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What if... Jonah

READ Jonah 1-4

What if Jonah had gone to Nineveh the first time God told him to go? Would it change the account in some way to see Jonah fully obey God in the first place? Would it change our opinions of Jonah (or even of God for that matter) concerning the Ninevites had he simply replied with "Your will be done"? As you read the story recorded in the book that bears his name, you find a character in Jonah who appears to be selfish, self-centered, bitter for reasons we do not know from just a reading of his account, and quite obviously stubborn. However, as God informs him of his assignment, we see an anger in Jonah that results in blatant disobedience. (v.3 "But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.") In taking that first step in the opposite direction of the Lord's assignment, Jonah sets out on a course that can be described as frightening, disturbing, sad, but also educational, surprising, and even spiritual. So, again, I ask, what if Jonah had simply said yes to the request of the Lord? Would we still be able to glean from his story the lesson of ignoring the path God has laid out in front of us, the lesson of forgiveness being for all, or even the lesson of saying yes to the Lord when we cannot see the purpose immediately? I believe that the story of Jonah unlocks within us the human side of the Scriptures... too many times we read stories/accounts and think that the only reason x happened was because this person was given supernatural faith... In Jonah, we find ourselves - people who try to argue with God on what is best, people who run from the assignments we have been given, and sadder even still, people who would rather be miserable (in the belly of a big fish) than just admit we were trying to outlast God.

What if Jonah had chosen death over going to Nineveh? What if Jonah had simply refused to the point that he died in the belly of that great fish? Would the story have been recorded or would it be a legend kept alive in the Hebrew culture? As you read this account, what you find is that even after Jonah realizes that God is truly in control of it all and that he should bow down before the great I Am and beg for his very existence, Jonah is still angry about going to the Ninevite people to proclaim their need for repentance! There is a bitterness in his abbreviated message and chapter 4 begins with Jonah calling the forgiveness of the Ninevites "exceedingly evil". Jonah is so furious with God that he tells God multiple times in the final chapter of this account that it would be better for him [Jonah] to die than to live. This much bitterness and rage cannot be tolerated by a God of love, kindness, forgiveness, grace, and mercy, so God puts forth a plant to keep Jonah from expiring in the desert and then teaches Jonah a lesson that you and I must never forget... God explains to Jonah that his actions are absolutely revolting... Jonah would fight with God concerning the health of a plant that God provided, yet he would vote for God to wipe out men, women, and children made in HIS image with the snap of a finger! Had Jonah chosen death over preaching to those he did not like, sadly, he would not be so different from many who have walked the earth and who walk the earth now... those who with their mouth claim to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, but with their actions (and even their words sometimes) they show disdain and hatred for their fellow human. Jonah is us...

Jonah is us because we want to tell God how to run things and we want to tell God who to save and who not to save. Jonah is us because we catch an attitude when we see through God's word that forgiveness is intended for all mankind, yet we want to pick and choose those we like to get in with us. Jonah is us because when we see someone come home to their spiritual family, we have the audacity to get angry with God for welcoming them home and we take the "older brother" stance from Luke 15 as if we have any room to demand things from God, our Father. I encourage each of us to read Jonah, find ourselves there, repent of those thoughts and feelings, and hold our head up high because we serve an amazing Creator who will always do right.

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