I'VE GOT THIS ALL WRONG!
Welcome to our first prophetic book in our TYB schedule – the book of Jonah. We have changed writing style and are now into the books that describe the lives and messages of the Old Testament prophets. These men of God that brought the Word of the Lord to the people of Israel, most of the time warning them of what was to come if they did’t turn to God. Imagine that responsibility, God giving you a word for a whole city? I get super nervous when I have to give a word to a person let alone God asking me to go to a city. Let’s go a step further not only does he give you a word for the City but it isn’t even one of those words of blessing, you are going to be amazing, God is going to give you all you want prophecies that everyone loves to receive. He wants you to go to the city and preach against them. What a call, would you go?
Firstly let’s have a look at the funny concept of running from God, I find this quite hysterical, because you really can’t run from someone who is all-knowing and all-powerful and everywhere at all times. He definitely hasn’t read Psalm 139:7-8 - “Where can I go from your Spirit..If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” I love that Jonah made the decision to run and then in his head thought Tarshish – God won’t be in Tarshish. As you read the Bible it is great to put yourself in the place of these incredible people and try and work out why they made these decisions. So why did Jonah run to Tarshish? Tarshish was west of Jonah’s home town and the most remote destination available to Jonah away from Nineveh.
I think at times we completely misinterpret the book of Jonah, some people may see it as the story of ‘a mean God pursuing this poor prophet who didn’t want to go and give a prophecy that God is making him give of doom, gloom and damnation and pursued by God, is forced into a large fish all so that God’s will could come to pass.’ Anyone else been reading Jonah like that the whole time – I was!
But there are some key scriptures in Jonah that show that this is not the case at all, does God give Jonah a message for Nineveh of warning – yes he does, does God pursue Jonah, cause the seas to rage, for Jonah to be thrown into the ocean, swallowed by a large fish, vomited out by the fish (eewww) so that he can go and preach to the people – yes he does. But let me show you the thing that flips this story on it’s head. The motivation behind Jonah’s actions compared to the motivation behind God’s changes the story completely.
In life if we forget that God is good, loving and kind and has our best at the core of his heart, we can perceive the things that God is doing in our lives as punishment. But in fact, it is either protection or provision (providing a new facet in you, a new gift, a new level of character.) Let me show you what I mean:
What was Jonah’s motivation for running away from God, was it the fact that he didn’t want to give a prophecy of doom and gloom? No, it wasn’t. We find in Jonah 4:1-3 the motivation behind why Jonah ran, it says
“Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” What!! Jonah didn’t run from God out of not wanting to be a bad guy, he ran from God because he knew that when he gave the people the message to repent that God was so gracious, loving and slow to anger that he would forgive them and not do what Jonah was preaching about, and he would look like the bad guy. This is so funny. Doesn’t that change the whole story. God wasn’t pursuing Jonah because of his rebellion and making him do what he wanted him to do, he was pursuing Jonah to correct his heart and his motivation for prophesying. He was pursuing Jonah to use him to save a whole city. Jonah didn’t like the Ninevehites, the Assyrians, he wanted God to destroy them, he didn’t want God to forgive them and he didn’t want to forgive them himself.
At times we feel like God is forcing us to do things that we don’t want to do, maybe it is overcoming that sin in your life, or forgiving someone you really don’t want too, or even reading your Bible. And if we forget the nature of God we can see this as a mean God that makes me do things, but ultimately God is a good Father that wants the best for you and if you see the motivation behind these actions, it changes the way you see his actions.
I love the life lesson that God gives Jonah at the end. Again, this is so funny imagine this, Jonah has given the Word of God, still hoping that God will smite them, he has made himself a little shelter, sitting in the shade, overlooking the city to ‘see what would happen to the city.’ He is hoping for fireworks, he is hoping for Sodom and Gomorrah, like waiting to see a show, he has set himself up to watch Nineveh be destroyed, he probably brought popcorn or marshmallows to roast on the fire. Oh my, this prophet needs some heart surgery – he has got himself a big offence, his furious when God doesn’t do what he wants! God provides a tree for shade and then kills it, and gives Jonah this incredible lesson in life in 4:10 “You have been concerned about a plant, through you did not tend it or make it grown. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left – and also many animals.” And then the book abruptly stops.
This strange little book that seemingly focuses on Jonah and the whale is actually all about the compassion of God for his creation, for his people. He gives warnings, not to destroy them but to save them. Just like in your life, he walks you through things not to destroy but to save you, to mould you, to increase your character, to give you your best life because he loves you. Today as you read Jonah get a new perspective of the things in your life.
Memory verse for this week: Jonah 4:2 “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” Know that today – memorise that verse, ponder on it, meditate on it.
Have a great time reading Jonah, don’t forget if you have any Bible questions just email us under Contacts tab and we will get back to you with an answer.