I thought it would be a good time to start a new book study. We are going to start with the book of Jonah. I know, I know. We’ve all heard this story either from Children’s Church, or from our kids after Children’s Church (or, my personal favorite, Veggietales). But we’re going to take a look at the actual Scripture in this story.
Jonah’s story starts with a message from God and a choice. It’s something we’ve all experienced, especially those who are in ministry. God called Jonah to travel to the city of Nineveh and tell them about God, in order for them to turn away from their sin. This call to travel would have had Jonah leave his hometown, Gath Hepher, and traveled east in order to get to Nineveh. If we look at the book of Nahum, we see that the sin present within Nineveh was plotting evil against God, cruelty and plundering in war, prostitution, witchcraft, and commercial exploitation. Which is probably why we see it said, “But Johan 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.” (Jonah 1:3 NIV).
After having fled, the ship got caught in a major storm. The sailors decided to find out who was responsible for their situation, and the lots fell on Jonah (1:7). So Jonah told them to toss him from the ship, and after the did everything they could, they did throw him off. And when they do, he is swallowed up by a giant fish!
But the choice is what intrigues me today. Jonah shows us that he could chose not to obey God, despite being a prophet. He was called to go to one of the most hostile places imaginable for a prophet of God. It would be the same as God calling us to go preach in a place like North Korea, where being a Christian is a crime punishable by death. I know that the theological point is that when God calls you to do something, you do it! But I think Jonah speaks to the common man. Even if we were well protected by both man and God, could you honestly say that you wouldn’t be afraid to go into such a place? I know I would. But God keeps after Jonah. He does everything to get his attention and show him the error of his ways. At the end of this chapter, Jonah is now in the most desperate place imaginable; inside a whale.
If you’ve ever felt like saying no to God, and you want to run away, I say that there is a great story in the Bible for that feeling. I look forward to reading the rest of this book with everyone. And learning more from this “children’s” story.
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