God’s Patient Pursuit of the Rebellious / Brandon Scalf
The book of Jonah is world famous. Christians and non-Christians alike are mesmerized and captivated by its audacious claims and peculiar characters. You would be hard-pressed to find a person that didn’t have an opinion on whether or not Jonah could (or couldn’t have) been eaten by a fish, whether this story was historical or whether it was fictional. But to focus on these questions, and others like it would be to miss the forest for the trees. Because the reality is this; the story of Jonah is bigger than you think it is.
More pointedly, however, the story of Jonah is a story about an unrelenting and gracious God who deals patiently and kindly with those who rebel against him and his mission to reconcile all things to himself. The story of Jonah is also not a story about a fish, but a story about how God pursues rebels (like you and I) and offers them life when they’d rather run headlong into the depths of hell. It’s not about a prophet delivering a convicting sermon that brought people to God, it’s about how God, despite Jonah’s cowardice, brings a nation of sinners to their knees in repentance. In short, it’s about how a big and holy God works in the hearts of little sinful people.
Maybe you haven’t heard the story of Jonah presented in this way. Maybe you are hearing this reality for the very first time. If that’s the case, please allow me to plead my case.
We don’t even get 5 verses into the story before we see the crookedness of Jonah’s heart. God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh to call out against the evil present in the city and his response was basically, “No thanks!”
“But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord (Jon 1:3)”.
It was literally Jonah’s plan to ignore God’s command and hide (as if one could hide from the sovereign creator and sustainer of all things). But let’s not be too hard on him, we too have broken and darkened hearts and have downright disobeyed what God has called us to do/be on at least a somewhat daily basis. To assert otherwise would only prove your biblical illiteracy and pride. We are more like Jonah than we would like to admit.
So, what am I getting at exactly? Well, mainly this; Jonah isn’t the hero of this story; God is.
…But the Lord
The Bible is filled with a ton of “but the Lord” and “but God’s” … and the “but Lords” and “but God’s” in the Bible are always bigger and badder than the “But Jonah’s” or “but (insert your name here)”. I know that’s a cheesy and cliché way to put it – but it’s true. God has a plan for us - and we would rather flip him the bird, so to speak, than trust in his provision and follow his lead. BUT GOD doesn’t reign down wrath instantly – though we’d rightly deserve it. No, He would rather reach down and show us grace and mercy when we turn our backs on him – though it may not feel like it in when we come in contact with his abrasive, redirecting hand. God’s plan to save his people from their sin is not going to be thwarted as the book of Jonah so beautifully illustrates.
“But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up (Jon 1:4)”.
Nothing about a storm screams “the help of God” unless you're keyed into the way God operates. Unless you’ve learned his character by reading the scriptures tirelessly. In the pages of the Bible you will learn that, contrary to common belief, God is not just interested in saving you from flames and hardships. He’s also interested in conforming you to the image of the son. And sometimes being conformed (or transformed) hurts. Sometimes it’s complicated, agonizing and abrasive. But that doesn’t mean it’s not grace. In fact, the very presence of trials and tribulations indicates that God is probably drawing you closer to himself. God is not afraid of the hellish mess that can become our lives. Just ask Jonah.
In Jonah’s story the storm brought new people to himself (Jon 1:16), brought Jonah to repentance in the belly of the whale, causing him to exclaim, “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (2:9), and changed the trajectory of an entire enemy nation (Jon 3:10.). If these incidents prove anything it’s this: God can bring a lot of life out of deathly situations.
So why did Jonah run? Why do we run? Well He tells us, or God rather;
“That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jon 4:2).
Jonah felt God was too nice to these Godless people. Jonah wanted justice now. He didn’t want to wait for the cross. He didn’t want them to repent. He wanted them dead. Right then. He didn't see his own sin, nor did he want good for them. He was prideful and arrogant.
So, here’s a probing question for you…. are we like Jonah? Do we run from God when he calls us to love people we’d rather not love? Even more, do we rejoice when God is gracious to our enemies? I think we both know the answer to that question. But there is grace.
Like I said above, God delights in reaching down and saving sinners like you and me. And he’s not waiting for you to come to him. He’s not waiting for you to find him. He’s not lost – we are. He doesn’t need help. We do. And I promise you, if you truly know Jesus – he will not let you run too far before chasing you back down. Salvation belongs to Lord! And He has literally orchestrated history in such a way that you can be saved through the person and work of Jesus Christ his son. So, trust in the God who uses fish to swallow men whole, the God who uses weak men to accomplish his tasks on the earth. And the God who will not rest until he has your heart. God is big enough. The cross is big enough. And it’s okay to be small.
This Blog Post was written by Brandon Scalf the Founder of Dead Men if you would like more information or to read the articles / resources they have available visit www.deadmenstuff.com