Posted by: bellissimanh | June 29, 2009

Running Away

slide-wide-jonah-1

During Sunday morning worship, we’re beginning a series in Jonah, and so I spent much of last weekend digging into the first three verses. As I studied and allowed the Word to speak to me, the Lord impressed several things upon my heart…. so now I’m doing what I usually do — share them with you. šŸ™‚

1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 ā€œArise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.ā€ 3 But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:1-3)

I found lots of historical background on Ninevah. The Assyrians were a wicked nation known for their brutality. They were culturally advanced, but morally corrupt, and known for their fierce brutality.

Israel, while not as bad off as Ninevah, was far from fulfilling God’s desire for her. She was to be a missionary nation (Isaiah 43:21), but instead of that had become anti-gentile. Gen. 12:1-3 says that they were to be the instrument of salvation to other natiosn… but they were unwilling. To Jonah, the thought of going to Ninevah to declare the Lord’s salvation must have been something akin to asking a Jew to go and proclaim peace to Nazi Germany.Ā  Talk about God asking you to do something tough! The prejudices aside, IsraelĀ  was also not walking with the Lord.

The command: “Arise… go… call” was intended not only to extend salvation to Ninevah, but also to serve as a rebuke and a wakeup call to Israel, perhaps sparking revival. A look later on in the book offers Ninevah’s repentance as a sharp contrast to Israel’s disobedience. But that’s getting ahead of things a bit.

Being the election freak that I am, I always love when I see the concept of being chosen by God – completely due to His sovereignty and completely unrelated to any personal merit – in the pages of Scripture. I see that with Ninevah. This scene is a perfect picture of God’s action to save unworthy and uninterested sinners (there is no one that seeks Him (Rom. 3:11)). What had Ninevah done for God? Nothing… they weren’t even seeking Him!

“…their evil has come up before Me.” – God’s discovery of sin is its uncovering, and it comes with divine mercy.

He does the same thing in my life. He sheds His divine Light on areas of sin in my life and uncovers them. Sometimes I run, much like Jonah, and try to pretend I don’t see what He’s pointing out to me. Those times leave me feeling isolated and depressed… because living with sin isn’t living at all. It feelsĀ more like a slow death. It creates distance between my Father and I and the darkness that begins to creep in makes things even more difficult.

The more I grow in my walk with the Lord, the more I realize that I WANT Him to “discover” my sin. I want Him to make me aware of the things in me that need to be put to death, so that He can live through me. Through that process of sanctification, I experience His grace and mercy anew. I learn more about myself, but more importantly, I learn more about HIM. Each layer that is stripped away shows me more of His character… more of what He likes… more of what He desires from me… more of what delights His heart. I want to bring a smile to His lips, don’t you?

And then those fateful words: Ā “But Jonah…”

Instead of going where the Lord is sending him, Jonah heads in the opposite direction. Tim pointed out Sunday that the Hebrew word (yarad) for “went down” actually intimates that Jonah was not just changing location, but taking willful steps of disobedience away from the Lord. Pretty brazen, huh?

Yeah… I can be that way too sometimes. Ouch.

Jonah’s attitude reflects my own sometimes. I often value my comfort above the souls of those who need to hear of judgment and mercy… and not just in terms of salvation. Often the Lord is asking me to extend mercy to someone and my stubborn pride and selfish heart doesn’t want to give it. I think they don’t deserve it. I think that withholding that grace is going to “teach them a lesson” or better yet “I don’t want to enable them.”

There are times when we are called to speak the truth in love, but there are also times when we are called to be grace dispensers.

Jonah knew his theology. He knew the Lord was the sovereign Creator. He knew the Lord was just and compassionate… a forgiving God. He knew all of those things. The problem was his heart.

As is so often the case with mine.

One commentator wrote (and this is what really hit me between the eyes), “It’s a short step from dislike to disobedience.”

Jonah didn’t like the people of Ninevah. That emotion led him to willfully disobey the Lord. And the same thing can happen to me. There are people who rub me the wrong way. Maybe we’re too different. Maybe we’re too alike. Whatever the reason, sometimes I just plain dislike someone. Before you judge me too harshly, think about your own life. Aren’t there people who just annoy you? You don’t wish them ill, you just don’t care for them much.

“It’s a short step from dislike to disobedience.”

So what do we do? We pray for them. We bless them. We love on them. We ask the Lord to change our heart toward them. And then we obey.

The Lord spoke this truth over a particular relationship in my life that has seen its share of ups and downs this year. I realized that my “dislike” could very easily lead me to disobedience. And so I resolved to do something about it.

“We must remember that the goal of Scripture is not to be learned but to be lived. God intended his Word to be practical truth — a gift that prepares us to do every good work.” ~ Phil Ware

This is the quote in my email signature. It’s on my facebook page. I believe it through and through… but if I don’t live it, I’m spending all my time studying in vain.Ā  I want to beĀ soaked in the Word, and to have it not just spill off my lips, but to pour from my life. I want it to change me, until I no longer resemble the woman I once was, but instead look more like Christ each day.

God will have His way with Jonah, as later chapters will reveal. I’ll leave you with a quote I came across in my studying (forgive me for not remembering where it came from)… “God wins out, as He always does. In the process He drenches the paths of our lives with His truth and grace.”

Rain down on me, Lord!

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Responses

  1. Welcome back! I’ve missed your teaching and sharing. Thank you for giving me something to meditate on this morning.
    Blessings ~ Lisa

  2. Walking in this Sister, walking in this….thanks for the encouragement to just do the thang!

    Lovingly,
    Yolanda

  3. I had to come back and link to you!!!

  4. It’s funny how so many of us were on the same page here recently. I too want God to rain down on me like flood! I desire nothing less than a good soaking in the Word.

  5. Hi, I came over to your blog place from Yolanda’s. Glad I did…your post for today is another confirmation of the message God’s been speaking to me the past days. So timely!

    I’ll surely be back to visit you again…

    Thanks for sharing the lessons you have learned. I particularly was struck by this thought – it’s a thin line between dislike and disobedience.

  6. Hi,

    I’m visiting from Yoldanda’s blog.

    Just wanted to let you know that occasionally, a little of Jonah rises in me.

    Dislike.

    Discomfort.

    Disobedience.

    During these times, our loving God speaks to me through His word.

    And changes my heart.

  7. It’s a short step from dislike to disobedience. Oh, that one hits home…..

    Blessings,

    Jim

  8. Amen! I really needed to read these words today. God is working in this area in my life as I write these words. Thank you for blessing my heart this morning.

  9. Do you have the slide without the word ‘Jonah’ on it? I’m preaching on this book this Sunday and might like to use it.


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