They say that in Israel, the scriptures come to life. This is true. Reflecting back on my visit to the port of Joppa, and reading the book of Jonah, I got to thinking about storms, and pride, and bad attitudes.
As I read, I saw that in chapter 1, Jonah is running from God. God says “go to Nineva,” and Jonah says “no way. I’ll buy a ticket, sail to Tarshish (Spain) and get away from this call.”
So he sets sail, and God causes this huge storm. The crew members worshiped false Gods. They discovered that Jonah was a Jew and asked him to pray to his God to stop the storm. Jonah knew why the storm had come, so he tells the crew to toss him over. And we all know what happens then, 3 days in the belly of the fish.
Yet Jonah repents.
Now pause, here is what I am pondering. Did Jonah repent because of the storm? Because of the crew’s rejection of him? Because of the fish? Maybe all of the above, I dont know. But the cool thing about it is this: Once the crew tossed Jonah overboard, the storm stopped, and the crew worshiped God. The way I see it is, God was glorified despite Jonah’s disobedience in that the pagan crew had the chance to witness a miracle and be changed. Jonah was running, but God knew that the crew would glorify Him as a result. Maybe thats why God let him run.
Another observation is that, Jonah ran from God, and God caused a storm to get him back on track. This makes me wonder about the storms in my own life. When storms come, I tend to want to blame it on “spiritual warfare” but could it be that God uses a storm to humble us and get us back on the right path?
So Jonah, from the belly of the fish, prays this beautiful prayer of repentance:
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said:
“In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave [a] I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the deep,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me, [b]
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit,
O LORD my God.
7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the LORD.”
10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
So Jonah follows God’s call to Nineva and preaches repentance. Now you would think that after the whole whale thing, Jonah would have learned his lesson, but he did NOT. After preaching to Nineva, the Nenavites REPENT, and Jonah is mad!! But why is he mad? He is mad because God had compassion, and chose not to bring calamity to the Ninevites. Jonah is mad because what he prophesied will not in fact come true. He is worried about looking bad, maybe? He has a little issue with pride, it could be?
The truth is that God IS abounding in mercy. He is so full of compassion, he forgives those who repent time and time again. Yet look at Jonah. He goes out of the city, and builds a shelter to sit and pout hoping that God will still fulfill the prophesy of destruction Jonah had predicted. Read what happened next:
5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.
7 But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 8 And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed.
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”
“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”
10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness,[a] not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
It seems that Jonah was more concerned with his own image and comfort than with the souls of thousands of people. And that is where the story ends.
Do we know what happened next to Jonah? No we do not. But as much as God had mercy on him, I bet He still continued to use him and bless him.
So my question for you, and for me, is this: what are you running from? What is God calling you to do? Has he asked you to do something and you are avoiding, ignoring, or even running from his voice? Or maybe you are in the midst of a storm and wondering why the trails wont stop. Could it be God is using a storm to redirect your course? For me, I think I need an attitude adjustment. I identify most ( i hate to admit) with prideful Jonah at the end of the story who was too concerned with how he looked to others (even unbelievers) than seeing a nation come to faith, belief and repentance. How often do I back down from opportunities to share the good news of Christ with others because I fear it will make me look foolish? How many times have I kept quiet when I clearly felt the spirit prompting because I feared the reaction of others. For me, this little visit to Joppa was a wake up call, to be bold in proclaiming my faith, to forsake the pride that comes with maintaining some image I have of myself, and boldly follow God’s call, no matter the cost.
Pray for me, share how this relates to you, and lets pray for each other.