I am going through the book of Jonah and in one of my devotions last week I was reading Chapter 2: 1-2.
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me!
You are probably familiar with the story of Jonah, but I’ll provide a little background, so we are all on the same page.
In chapter 1, God instructs Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and proclaim judgment against it.
But instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah gets up, heads down to Joppa and boards a ship headed in the opposite direction, to a city called Tarshish “to get away from the LORD.” (1:3)
Now Tarshish is a long, long, long way from Nineveh. Like 2,500 miles away! The maps I checked indicate that Nineveh was only about 500 miles away.
Does that it familiar? Has God ever told you to do something and you did the exact opposite? And not a small “oversight”, no. But a calculated, deliberate act of disobedience? Well, Jonah did.
And somewhere between Joppa and Tarshish, God sends a massive storm that terrifies everyone in the ship. Everyone, except Jonah, that is. Preacher man is asleep down in the hold!
Imagine with me for a moment. Big storm, so big it’s threatening to break the ship apart, hardened sailors crying out to their gods for help, throwing stuff overboard.
And you are sleeping. The cause of all the trouble and you are blissfully unaware. Not even a tweak of guilt (because you are running from God!) to keep you awake?
Now I’d love to throw some stones at Jonah but I’ve sailed those waters too.
I’ve been disobedient, and not one bit bothered. A heart so hardened I wasn’t even aware God was trying to catch my attention.
Now back to Jonah. The captain of the ship does catch up with him and cannot believe the man is asleep. So they try to figure why there’s a storm, and they cast lots and guess who it falls on? Jonah.
Incredible, isn’t it, how we can run away from God but He still catches up. You do your best to ignore God, even make a little headway and He still finds you!
God tells you to clean up your act, and you pretend you didn’t hear until a wild preacher yells it to your face on the street (true story.)
You ignore God’s tugging about the length of your skirt and the depth of your neckline until your husband starts to stare at scantly-dressed women (Not saying his stray eye is your fault but see how the shoe pinches when it’s in your feet?)
Well, Jonah had his moment.
And he owns up. “Okay, I am the culprit, throw me out of this ship” The sailors initially refuse to toss Jonah out but they are left without a choice when “the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it” (1:13)
So out goes Jonah and the Lord sends a fish to swallow him. By now Jonah must have been having serious second thoughts about not going to Nineveh.
Chapter 2, where I park today, talks about his change of heart.
From the belly of the fish, Jonah cries out to God.
This is his situation; he’s on the run from God. He sleeps through the early warning signs. God catches up with him. He is thrown into a stormy sea. He’s now in the belly of a giant fish.
If I were Jonah, I would be thinking “God is mad at me. Look at all He’s done to get me. A destructive storm, calling me out from a crowd of heathen sailors, makes sure I am thrown overboard. Now I am fish food.”
The last thing many of us would be thinking is “Wait, let me pray, and I bet He’ll save me.”
That’s the lesson God was teaching me last week. How often, I tend to see His wrath and completely miss His mercy.
God shared these two things that I am going to leave with you today;
1. There’s not a place I can run that God can’t find me.
There’s no situation so complicated, distant or sinful that God can’t deliver. Sometimes I convince myself, in moments of fear, that I’ve gone too far, sinned too much.
There was a time I was convinced that our marriage was too messy, even for God. And since I am a mentor at heart, my devastation knew no bounds. “I blew it. The day has come when I am no longer usable to God.”
Have you had similar lies circling your mind? You might not speak of them. But you walk on eggshells, trying to keep all the balls in the air, dreading the day you’ll drop them all.
I don’t know what the enemy has you convinced today. I don’t know what you have done that has you thousands of miles from God’s original plan.
Maybe it’s an area of marriage you’ve given up on. A personal struggle, trouble in your extended family, secret sin.
Jonah got to this place where He began to believe that God could deliver him, even in his disobedience.
You and I must come to that place. Where we begin to believe that we are not too far from God, after all.
Some of us need to hear that God is near. He has not left us to die in the belly of a fish.
The wages of sin is death (the cost to disobedience), but Christ came to give us life..and life more abundant. He loves us and longs to save us.
2. I must believe that God can handle me/it.
Because that’s what will have me crying out to God in the first place. I must have a proper understanding of God; see Him as One who loves, not as One who only punishes sin and disobedience. His compassion is greater than His judgment.
Maybe you need to rethink the way you see God. It’s impossible to turn to God for help when you believe He’s the source of all your problems. It’s hard to go to God when you refuse to take personal responsibility for where you are.
Friend, I am struck by how much we are all like Jonah. We are a messy people, but we are loved passionately by a great God. He pursues relentlessly because He doesn’t want us to miss His purpose.
That’s why disobedience hurts.
It’s not because God enjoys hurting us, it’s because it speaks a language a human soul cannot ignore. Pain and brokenness are the wages of sin, but He uses them to help us turn back home.
Will you allow God into those hurtful, maybe disobedient, places of your heart? Throw off the unbelief? Allow God to arrest you, like He did Jonah, right there in the middle of your mess.
Maybe you don’t know why you speak the way you do to your husband. You can ask God to arrest you next time your mouth starts to run.
Maybe your marriage is a mess. Or it’s average. Or quietly struggling. Ask God to show up! He might begin to point out things, like the ungodly TV or music you listen to, which has influenced the way you think and filled your marriage with the world.
Ask God to cleanse your heart and uproot those things from your life.
I pray this devotion has blessed you and challenged you, as it did me. May your week be filled with God-encounters!
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