Jonah: When We Don’t Want His Will

      “Should I ask her father?” The young man asked.

       “It was her dad’s request that any man dating his daughter would ask first wasn’t it?” I replied.

      “Well yeah, but even if he said no we would still see each other. His rules are so old-fashioned.” The young man returned.

       So many I know have the Jonah complex. We truly submit to God as long as we agree with the way He is doing things. But let Him go outside of our box of acceptability and what we call submission goes out the window.

    Jonah probably prophesied for God sometime between 875 and 850 B.C. He was a prophet of God. He was actually from the Northern kingdom of Israel and was noted as a prophet in the palace of  King Jeroboam II according to II Kings 14:25.

    Sometime during the course of his ministry, though, God changed Jonah’s job description. The Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh and prophesy to the Assyrians in hopes of getting them to repent.

     Have you ever been asked by God to do something that was entirely not O.K. with you?

     Many years ago I had a falling out with a certain Christian brother. It was all “his fault” of course. I had nothing to do with our problems.      In my blindness I was “foolish” enough to pray for God to resolve the issue. I guess I thought God (being on my side and all) would just smite the guy with boils or something.

    I was at the altar fervently interceding over the situation when the Holy Spirit said something that stopped me dead in my tracks.

    “I want you to go and ask  him to forgive you for your impetuosity.”

    “Come again Holy Spirit?” I asked quite sure I had not heard Him right.

    “I want you to go and ask for forgiveness for your impetuosity and lack of regard for his feelings.” The Spirit reaffirmed.

    “But God I haven’t done anything wrong!” I complained.

     “If you do not get up and go right now I will remove your anointing.” The Spirit promised.

      Jonah had a similar problem. God told him to go to Nineveh. Now the Assyrians who inhabited Nineveh were enemies of Israel. Every good Northern Jew wanted God to wipe out the Assyrians. Yet here was God telling Jonah to go with a message to see if the citizens of that city would repent.

     It was not O.K. with Jonah that God wanted to give the Assyrians a chance to repent. So Jonah turned down the job. He refused to obey. He rebelled. He ran in the other direction. He boarded a boat for Tarshish.

     You know well enough the rest of the story. Prophet gets caught in God-sized hurricane. Prophet gets thrown over board. Prophet gets eaten by big fish. Prophet gets vomited out on beach. Prophet goes to Nineveh. Nineveh repents. Prophet gets really ticked with God for saving the enemies of Israel.

      The story of Jonah you see is more about what God is trying to do with Jonah than about what God is trying to do with the Assyrians. God is trying to Get Jonah to see that God is god and Jonah is not. Jonah you see was like you and me. He felt he had his “rights”. He felt he should have a say in how God ran the show.

    Now you might say “I am absolutely not like that.”

    Really? How did you react to God the last time He didn’t answer a prayer. Did you say “Well that’s it! God must not be real then if He can’t even answer my prayers.”?

     You see true submission to God begins as soon as we question how God is doing things. You know what I’m talking about: The car breaks down the day you get laid off, the guy you prayed healing for a month dies, God tells you to be honest with someone and it ends up getting you in trouble. 

     You see submission is not about agreement with authority and it’s not about getting the best results. It’s about being obedient to God even when we disagree and even when things turn out badly (according to us).

      God was trying to teach Jonah to submit and Jonah wasn’t having any of it.

      God was trying to teach me to submit and I am glad to say I at least got that one right. I went as God commanded and ate humble pie. Later on it turned out that if I had not done that my reputation could have been greatly harmed. God spared me.

    In the days we live in submission to God is going to be a key. Not only that, the church is going to have to learn to submit to the rightly delegated authorities God has raised up within and around  her. There will be no place of protection in judgment for a rebellious church.  

    This then is one of the messages of Jonah to us. What other messages do you see in Jonah that pertain to our days?