Text: Jonah 1:1-3, Psalm 139:7-12
This is part of a 7-day series on Jonah in the Lent 2016 reading plan.
The book of Jonah begins typically enough. Another prophet, another message of repentance from God to be communicated to the world. It’s like the first bars of a familiar song playing softly on your stereo… but then the record screeches to a halt.
In an unexpected turn of events, the prophet Jonah hears the Lord’s message and bluntly refuses. He doesn’t simply squirm like Moses and Elijah and Jeremiah when the Lord called them to something beyond their wheelhouse. Jonah straight-up does not approve this message. You see, Jonah had an “us vs. them” view of salvation: God’s mercy is for us, but it is definitely not for the wandering hearts of those dirty Ninevites.
We know about Jonah, most of us. We know that God called Jonah to preach repentance to a crazy-wicked city and that Jonah disobeyed because he didn’t think these people deserved God’s mercy. But before we read further into this book, let’s break out a map and see in black and white Jonah’s heart-and-body response to God’s calling.
Do you see what I see?
It takes very little explanation, really. God spoke to Jonah in the general vicinity of Joppa (see “The Call” on the map), Jonah barely glances east toward Nineveh, before he boards the nearest boat headed as far west as he can imagine (toward Tarshish).
And do you know what Jonah found in his escape? He found that nothing, not even his own dark, unwilling heart, can separate him from God. David discovered this, too, writing, “Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there” (Psalm 139:7-8).
Have you ever fled from the Lord? Ever sensed a strong tugging from the Holy Spirit, but chose to run in the opposite direction?
This is where we’ll leave Jonah today. But where will we find you?
Friends, I encourage you to sit in quiet for a while right now. Tune out distractions and pray.
Ask the Lord where He has called you and you have not obeyed. Repent of your disobedience and be forgiven.
Consider the places and people to which He has called you and you have responded with obedience. Praise Him for His direction.
Ask the Father where He would lead you now. Who needs to hear His message of mercy today?
May we go in obedience and by His grace. May we have the courage to joyfully share the message of God’s salvation — a message that is just as much for the rest of the world as it is for our own souls.
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
-Psalm 139:9-12 ESV