Reading God’s Word is always an adventure. Sometimes it feels like a stroll down memory lane, sometimes it feels like navigating the airport in a foreign country, and other days it feels like that moment when you see a house you have never noticed on a street you drive every day. Recently, I experienced the latter while journeying through the familiar story of Jonah.
If you are familiar with the story you will remember that Jonah was told by God to travel to the city of Nineveh to warn the people that God’s judgment was inevitable and repentance was their only hope. Jonah did not want to go. He had no interest in seeing Nineveh saved. His disobedience landed Jonah on a boat to Tarshish. God sent a dangerous storm and as the sailors attempted to navigate the danger, Jonah was asleep in the hold of the ship. The captain stirred him awake and insisted that Jonah call out to “his god” as the other men did. Eventually, Jonah would confess to being the target of the calamity. The men inquired of Jonah, “What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?” Jonah’s response? Throw me overboard!
As many times as I have read and heard this story I have considered this moment a grand gesture of nobility and selflessness. He was willing to die. However, as I pictured this scene as I read most recently I thought to myself, “HE WAS WILLING TO DIE!” Not only was Jonah willing to board a ship of strangers to go the opposite direction of God’s command, he was willing to die in his rebellion. He doubled-down in his disobedience. I forgot that in that moment Jonah did not know that God would send a fish to get him back on course. He did not know that God would spare his life at all.
Why did Jonah not call out to God in repentance? What if he had said to the sailors, “Turn the ship back and take me home. I must obey!” Perhaps God would have stayed the storm at the first tilt of the sail. Instead, he preferred to be killed.
Are you doubling down on your sin rather than stopping in your tracks, turning toward God, and moving in the direction that pleases Him? Before you go overboard, let’s remember that God’s ways are always bigger than ours and that He will accomplish His will. Maybe He will send a raft, maybe he will send a fish, but just maybe He will calm the storm of disobedience and give us safe passage to where we need to be. Take a step of faith and obedience and trust God to make a way. I learned this week that it takes 200 muscles to take even just one forward step. 200!! The thought of that is exhausting. However, with a slight change of perspective we realize that with every single step we engage, strengthen, and nurture at least 200 muscles. One step matters - make sure it is in the right direction.
This side of heaven, I will never know what Jonah was thinking or what motivated his willingness to go overboard. Was it humility and sacrifice from a heart that was sorry for the choices he had made? Or was it desperation and a desire to quit, from a man who saw no way out of his sin? I cannot say. However, this I do know, Jonah knew that “salvation is from the LORD.” Jonah 2:9
From the stomach of a fish, Jonah called out to God in repentance and faith and God rescued him - not just from the sea and death, but from sin. God set Jonah back on the path and graciously spoke to him again, “Arise, go...”
This time, more than 200 of Jonah’s muscles headed toward Nineveh.