Welcome back to the story of Jonah. We’ve learned that the prophet with a heart issue ran from God only to be swallowed by a giant fish. After a truly impressive temper tantrum, he repents and promises that he will do what he promised to do. He agrees to obey God and speak to the Ninevites.
The longer that I live and walk with God, the more I’m seeing that God is always giving us an opportunity to walk out what we say. If we promise God to do a thing (or not do a thing) we often get an opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. For Jonah, it was no different.
After this amazing moment of humility, the fish spits Jonah onto dry land. Then the Lord tells him to go to Ninevah and proclaim his message. But this time, Jonah responds differently than he did in Chapter 1.
“Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” Jonah 3:3-4 (NIV)
This is one of those parts in the Bible where I like to let my imagination go a little bit. How do you think Jonah obeyed in this moment?
Was his response a whole-hearted obedience to God?
Or did he proclaim the message of the Lord with a lackluster delivery?
Or was he giddy at the prospect of the Lord overthrowing Ninevah?
Unfortunately, Jonah’s tone of voice and level of enthusiasm are up for debate. One detail that I love about this story is that Jonah only got one-third of the way through the city when he began his proclamation. Even though he didn’t make it even halfway into the giant city, God was at work. No matter Jonah’s enthusiasm level, the Lord was ready to perform a miracle.
Verse 5 is probably one of the more amazing verses in the Bible: it states that the Ninevites believed in God. They turned from their wicked ways (and to be clear, their ways were incredibly wicked) and they repented. They heard the word of God and responded accordingly. Jonah’s obedience (no matter his level of enthusiasm) led to an entire nation being saved.
Every time I read this chapter, I can’t help but wonder what God is calling us to do.
As we examine our hearts and allow God to heal and free us, we are presented opportunities to walk out those decisions. This is the “works” part of our faith. We don’t work to gain faith, but we can (and should) work as an outpouring of faith. We can choose obedience when it goes against our preferences because we know that we serve a good and merciful God.
The book of Jonah reminds me that God is interested in bringing freedom and salvation to people. There isn’t an asterisk or certain qualifications that must be met for God’s love. From the barbaric Ninevites to the spoiled prophet, God’s desire was healing and restoration. He is interested in us partnering with him to bring unity, forgiveness, love, and grace to a broken and hurting world.
While we might not be called to preach to an entire city, I believe he has called each of us to proclaim his glory and spread his kindness. It’s amazing what small acts of obedience can do in our lives and the lives of others.
How have you seen God use one small step of obedience?
What do you think God is calling you to do in this season?