Readings: Jonah 1 – 4, the whole book.
A trip through the OT would not be complete without a look at the story of Jonah. Just as a trip through the AT would not be adequate without a view of McAfee Knob in Virginia, one of the most stunning viewpoints on the trail. How do we get to the story of Jonah? The story is set in the same time period our trip through the OT left off. King Jeroboam II is the king of Israel. If you glimpse back at 2 Kings 14: 25, one can see Jonah advising the king how to restore his territories. But this time, God is asking Jonah for a much harder task. He is called out of his comfort zone, to a place he has no desire to visit, Nineveh. A place 10 days away by foot, 789 miles. This would be like traveling through some of North Carolina and all of Virginia on the Appalachian Trail. Not to mention, Ninevah was home to a very powerful empire, ancient in origin, home of the Assyrian empire. Jonah had many valid reasons to fear this journey. The funny part of the story is that Jonah, trying to escape God’s call, was on a ship trying to get as far as possible from his current situation; he was on a boat taking him to Tarshish, a city in Spain. Not a bad place to escape, dear Jonah.
But instead of retelling the story that a grade school youth raised in the church could recite by memory, we are going to look at parts of these four chapters that are significant and very mysterious. Do take a moment and read through the 4 chapters. Let’s look at the sailors upon the ship. They knew Jonah was a prophet, a man of God. He shared with them his plight, “he was running away from his God”. (10) These sailors try their hardest to care for their travelers. They throw off their own cargo. (5) They even begin to pray and plead with Jonah’s Hebrew God (14), “the God of heaven, who made the sea and land” (9) But the most curious and honest comment from these men of the sea was their statement, “O Lord you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.” We know the reasons God sent this storm upon Jonah, but does God still send storms in our own lives? And if he has sent a storm to your life, what is he trying to tell you?
This past season, an avalanche of a storm was sent to my world. To an outsider looking in, no one died, no one was ill, and no disaster happened to our home. One would never know the real turmoil within my soul. I was accused of a crime that I did not commit, a trepidation to my integrity. My accuser did not know me. She has never met me in person. She just decided to attack, and ruin my trajectory pursuits. I may never understand her reasons behind her actions and I will continue to fight for others after me that are on the same course. However, I have had to pull myself out of the belly of my own whale and decide to move forward, to hold my head high, when others have seen me thrown out of the boat, and most likely wonder as the sailors did, “what is her real sin?’ But I feel in my heart that God is leading me on a different path. The first path, I admit, I was taking on my own volition. I was not running away, as Jonah was running, but I was listening to my own mind and not to God’s voice. I was trying to walk a path in my own strength and not His. The emotional pain I have withstood is still there as I write, and the anger is still there if I sit and dwell. I have to forgive my accuser and pray a similar prayer that Jonah did that moment he was sitting in the bowels of the whale.
My prayer, paraphrased from Jonah’s (Jonah 2:1-10)
Dear Lord, I cry out to you in my own trouble. Please answer me.
I call out to you in my own land of the dead, the death of my figurative soul. My confidence, My pride. It is all dead now.
“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 will and stormy waves.”
O lord, please do not drive me from your presence. I repent. I relied on my own will, not yours. I allowed my pride to take hold.
“I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.”
“I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth , whose gates lock shut forever”
I believe in a God that is not of this earth. I am not imprisoned to this earth. The gates of your world are open for me to walk through.
Please O Lord my God, snatch me from the jaws of death, as you did with Jonah.
Do not allow me to succumb to this worlds sin of pride and self sufficiency.
As my mind and emotions have slipped away so many times this season, I have always remembered You.
You are my rock. I offer my life to you.
I have spent countless moments singing your praises, and listening for your presence in those songs.
My salvation comes from you alone. Not of this world, but your heavenly realm.
I will turn back now. Set me on your course. The course that you designed when you purposefully and wonderfully created my soul.
After the prayer, “Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah on to the beach.” At least it was a soft place to land, not the snow, Lord, the beach. Please spit me out onto the beach, too Lord. I’m ready. I’m ready to go to that great city and deliver your message.