I’ve been reading through the Old Testament and today my plan led me to the book of Jonah. I had to fight hard the urge to skip that book because I knew the story so well. I mean, how many times have you heard or read the story of Jonah and the big fish? Finally, I decided to give God the chance to show me something new in that old story, and WOW, did He!
The story begins with Jonah, a prophet of God, being told to go to the city of Nineveh to tell the people to repent. Well, Jonah thinks God is off His rocker this time and decides to ignore His command. Actually, he doesn’t really ignore God. He defies Him. Jonah decides to board a ship and go across the world to escape God’s call. Big mistake! He ends up becoming fish food when a huge storm whips up, threatening to overturn the ship.
Can you just picture this? Here are several non-believers, purely innocent bystanders, desperately fighting for their lives. Jonah tells them the storm is his fault and instructs them to throw him into the sea. Here is what I find fascinating. Jonah does not call out to God and repent until after he is thrown overboard and half drowned. At least, the Bible doesn’t record any repentant prayer or cry for help. I can just see Jonah frantically slapping the water, trying with all his might to grab the nearest supply barrel that had gone over before him. Not until he is utterly exhausted and has completely given up does he resort to prayer. Isn’t that so like us? We get ourselves into a sticky situation and we don’t want to ask God for help until we’ve exhausted every single resource, every solution we can dream up. I think this is especially true when we know that we defied God and are just reaping the consequences.
Maybe you knew God wanted you in church on Sunday and you decided to go golfing or boating instead. Maybe, as a result of that decision, you left the plug out of the boat and it sunk to the bottom of the lake. (I know one reader who is laughing right now because this happened to him. Mind you, he wasn’t laughing then!) God doesn’t always punish us so directly for our rebellion, but when he does, do we think to repent and cry out for help? At what point does that happen… the last possible moment?
God doesn’t sit in heaven gloating and telling us, “I told you so.” No. He waits patiently, longing to hear that call. I know this because I’ve experienced it with my own children. One of my sons gets sent to his room for talking back and being defiant. As a Mom, I know that ignoring the offense will only cause it to be repeated. Still, you know that all this Mommy really wants to hear is a genuine plea for forgiveness. What does my son do instead? He kicks and screams, and sometimes cries himself into a tizzy before finally saying those dreaded words, “I’m sorry.”
Have you gotten yourself into a mess? Have you tried to defy God?
How long will you wait before you repent and ask Him to help you get out of that mess?
This question hits home with me today because I, like Jonah, have spent years running away from God's call. I have glossed over every Bible verse pertaining to gluttony and self-control with regard to food. My resulting "mess" is the excess weight that I carry around with me every day. Each diet I have tried has been my last ditch effort to save myself from my own mess, slapping the waves so to speak. But God waited patiently for my call. Today, I stand repentant (and forgiven) of my disobedience and lack of self-control. While I beg God daily to help me shed my excess baggage, I can joyfully report that He is showing Himself faithful. I am seeing the light of day. Praise Him for His patience and ever loving mercy!