Lately, I’ve been reading my way through the minor prophets. To be honest, I have a hard time following many of the books without a commentary to help clear things up a bit. “What is God really getting at here?” “Is there any hope for Israel?” “These are terrifying consequences for their disobedience; how are they not turning back to God sooner?”
These are the questions I find myself asking throughout these books. So much loss. So much pain. So much sin. So much disobedience.
I just wrapped up the book of Jonah. I felt a sense of relief as I finally jumped into a book that I could understand without consulting a theologian immediately. As I was reading, the Lord opened my eyes to see Jonah’s story in the light of loss and expansion…
Most of us who grew up in the Christian Church know his story. He was the guy who was told to go to Nineveh and ran way instead. Somehow, he got into the belly of a giant fish and stayed there for 3 days - ALIVE. When he was spit up on the shore, he finally obeyed God and went to Nineveh to preach. Nineveh was saved.
That’s the gist of it. That’s what I understood for much of my younger years. That was the whole story, I thought. Well - save a few key pieces of the story. How about Jonah being thrown out of ship into stormy waters? How about when Jonah was angry that God was going to save Nineveh?
Something that hit me differently while reading it this time was the part of the story when Jonah found himself in that boat. They came upon a huge storm that was growing worse and worse. It was such a terrible storm that the boat was almost ripped apart! I can’t imagine a storm that terrible. I don’t want to imagine it.
When I was a teenager, I went on a cruise with my family. One night, on the ship, we hit a huge storm while at sea. The ship was rocking so badly, all the furniture on the deck was flying off into the ocean. Everyone was rushing to get back to the safety of their rooms, however the storm was so wild that we all had to crawl to our rooms - no one could stand to walk! I sat in the window sill of my room and pulled the curtains closed around me so I could see the ocean. Wild, angry waves were crashing everywhere. It was a terrible sight, but I knew we were safe. Our ship was so much larger than the waves.
Sometimes, when life’s storms hit, we find ourselves in a tiny boat, like Jonah. It is so much smaller than the waves that we are threatened to be crushed and smashed to pieces by the storm. Our boat can’t withstand it.
This is where Jonah found himself, but initially, he wasn’t aware of how much trouble was surrounding him. He was sleeping down in the bottom of the boat. Who could sleep in a storm like that? Everyone on the ship was praying to their gods, hoping that one of them was real and would stop the storm. Someone went to wake up Jonah and yelled, “PRAY TO YOUR GOD THAT HE MAY SAVE US!” Jonah realized why they hit this storm. It was his own disobedience. He had been running from the Lord, he was living in sinful defiance to God. He was faced with his own reality and that his sins were going to be the death of everyone around him if he did not do something about it. He told the men, “This is because of me. Throw me overboard and God will end this storm.”
Hang on. This is where I was stuck. How in the world was Jonah able to say, “This is my fault; throw me overboard.” That was as good as saying, “Go ahead and kill me.” Then I heard the Lord ask me, “Lyndsay, do you feel the gravity of your sin the way Jonah did? He recognized the true consequences of sin. He FELT that death was the payment. Do you feel that?” Immediately, I felt conviction. For all my “regular, everyday” sins, I don’t feel that kind of grief. I don’t feel what those sins really cost to cover. I don’t feel the weight of what Jesus has done for me when I gossip, when I stretch the truth, when I lash out in anger, when I am deceitful, when I am lazy, when I am gluttonous. That is a loss I don’t allow myself to feel very often. I don’t think about what those “small” sins really cost. Someone has to be thrown into the wild and angry ocean to pay for those sins. And I deserve that. Like Jonah, I should be thrown in.
YET GOD. He didn’t allow Jonah to die. Jonah proved his heart in that moment; he knew what he had done and how it had grieved the heart of God. He knew he sinned against the LORD. He knew the cost of his sin and he was ready to pay. He wasn’t going to run away anymore. The LORD saved Jonah - in an unconventional and uncomfortable and unlovely way, yes - but He saved him nonetheless!
There’s so much more to unpack here in this story of Jonah’s life, but we’ll just hang out here today letting it all sink into our hearts and spirits.
How are you running from God?
Do you feel the weight of your disobedience?
Do you really know and feel the cost?
God is gracious and merciful. Just like He prophesied to Israel time and time again, if we would just turn our hearts back to Him and quit running to other lesser gods. If we would just praise His name again and obey Him again, He will save us. It may be a big, smelly fish, but it’s still salvation. It may be unconventional, uncomfortable, and unlovely, but it’s still salvation. It may be a baby in a manger to a poor family and an unwed mother, but it’s still salvation.
It wasn’t until Jonah was ready to lose his life that God saved him. It wasn’t until Jonah was ready to give his life that God saved everyone else on that boat. And not just physically either. When the storm stopped, the men realized they had been worshipping false gods all along and have now seen the TRUE God. They bowed down and started to worship the LORD. Even in Jonah’s sin, God was glorified. Even in Jonah’s disobedience, others were made right with God. But it took Jonah owning up to his sin, bringing to light his disobedience, and committed himself back to God for the others to be saved.
What might God do with your life when you quit running from him, bring to light your sin, and commit yourself back to Him?
How might people around you come to believe in the TRUE God because of your repentance?
How might the Kingdom of God EXPAND because of your obedience?
Jonah was ready to lose everything. Jonah really felt the loss. And it was that LOSS that made way for EXPANSION.
The men in the boat were saved. Then the whole city of Nineveh was saved from destruction. All because Jonah decided to quit running and start obeying.
Will you quit running today?
WRITTEN BY: Lyndsay Terry
Read more from Lyndsay @ www.lyndsayterry.com
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