“The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.” Jonah 1:1-3
Sometimes in life we find ourselves lost and in difficult situations that we have no control over. “Up the creek without a paddle,” so to speak. When we find ourselves at our lowest place, be it family issues, financial issues, health problems etc. It can be hard to rise above the harsh waters we find ourselves surrounded by.
It is all to easy to harbor bitterness and run in the opposite direction to avoid our conflicts, instead of facing them head on. In essence when we do this, we are hiding from God, much like Jonah.
God wanted Jonah to head north to the city of Nineveh, and preach to the lost. Jonah held bitterness against the people of Nineveh for they were evil in their ways, but the Lord was ready to have mercy on them, give them a chance, and attempt to save them from their evil ways. Jonah could not stand the fact that God was going to have mercy on such an awful people. We all have situations like this in our lives, where we either can’t stand to face a situation or person, or we cannot see how God could ever have mercy on others. We get into the wrongful way of thinking that a situation or person simply can’t be changed or that’s just the way they are and leave it at that. God can change anyone or anything; nothing is too hard for God.
O Sovereign LORD! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you! Jeremiah 32:17
Jonah fled and tried to hide from God, but the storms became worse for him. He was on a ship with some other men, and his sin was causing problems for the others, so he commanded them to throw him overboard. This is usually the case in our own lives. When we try to run from things, instead of deal with them head on, the problem just becomes worse, and it can affect everyone else around us. When Jonah saw how bad things got, he knew he had done wrong by trying to escape God’s will and having the wrong attitude. He figured that he had already failed God and that was it, but God had other plans.
God caused a great fish to swallow him and keep him for three days and three nights. During his time in there in solitude, he cried out to God and God heard him.
As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your Holy Temple. Jonah 2:7
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 threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. Jonah 2:1-3
The fish eventually released Jonah and he went on to do what God asked him to do. Sometimes it is in our lowest point that God is waiting to show mercy. That is usually when the miracle is about to happen, maybe because we are then humbled enough to actually hear from God. Sometimes we feel that our sin is too great, or the sin of others is too great that nothing can penetrate it. If God could reach Jonah at the bottom of the sea, He can meet us right where we are at.
Sometimes we need to reach rock bottom, in order to rise back up again, and see things with clear eyes. We cannot see God’s bigger picture, so sometimes we become so focused on ourselves or the problem we cannot dare to see any different. But that’s where we need to trust in God’s plan. Vengeance is God’s and God’s alone.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
“I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Romans 12:19-20
This is what God was trying to teach Jonah. In our human flesh we feel that people must pay for their action, and yes people have to deal with the consequence of their actions; however, God is saying, let me deal with the judgement, you just show the Love of God and watch as I change things for the better. We can give others edification; however, then it is best to step back and let God do what needs to be done.
Jesus forgave us in our sinful state, we must be careful not to try and repay evil with evil. Only Good conquers evil. We must always have a forgiving nature, for we were forgiven even though we didn’t deserve it. Its all too easy to want to hurt the person who hurt or offended us, but this just creates bitterness in our hearts, and stops the hand of God in their life also. We must be careful to guard our own hearts, but also be careful not to do more damage to an already damaged person by exacting their own actions on them.
If you want forgiveness, give it. If you want love, give it. If you want revenge on someone, expect the same actions to come back to you seven fold. We teach people how to treat us. (Luke 6:31) If we show the love of God to others, when all they are used to is hate and drama, you might plant a seed that will bear fruit later.
There are unfortunately people that will not respond kindly to your actions, or they simply will reject help completely, and there is nothing that can be done. Be careful in those situations as the more you try the more you can get hurt, the bible speaks of this. (Matthew 7:6) But, just ask for God’s discernment regarding different situations and He will give you wisdom in dealing with people or situations. Not all will accept God’s love or message of hope, but sometimes the ones you least expect are the ones that do. You would think the evil people of Nineveh would reject God. You would also think Israel God’s chosen people would accept God, but both did the exact opposite.
But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:15
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:21
Nineveh seemed like such a large place to conquer, sort of the like our problems can seem so big. But God used Jonah to save them and turn things around, even though Jonah had the wrong attitude. Jonah had a rocky start, but he eventually found his way and did something great for God; he surely became stronger in the process, and learned some valuable lessons about himself, others, and the mercy of God.
