I have a new favorite verse. So you don’t skip ahead out of shear frantic anticipation, it’s Jonah 3:3
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.Jonah 3:3
I laugh out loud when I read it now, because it’s so typical of me… and us, as people. Jonah is a very short book of just 4 chapters. The first 2 are laying down the foundation for the scripture quoted above.
God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and speak against the people there. But Jonah doesn’t obey. Instead he tries to run from God. The men on the boat he is fleeing in throw him overboard where he is swallowed by a great fish. For 3 days AND nights (72 hours) he is inside the belly of this fish.
I imagine he had some time to think, don’t you? Guess what Jonah did… he repented! You saw that coming didn’t you? What else was there to do? Well, I’m sure he was anticipating how the fish was digesting him, or how he might drown, or how other scary critters might be eaten alive by this fish… all around him is death. It’s not whether he will die or not, it’s in which horrific way will he die and how many seconds left until that happens?
God, our creator, seems to know this about us. We get easily distracted. So when He wants our attention, he removes EVERYTHING else from our view so we can focus on Him. And what I’m learning is that if we don’t do it for Him, He will do it for us. Jonah’s horrific life altering episode was simply God clearing His throat and saying, ‘pardon me, Jonah, might we speak?’ (essentially).
It’s hard to put ourselves into Jonah’s shoes, isn’t it? The reality of this happening to us is fairly non-existent… unless, that is, God wants our attention. But we can get back to that in a minute… so Jonah repents and the fish spits Jonah out on dry land. Chapter 3 starts off the exact same way chapter 1 starts off…
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”Jonah 3: 1- 2
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.Jonah 1: 1 – 2
I put them both above so you can compare. Notice how God doesn’t embellish? There is no disapproving tone, no ‘I told you so’, and no threat. He simply restates the mission and Jonah has the same options he had before. He could obey or disobey. He already tried disobedience and that did not work out well. Jonah must not have wanted to try the odds of God releasing him again, because the very next words on paper were, “so Jonah arose”… and he did exactly what God asked him to do.
My question is, what is God asking you to do? Do you feel like you are in the belly of a fish? Maybe not a literal one, but how is your job? How is your spouse? How are your relationships? Do you feel like you are about to drown in suffering? Can you not see the healing at the end of the pain?
Consider this. Maybe there is something that needs to be repented. Perhaps God is removing distractions for you? What is keeping both eyes and your heart off of God?
Whatever you are going through, lets be chapter 3 Jonahs and not chapter 1’s. But what about chapter 4? Even better! The people of Nineveh actually listened to the words from Jonah and they repented. God didn’t punish them because they repented. This confused Jonah. He went in as a prophet speaking the words of God and God didn’t destroy Nineveh like He said.
Jonah… the one who JUST repented and was saved… didn’t understand why Ninevah was saved when they repented. Easy… it’s that easy to take your eyes back off God and get distracted again. Whether you are Jonah or Nineveh, or the Israelite’s at almost any point in history… God wants your attention. Give it. Give it always.
Feeling distracted? Let God in, repent, and listen.