If there is one story in the Bible I'd like to see turned into a major Hollywood film it would be the story of Jonah. The guy gets swallowed by a whale and that's just one part of his incredible journey.
Jonah was a prophet living near Nazareth when God called him to go to the pagan city of Ninevah. Nineveh was a large city in the Assyrian Empire, a sworn enemy of Israel. Not only that but Nineveh had a reputation for cruel and unusual punishment of their enemies, which Jonah no doubt had heard about. Their torture techniques were infamous and Jonah wanted no part of what might lie ahead for him there.
When Jonah gets the call from God to go to Nineveh he immediately flees. Not just ignores it, or even go to the next town. Nineveh was 500 miles to the east but Jonah flees for Tarshish, 2,000 miles to the west. In fact, at that time it was the furthest he could go west, trying to get as far from Nineveh as possible. What drastic measures to run from the call of God.
Jonah boards a ship and a storm rages so intensely that the unbelieving sailors start praying to their gods. Jonah, meanwhile, is sleeping below and completely obviously to the chaos those unbelievers are facing. Sometimes in our own abandonment of God's call on our life we become complacent and lose sight for the lost around us. In fact, it's the unbelieving captain that wakes Jonah and calls him to pray to God!
Jonah is thrown overboard and what would have been thought certain death was just a step towards getting Jonah where he needed to be. A great fish, commonly accepted as a whale, swallows Jonah. It's in here--in the darkness of a fish in the middle of the ocean--that Jonah has this intimate time with God. Much similar, it's in your darkest hours that you will find your sweetest and most powerful moments with God.
The whale vomits Jonah onto dry land and the prophet journeys to the great city. You would think Jonah would have faced major opposition there and could have very likely been run out, in the least. But amazingly--and in true God fashion--the whole city repents when Jonah prophesied Gods judgement on the city. The whole city, even the king! A fast is called for and as a result of their repentance, God spares the city from destruction.
Now you would think Jonah would be pleasantly surprised and exceedingly glad at God's compassion for the city, but he's not. In Jonah 4:1 it describes that Jonah was displeased and angry, so much so that he goes outside the city and pouts a bit. Jonah was so angry that the people of Nineveh were spared that he'd rather die! Why might you ask? Because he was an Israelite and those people were his enemies. His national pride meant more to him in that moment than the salvation of thousands of people. In that clouded judgment, God teaches Jonah a lesson through the provision and taking away of a plant that shaded the man. How can Jonah question God when it's God who provides in the first place? It's God's call. And with that, God puts that back on Jonah and it's abrupt ending leads us to believe Jonah knew he was left corrected.
What can you learn from Jonah and his story? Walk in obedience to what God is calling you to do! Don't hesitate or run in the opposite direction until God has to knock you off the wrong path. Learn from Jonah's mistake! Delayed obedience is still disobedience and who knows what that divergence could cause. If God is calling you to move and you're afraid or too proud to see what He might do, repent and move forward in that plan. Imagine what God can do with your obedience if He used Jonah's disobedience to save a wicked city?!
- Do you believe God is calling you out for a specific purpose and wonder if you can do it? Go to Him and commit your obedience to His plan, and step into whatever God is calling you into.