As our church continues her series in the book of Jonah, I was once again challenged in the depth of this book as I consider the attributes of our covenant keeping God. Our passage this week led once again to God’s sovereign rule over all creation and we are beginning to get a glimpse of God’s mercy. When God sets His mind and purpose on something, He will go to all lengths to accomplish it. Disobedient Jonah has said ‘no, I will not go and preach to pagans’ contrary to God’s desire and will for him. God now intervenes supernaturally in circumstances to bring about His purpose in and through Jonah’s life. As we read the first 16 verses of the book of Jonah, it becomes apparent that God was determined to use Jonah, either as an obedient child or as a disobedient servant.
It isn’t directly stated in the passage, but logical deduction tells us that Jonah didn’t enter into his disobedience quickly or immediately. No, his disdain for the Ninevites was rooted deeply. His rationale of God being merciful and gracious was a learned truth. His choice to turn west to Tarshish instead of east toward Nineveh began with one and two and three steps. He searched out a ship in a port city going as far from Nineveh as possible and decided to pay his own fare to further his disobedience. Then content in his rebellion against God, he falls asleep in the lower deck of the ship. Jonah’s sin took thought, planning and time.
But just as Jonah’s disobedience didn’t instantly appear, neither did God’s judgment appear instantly in it’s fullest toward Jonah. Our God is a merciful God, slow to anger and judgment. He wants Jonah’s repentance and humility and sets His purpose to that end. He turns the storm up in intensity as the sailors row harder and throw out the cargo, examples of our human efforts to thwart God’s purpose. The tempest is raging. But God is so committed to His purpose of Jonah preaching to the pagans of Nineveh, he brings a ship full of ‘innocent’ sailors to the brink of a watery grave instead of allowing His erring child to continue on his disobedient journey.
It is the same for His church today. God will bring the gentle nudge toward obedience, then the push and finally the knock down should we resist in His will. He is like that, He is merciful. He wants to save us from our sin and He will go to any length to do that.
James Boice expanded on the philosopher Virgil’s statement, ‘The descent to hell is easy’. I quote ‘When we disobey God, he does not rearrange the stars of heaven to say, “Stop, do not go farther.” He let’s us go. At first he does not put great obstacles in our path. If we choose to stop reading our Bibles, he does not send a prophet to get us reading them. If we stop praying, he does not send a disaster into our lives to make us turn to him. Not at first!! He simply allows us to go downhill and to pay for our own foolish choices. However, when we persist in our disobedience, he gets tougher. He begins gently, just as we gently disobey. But in the end he sends a tempest.”
How is it with you today? Has God called you to something specific and yet you have gently started to disobey. You cannot thwart His will. He is sovereign and will accomplish what He plans. He is also merciful and will not allow His children to continue in their disobedience but may very well wield all the forces of the omnipotent to produce an obedient child. Study Jonah and find a deeper and greater assurance in a purposeful, merciful God, willing to save.
soli deo gloria