Sunday, June 6, 2010

This week's message: Rebellion and Repentance

Jonah chapters 1-2.
We see Jonah moving from a place of closeness with God to trying to hide himself from God's face. In the process, Jonah is moving from a high place to lower and lower places. He starts in Jerusalem and goes down to Joppa to board a ship. Once on the ship he goes down into the lower decks. When the storm rises, Jonah is even in a deep sleep. When they throw him overboard, he sinks down and comes to an all time low after being swallowed by a fish. So we see this progression from high to low, from near to far in his relationship with God.

All of this because God asked Jonah to do his job. Jonah was a prophet. His job was to hear from God and tell the people God's words. This time, though, Jonah does not want to speak forth the words of God. Jonah has been asked to go to Nineveh, the capital city of the nation seeking to overthrow and conquer his nation and his people. "Get up and go!" was God's command. Jonah did get up and go, but in the opposite direction.

When Jonah finds himself unable to hide himself from God, having been swallowed by a great fish, he cries out to God. In chapter 2, we see a prayer of Jonah's and interestingly enough he never says he is sorry. Jonah never asks for forgiveness. He does not grovel. He does not bargain. He simply sees his situation of being at the end of himself--literally at the end of his life--and calls out to God.

And God hears him. God lifts Jonah out of the pit he has dug for himself. This is not in reference to Jonah's position in the stomach of a fish, but rather a renewed sense that life is not over. God lifts him out of the pit, then Jonah makes a commitment to fulfill his responsibility as a prophet, and finally God causes the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land.

Too often, we find ourselves resisting what we know God wants us to do. So we run and try to hide ourselves, but we never move in a positive direction. We descend, further from God, further from the source of our life. We find ourselves in a fish-belly of a mess. The key is to realize that God is waiting for your cry. He is not standing by waiting to make sure you are "really sorry" before he jumps in. One cry, one call for help, one extended hand and God is there to breathe new life and restore you to right relationship with himself.

I don't know what God is calling you to do. Your Nineveh is probably much different from my Nineveh. It may be that your Nineveh is in your own home, shining a light to your family. It may be that your Nineveh is in your extended family. Maybe your Nineveh is taking the light of Christ with you into the workplace when you would much rather leave it at home. It could be even bigger like answering a call to minister or to go to other nations to bear witness to Christ at work within your life. Whatever the call, I encourage you to answer it with a "yes."

Please don't wait until you find yourself in the belly of a whale to make your choice. And who knows what God has planned to do with your witness. In Jonah's situation, his obedience paid off in ways he could never have imagined, making a difference in the lives of thousands.

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