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big fish

Our pastors have been preaching out of the book of Jonah. It’s only four chapters long.  But it tells an interesting tale.

If you remember the Sunday school story, Jonah is a prophet.  He got a word from God to go to Nineveh, a heathen city, to tell them of God’s imminent judgment.

“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish. – Jonah 1:2-3

We get no background on Jonah. We don’t know if he’s married or registered on ChristianMingle.com. All we know is somehow, he doesn’t want to do what God asked him. He catches a boat to Tarshish. A huge storm blows up.  The sailors panic, which means it must have been really bad. They wake Jonah up.  “How can you sleep at a time like this?  Get up and pray to your God!” (Jonah 1:6)

They cast lots to figure out the storm culprit.  The lot lands on Jonah.

“Who are you? Where are you from?  What do you do?” they ask him.

Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” – Jonah 1:9

With that one statement, Jonah tells us the futility of his mission.  It just gets trippier from there. The sailors understand the consequences of what Jonah has done. They try to come up with a solution and fail. Fast forward a bit, and they toss Jonah overboard. Jonah gets swallowed by a big fish and spends 3 days and nights there, talking to God.

I’m summarizing here because I want to make a point.  God asked Jonah to do something.  Jonah disobeyed.  He ran instead. We run, too.  God asks us to do something particularly painful, like turn away from a favorite addiction or start budgeting for real. “Nooo!” we scream, running for the ice cream.

We in the western world have painted God in such pastel tones.  We’ve sanitized God for our protection. He is our friend.  He walks with us and he talks with us and He tells me I am His own. He will never leave us nor forsake us. God is love. All of these attributes prove true, yet only tell part of God’s character.

But God won’t change His mind.  His will is the issue. Don’t be fooled.  He isn’t a tame lion. He doesn’t stay on leash. We must come when He calls us, not the other way around. He has emotions, too. Take a look at Isaiah if you don’t believe it. Our disobedience has consequences, sometimes smelly ones. Jonah eventually did what God asked him to do at the start of the story. It took a short season up close and personal with fish guts to make it happen. I’ve had my own “belly of the beast” experiences, sans undersea travel but bad enough.

He is the Lord of the universe, not us. Will we do what He asks of us, or will we run? He always has the best in mind for us, if we will receive it.  We can’t hide from the one who made it all.

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