Did you ever get caught up with something that irritated you that it almost made you miss something else very important in your life? Sometimes we allow a thing to inconvenience us and become such a major source of annoyance that we lose focus on the bigger picture of life and what we are called to do.
For example, I remember hearing the story of how a national leader was eating a sandwich while he was driving and he accidentally spilled mustard on his pants. He was so caught up in trying to wipe the mustard off his pants that he took his eyes off the road and almost got into a tragic car accident!
Jonah was in a situation like this. He didn’t want to go to Nineveh, and didn’t want to see the Ninevites come to God and be saved. And so God rocked his world and brought a storm to stop his journey away from the will and destination of God. Then God brought a huge fish to swallow him up and hold him in bondage until he repented of his stubbornness and self-centeredness.
After he sang a song of praise to God, the fish got nauseous and threw him up on the land. Then Jonah reluctantly preached the word of God to the Ninevites. They responded by believing the message, repenting, and being saved from calamity!
Jonah hated the Ninevites the way we as Americans hated Osama Bin Laden. He hated the Ninevites this much because of the way they treated the children of Israel. And so, Jonah began pouting after God showed mercy to the Ninevites. Because of this, God continued to deal with him by using circumstances to teach him about His ways and reveal the sinful heart he, as a prophet of God, still had!
Jonah didn’t have his act together and still had many emotional issues but God still commanded him to preach and reach out to his neighbors! This is because spiritual formation and growth do not take place only with Bible studies and prayer. We must reach out and share the gospel with others in order to grow because as we reach others God reveals to us our own fears, prejudices, and stubbornness.
God always deals with us. We grow at the same time as we reach out to other people.
Philemon 1:6 says “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.”
In this chapter we see how God allowed Jonah to feel better with the shade from a plant that He grew. The shade represents times when God allows rest and peace in our lives.
Then God sent a worm to eat the plant so the sun and scorching heat could beat down on him. The worm and scorching heat are metaphors for when God allows the circumstances of life to place us in a time of testing.
This book shows that God uses all of nature to teach us. The sun represents the outer limits of space where the angelic and demonic beings are; the scorching heat represents times of testing from demonic forces; the strong wind represents the strong currents or forces that try to move us. The storm, the fish, the plant, the worm, the shade, the sun and the scorching east wind all represent facets of nature that God manipulates in our circumstances — which He uses to teach us His ways until we finally obey Him and the call He has on our lives.
This book shows us that as we minister to others God will order our circumstances and minister to us.
This book also shows us the great love God wants us to have, even for our enemies, and that He may send us to reach out to the very people who hate us or make us feel uncomfortable! God doesn’t only love Christians; He loves all people and wants to use His people to express that love. If we don’t do this, then God will order circumstances in our lives that will make us miserable until we relent and submit to His will.
Texts: Jonah 3:4-4:11; Acts 1:8-9
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