When you read up on survival tips, you read that whenever you are lost in the wilderness, you should use a compass and find true north. The reason is because when we find north, our brains are able to start from there and re-visualize the map to find our way again, a reference point for everything else so to speak. I am direction-ally challenged, so I think either way I would get lost, but this just speaks to the point I am trying to get across:
God is saying. In the hardships of life, always head towards God’s north. There is only one way to go once you have reached the bottom and that is UP. So how do we find God’s true north? We simply need to pray and ask Jesus to help redirect our lives. He will always find us when we are lost, He would search high and low for even one lost person, and His eyes are always fixed on our lives and the details, he cares about every single one of us. (Luke 12:6-7; Matthew 18:12-14) He is our compass, and our true north strong and free. If there is someone you are trying to reach that seems unreachable, leave them to God, He will find them where they are at. Or if there is something in your own life that seems impossible, then you need to look to God for help.
Man, just like a compass needle, will wobble before finding his True North. -Being Caballero
We might have some troubled waters before we find our way, but we WILL find our way with Jesus as our guide. Jonah knew what it was to bottom out spiritually and emotionally and what it was like to have God save him. Yet, somehow even after God delivered him he still complained.
Jonah went to Nineveh once again as God commanded him a second time, and gave him a message of judgement, that God would destroy the city in 40 days. Jonah did not expect the outcome , which was a repentant and redeemed people. Jonah knew God was a gracious and compassionate God who was slow to anger with unfailing love (Jonah 4:1-3) He was upset that God changed his plan to destroy Nineveh and nothing he predicted was going to happen, stating he would rather die than deal with being called a false prophet.
Isn’t this the way? We have a victory with God, and then when we are tested we go right back to our old motives. Or we let pride get in the way of God’s will for our lives or others because things don’t turn out or go the way we want them to, or think they should go. God chastised Jonah and stated he should not be angry. Jonah still waited around to see if any destruction would still occur to appease his ego. He waited under the hot sun on the east side of the city. God saw him in this unnecessary situation, and caused a leaf to grow over his head so he would not get a sun burn. Isn’t God good? While we are in our periods of testing or growing God still watches out for us.
Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. Jonah 4:5-6
But immediately after this, God caused a worm to eat up the plant, and the sun scorched again. Jonah became angry once again, and stated he would rather die than deal with this situation as well. God quickly pointed out that Jonah was wrong to be angry that the plant died. Here we see God extending an olive leaf to Jonah, and Jonah was joyful. But the moment something went wrong he turned into a drama queen.
He was upset that a worm destroyed one single plant that maybe provided shade, but in the meantime was worth nothing, yet in the city of Nineveh there were tons of precious souls about to be destroyed because of sin, and Jonah didn’t seem to care. Jonah was so focused on himself and his reputation and well-being, that he didn’t dare think of the people. He simply wanted to exact revenge on the people for their wrongdoing, when he himself was guilty of sin as well. Jonah was a prophet, so perhaps he knew that Nineveh being spared would be responsible for Israels downfall later on, but He needed to trust God’s plan instead of judging it.
Many people today serve God for the blessings rather than the message of hope that He brings to the lost. We want to save ourselves from hurt, but don’t dare to think of others. He was spiritually blinded by his own needs. This is the exact replication of Israels spiritual blindness and rejection toward Jesus Christ, who He was, and what He wanted to do for them, and for others.
Jonahs message of repentance was accepted by Nineveh, but not by the Israelite’s, God’s chosen. Jonah knew that by Nineveh being spared, this actually played into prophecy where the Assyrians would later capture the nation of Israel. Jonah, in 2 Kings 14 had previously prophesied that Israels cities would be restored, and they were when Jeroboam II ruled in Israel; however, now he faced the potential of being called a false prophet, as Nineveh would not be destroyed after all.
The message of repentance is not only for Israel but for Jews and Gentiles alike. (Romans 1:16) Jonah’s words were actually playing right into God’s plan for Nineveh to be spared. Jonah was patriotic and wanted to spare Israel; however, he knew now that Nineveh would destroy the nation. The Jews still rejected God over and over, as they were still looking for an earthly kingdom that would overthrow the worlds government, rather than the kingdom of God that is still to come.
God’s promises for Israel are still in effect, as is His promises for our lives now and forever. Jonah saw the current circumstance, just as the Israelite’s were focused on the here and now, rather than the eternal things, the bigger picture, and so here we see an evident lack of faith in God to handle earthly affairs.
It can be hard to understand God’s ways they are higher than our ways, but one thing I know is that He does work everything out for good. If you find yourself lost today, look to God’s true north where you will find strength and freedom to carry on no matter what situation you face. Thank God for the true north strong and free!
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28