February 17

Jonah Rejects Godís Call

Jonah 1,2; Nahum 3

KEY VERSE: But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.

-- Jonah 1:3

Nobody can discuss Jonah without bringing up the whale. So letís get the whale thing out of the way first. First, remember that the Bible does not say "whale;" it uses the word "fish." Then please understand that the significance of Jonah does not hinge on what you think about the possibility of a big fish swallowing a man. Take care not to stumble over this strange story and miss the whole point of the book!

When I come to stories like this, I simply start singing the chorus, "Nothing is impossible, if you put your trust in God," and move on. You can too.

Two funny observations about Jonah may be enjoyed. One, the fish obeyed God when Jonah did not, for God "commanded" the whale to vomit Jonah out on land. Two, a fish can stomach a backslider for only three days before it becomes sick of him!

Letís summarize the story of Jonah, for in many ways it is the story of every person: God called. Jonah ran. Jonah was miserable. God showed mercy. Jonah obeyed God. Thatís a good 5-point outline for a message on Jonah, and its relevance for us is obvious.

God calls. We run. We are miserable. God shows us mercy. But each of us must respond to Godís mercy with obedience if our story is to have a good ending. Like Jonah we can think of dozens of excuses for not obeying God.

God called me to preach when I was in my teens, still in high school. But I doubted. I ran. I tried to write my own ticket in college. But I was miserable. Only when I surrendered to Godís call and stopped running like Jonah did I find peace. Ever since then I have pleaded for sufficient grace to continue to obey God. God in his mercy has given me a sense of fulfillment in responding to his mission for my life.

Our oldest son, Matt, heard God call. Like Jonah he ran to the sea. He spent 10 years in the Navy. He saw the world but in no port did he find peace for he was running from God. Finally Godís mercy overwhelmed Mattís misery. He began to obey God. Now he is finishing his final year of seminary at age 44. Like Jonah Matt has begun to obey God. In obedience he will find the joyous fulfillment of Godís mission for his life.

And you? Are you still running from God? Learn from Jonah. You will never have peace with God while running and making excuses. Start obeying God. Youíll be glad you did!