I thought I knew this guy named Jonah from the Bible who was swallowed by a fish because he was disobedient to God. I had read the story, I knew the facts, but after listening to last Sunday’s sermon twice I discovered that I am Jonah; I am good-to-go-until-the-go-is-not-so-good!
For Jonah, the “not-so-good” go was Nineveh, his people’s deadly enemies. They had no use for Jonah, and, quite frankly, he couldn’t care less for them. I imagine him thinking, “God, I don’t understand this. You know these people are bad to the bone. Why would you give them a second chance? Don’t you see their dark hearts? I am not going to Nineveh!”
We all have a Nineveh. It may not a far away country; more likely it’s a nearby, familiar circumstance. That place where no one knows you, where no one likes you, where no one wants to hear what you have to say; the place for whatever reason we don’t want to go. The man in the next cubicle who has ridiculed your faith for years. He just got a pink slip, and God says, “Speak some grace into his life. You know he is hurting.” Or your next-door neighbor who is trampling four decades of marriage into the ground; she has no qualms about the pain she is piling onto her husband, children, and grandchildren. And God says, “Talk to her—again.” Or maybe your Nineveh is in your own heart: to give up an ungodly relationship (“But she really cares for me, Lord”); to speak some truth that could change a whole family dynamic (“But they may turn against me”); to right a wrong (“Lord, You know it won’t do any good; You know what she’s like”).
Yes, I am Jonah. Maybe you are too.
We can’t see how anything good can come out of what God is asking us to do. It is so unreasonable.
But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. – Romans 5:8
Does God realize there is a risk to what He is asking of us?
You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich. – 2 Corinthians 8:9
Oh, the uncomfortable grace of God—that He would ask us to reach out to people who don’t deserve it.
It’s so uncomfortable that we start running—and it’s all downhill from there, just like Jonah.
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish… Jonah 1:3
Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!… Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. – Jonah 1:15, 17
But that was Jonah’s salvation—down in the belly of a great fish. Jonah may have been finished with God, but God was not finished with him!
The book of Jonah is really not about Jonah; it’s not about Nineveh; it’s all about God and His passionate pursuit of those who run away from Him—for whatever reason. That is grace—and sometimes it’s uncomfortable. But for us, it’s everything.
“Lord, great is my stubbornness, but greater still is Thy faithfulness.” — Alan Redpath