Many of you have heard the story of Jonah growing up, and probably heard preachers preach on it often. I was asking the Lord to show me new elements in this story as I believe the Bible is the only book where the author is present when you read it.
Jeremiah 33:3 says that if we call out to God He will show us great and mighty things that we did not know. I believe Jonah is a perfect example of this as I noticed four elements in the four chapters in Jonah.
First of all, it was about the ASSIGNMENT. Jonah was asked by God to go and preach against the wickedness of Nineveh. Jonah went out of his way to get away from his assignment, but notice it was “his” assignment. No one else could do what Jonah could do, and even when he messed up, God gave him another chance instead of finding someone else. Each one of us have been given an assignment by God. Are you running from it or embracing it? Another thing that is interesting is that when Jonah was on the ship he was in a deep sleep while the others were fearful of the storm. Not only did he run from his assignment, but he was not concerned about it or he wouldn’t have been asleep. Sounds like some in the church today. As a whole, we are not really concerned about souls being saved and some are even asleep spiritually speaking.
The story is told of a 4 year old that was excited to meet President Coolidge and the President shook his hand and simply said, “move along”. In other words, he got right to the point and I will get right to the point as well. Some of us need to get up and move along in our assignment. No more running and no more sleeping on the job.
Next, Jonah was in CONFINEMENT. He ended up in the belly of the whale and Jonah had to get to the place where it was just him and God. This is about intimacy and really having a “come to Jesus” meeting as Jonah had. While in confinement, notice Jonah did all the talking as it was like God sit him in a corner and told him to think about what he did. The turning point came when Jonah said “yes I will” and then the fish vomited him upon dry land. When we finally say yes to God, no matter what the assignment, then we will see the turning point in our situation just like Jonah did.
Next, we see the ALIGNMENT as Jonah finally decides to do what God asked him the first time. This is where we stop running and start seeking, stop hiding and start helping, and we stop leaving and start loving. Jonah was finally aligned with God’s plan to reach Ninevah and then something interesting happened. God saw how Ninevah believed Jonah, and even the King was declaring repentance and fasting, and God decided not to destroy them. What a merciful God that we serve!
This leads us to the final element of the story as we look at REFINEMENT. Jonah finally obeyed God, God spared Ninevah and now Jonah is angry at God and wants to die. God explains to Jonah why he did what he did, and it’s time to refine Jonah’s thinking and give him an attitude adjustment. In the refinement stage, we ask God the hard questions like why, how long, why me, etc. ... I think about Bryce the other day deciding to give our cat a bath. I knew this was not going to end well, but Bryce took a washcloth and begin to slowly wipe down our cat. I even heard him say “don’t worry, I will dry you off… I got you girl”. A few minutes later, I heard Bryce say, “2nd round” and I knew it was going to get difficult. He washed her ears, and she started clawing at him. This sounds like us when God is wanting to refine us, but we keep clawing and fighting back. We need to hear God saying to us that He will be with us and see us through.
Each one of us has our own refining process and we cannot judge each other based on the refinement. When a silversmith is going to refine silver, he doesn’t just throw all the metal in the fire at once, but he individually holds each to the fire until he can see his reflection in the metal. God refines us and molds us until he can see his son Jesus in us. We end the story seeing the heart of God as he tells Jonah that he has compassion for the 120,000 of Nineveh that don’t know their right from their left. I don’t know if Jonah ever truly understood God’s compassion and how God used him mightily, but I pray we quit running from our mission and let God use us to show his mercy and compassion to a lost and dying world. For the full message please visit Botkinburg Foursquare on Facebook and look for the message called “The Runner.”
Rocky Thomas is Pastor, Botkinburg Foursquare