanded the fish to get rid of the indigestible Jew!
Chapters 1 & 2 sounds like a very fishy story but when God calls, He expects obedience.
Not many hear that call. The obstacles appear to be great. So few respond. Yet those that do discover that God prepares in advance to cover their needs and slowly His will unfolds for them. God never reveals the final picture or ministry but only one step at a time.
My own experience: Called to serve in Lebanon. 2 years of Bible training. Father promoted 3 times, able to pay for 3 yrs university. Married, served as a teacher before leaving for Lebanon. Never knew only ones to adopt, houses obtained, ministry of 12 years revealed, A life of discovering the will of God.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, “Go to Nineveh & proclaim the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed. His message “ Nineveh has only 40 days left.”
The message we bring is like that. Simple clear easily understood. Leave the results to God.
Revival took place. Jonah knew it would happen. It gave him no pleasure. In anger he told the Lord the reason for his going to Tarshish. He did not want Nineveh to experience the compassion of God.
God has His own schedule. His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts higher then ours. Imagine Jonah telling God You are keeping alive a nation that should be exterminated!
I do not want to be part of Your plans. You are actually using me to carry out Your own plan of mercy for the enemies of my people ! I would be better off if I had died in the sea!
The Lord asked Jonah,” Have you any right to be angry? “ No reply from Jonah. However he built a shack outside of the city to observe what would take place. God caused a vine to cover his shack and give relief from the sun and this pleased Jonah. The God sent a worm to cut off the stem and the vine died followed by a hot east wind blown off the desert. Khamsiin which causes people to want to die. Jonah wanted to die !
God asked if he had the right to be angry about the death of the vine? Jonah said he had every right. God pointed out the vine was not Jonah’s work. Nineveh had so many children & animals needing His compassion.
We are taught once more that God has a big heart of compassion. Our God is a God of love.
Consider the person of Jonah: He knew by experience the compassion of God. That God is slow to anger abounding in love and does not want to harm people.
God wanted Jonah to see God’s attitude to the Gentiles. Neither Jew nor Gentile deserved His love and care. Jonah had experienced grace. He had clung to the idol of his own thinking. God wants us to be new creation to think as He thinks, to value people not things. The salvation of souls not the comfort of a lifestyle.
The record of Jonah’s life is extraordinary because few are willing to disclose their lives that reveal themselves in such a poor light. He is honest with himself and God. He reveals the character of God as greater than his limited understanding, One who has a vision also much greater than the best of men. Saul of Tarsus once he met the risen Lord Jesus was as concerned about the Gentiles as was God in the time of Jonah.
Jonah was given a second call. So was I. God made both possible. My initials are Jonah. In both cases God did not change. In both cases God proved to be more effective the second time. In neither case of the second time was there any indication of what would happen in the future. Miracles confirmed the call to be clearly from God. A soul of 84 gloriously saved. A house bought for our daughter before God called her to serve her people. Support raised when local church failed to trust God. Miracles of souls saved in the land of service.
Taught once more not to rely on man but God who carries out His promises.