Have you ever seen a movie and found the main character to be completely unlikeable? That’s how I feel whenever I read the book of Jonah. We grow up hearing this story, Jonah ran from God, Jonah was swallowed by a whale and then Jonah obeyed God. Yay! What a wonderful story, but there is more to the story. Yes, we should learn from our mistakes and obey God, but can I offer one piece of additional advice?
DON’T BE LIKE JONAH!
Now, I might be wrong, but I feel like this guy did just about everything wrong in this book. That’s not to say that Jonah was a villain. Come on, he was a prophet called by God to be His mouthpiece and deliver His messages. That’s pretty amazing and I’m sure Jonah was an amazing prophet, until the Lord said this:
Jonah 1:1-2 (NLT) …“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
Jonah’s like, NO WAY! He gets up and runs the opposite direction. Why would he do that? The reason makes me so mad, but the author of the book wisely doesn’t get into that just yet, so I will follow his lead and we will look at the reasons later. So Jonah gets on a boat with some sailors toward Tarshish. That doesn’t work out so well.
Jonah 1:4-6 (NLT) …the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.
When we make bad decisions God has a way of trying to help us along the right way. For Jonah that meant sending a storm to get his attention. Sometimes in our lives we go through storms and we cry out for God to stop them, when what we need to do is step back and examine our lives. Is it possible we’ve been disobedient? That isn’t to say every storm is a result of sin or disobedience, but either way we need to run to God and trust Him through the storm.
Jonah 1:8-10 (NLT) “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”
9 Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.
Whenever I read the Bible, I try to put myself inside the story. When I was reading this not too long ago I stepped into the role of the sailors. Those poor men. They didn’t do anything to deserve the storm. I don’t believe it was God’s will for them to be in that storm, except for one important detail. They let Jonah into their boat.
Sometimes we go through situations not because of anything we did, but because of the people we’ve let into our boat. Who we decide to let into our lives is an important thing and many times will determine the direction and storms you face. Why? Because the people you choose to spend time with will influence you!
Often we choose our friends based on who makes us feel the best, or who we enjoy being around the most, and while that is a very important part of friendship we have to ask if you really want to be like them? Because we will always become like the ones closest to us. We don’t usually notice, because it happens very slowly over an extended period of time, but it happens every time.
Here are some good questions to ask: Who do you spend the most time with? Who do you most admire? Are those two groups of people exactly the same? If not why? We should spend time with the people we most want to become like. Seek those people out and ask them to be your friend or mentor.
And if you discover that you’ve allowed a Jonah into your boat what do you do?
Jonah 1:11-13 (NLT) And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?” 12 “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.” 13 Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it.
We don’t like it when someone tells us not to hangout with someone. Cutting negative influences out of our life is something we resist greatly. No matter how bad the storm gets instead of ending the relationship, we just row harder and harder trying to fight the storm. That usually doesn’t get us anywhere we want to go. Sometimes we even end up damaging our life past the point of repair.
We have to take the difficult step of obedience.
Jonah 1:15-16 (NLT) Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 16 The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.
The moment they obeyed, the storm ceased. I don’t know what storms your facing in life right now, but take a look at who you’re traveling with. Are they bringing you closer to God or are they perhaps stirring up the waters of conflict in your life? Has the Lord been dealing with you about cutting ties with some of the negative influences in your life? Today might be the day you need to move past the point of contemplation into the dive of obedience.
It can be hard sometimes, because what happens to your friend once you let them go? What happens to Jonah? We have to learn to trust that God will take care of them. God will meet their needs. He most certainly knew exactly what Jonah needed.
Jonah 1:17 (NLT) Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
That’s right Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, but we’ll look more into that tomorrow.