The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord… Jonah 1:1-3
Why run from the assignment? After all, the people of Israel were not fond of the people of Assyria. And the opportunity to go preach against the Assyrians should have been a great way to stick it to them!
But Jonah knew what was involved in this preaching assignment. It was not only telling them that they were living in rebellion against God. It was also inviting them to come to God and find mercy.
So Jonah ran.
He didn't want to love those people. He did not want to see them changed. He was content to write them off and never think about them again.
Running was his way of pouting. Of expressing his arrogance. Of expressing denial.
There are so many people I want to see God love…Cute fatherless kids. Homeless and hungry veterans. Underdogs and misfits. Athletes and movie stars. And a few rock bands.
I’m not as eager to see God’s love wrap around people who bully, mistreat, manipulate, and mock others. I can feel Jonah's pain.
Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17
Jonah ran because he did not love. But he could not outrun God's capacity to love.
I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down til the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. Jonah 2:4-6
When we abandon mission and purpose, we are the ones who feel abandoned
“Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own mercies.” Jonah 2:8
Holding on to anything that God has not said,"yes" to or anything that God has said “no” to, will keep you from knowing Him as He wants you to know Him.
In fact, it is as if you are choosing your idol over His mercies.
What is in your hand? Stubbornness? Bitterness? Anger?
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Jonah 3:1-3
When God restores us, and stands us back up, we will be changed. But our mission may not change at all. God told Jonah to go do the exact thing He originally asked him to do.
And, just as Jonah had feared, the people accepted the message with open hearts.
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah 3:10
Obedience and change makes a difference.
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “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. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:1-3
Jonah had created an image of God that was not true. He was attempting to serve a god who agreed with his ideas of justice and acceptance. Jonah had created an idol.
If I worship a God that loves only who I love and gives mercy only to those who deserve it, I have created an idol.