I got to share a little message at the FRWY this weekend. So I thought I would put up some points on here. We are doing the month on the prophet Jonah, each month is a different chapter and I was in charge of chapter one.
I began by pointing out that Jonah wasn’t just called one random morning to go and speak to Nineveh but he was called to simply fulfill his normal duties. Jonah was a prophet; it was his job to speak on God’s behalf to whomever God chose. So Jonah wasn’t just running away from one call, he was running away from his life, his career and everything that he had chosen to make his life align with. In the same way, we as Christians are not just called to a one time task of deciding to ask Jesus into our heart but a lifetime of working for God in his Kingdom and following Jesus.
I then gave everyone a piece of paper and a pen, and asked them to write a letter to a modern-day-Jonah. It was supposed to tell this imaginary character what it meant to be a modern-day prophet of God; a Christian. They were supposed to explain what it meant to follow Christ, what it meant when you decide to put to death the sinful nature and give practical examples of what that may look like. They kept the letters as I continued on into the second half of the message.
I went through the entire book of Jonah verse by verse and I pointed out four different things that I noticed that Jonah did when he ran away from God’s call.
v. 3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
One thing that stood out to me here is that the author pointed out that he paid the fair to get on the boat. Jonah had to take money out of his own pocket and pay the price to go in the opposite direction of what God called. I wonder how often we do that. We pay extra money to go in the opposite direction of what our calling calls for. We pay extra to live in a house that is way beyond what we actually need. We pay extra for that super nice car. We pay extra for vacations and all our little toys that make us comfortable and happy. All the while, maybe God has called us to something different, but we pay extra for the comfort.
v.4-5 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.
While the storm is going crazy around him everyone else on the ship is getting rid of their possessions. They are throwing the very things that brought them money (the cargo that they were delivering so they could get a paycheque) into the sea hoping to save their own lives. While all of this is going on, where is Jonah? He is asleep. A deep sleep. I wonder how many of us fall into a deep sleep and become completely oblivious to the storm that is around us. The storm of greed, poverty, homelessness, consumerism, materialism and all kinds of other things that are tearing apart the world we live in. It’s almost as if all these things begin to serve as a pillow for us, to help us sleep better. We indulge ourselves in things and we become numb to the storm.
v. 8-9 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
While Jonah is in the middle of running the opposite direction of where God called him Jonah is dropping God’s name as if he’s proud to be his servant. He even goes as far to say that the land and sea (which is currently destroying them) was made by his God. This part surprised me. Why was Jonah so quick to suddenly drop God’s name? I liken this to when we drop God’s name in the weirdest of situations. Someone asks us our beliefs on something, for instance the famous homosexual marriage situation, and we are so unbelievably quick to drop God’s name. “Well I believe in God, the God who made marriage between a man and a woman.” Case closed. All the while, our marriages in the church are almost worse than outside the church, but it doesn’t matter where we are or if we have completely turned our backs on God because well we are Christians and we worship the Lord, the God of marriage, who made man and woman. Why are we so quick to drop God’s name in those kinds of situations? Because it gets the attention off of us and onto someone else.
v. 13-14 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried to the LORD, “O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.”
Here are all the men, doing their best to save Jonah’s life and their own on their own strength and they finally give up. Then they say a prayer so they won’t get in trouble for killing an innocent man and then they launch Jonah into the sea. Did you ever wonder why they call Jonah an innocent man? From our understanding of the story, he certainly isn’t very innocent. Jonah told them the story of what was going on beforehand (v.10) and I guess he changed the details around a little bit to make all the people around him think he was innocent. I think this is one of the final signs that show that we have completely gone in the opposite direction of where God has called us. It’s when we think we are innocent. We spend all of our time pointing out the flaws in other people. We convince everyone around us and even ourselves that we are exactly where we should be with God and in our lives and make ourselves the innocent victims when anything happens bad. Innocent? The pre-requisite for following Christ is to admit that we are guilty. We think we are innocent and then get big heads and actually start to think that God promises us good times all the time with lots of money and perfect health.
These four things that we see in Jonah can be seen in our own lives all the time pretty clearly. First we start to pay out of our pockets, out of our schedules and whatever else and start to head in the opposite direction of where God calls us. Then we become numb to the dangers that the world is in, we fall asleep and don’t realize that sin is actually making us comfortable now. Then we start to drop God’s name as if he’s some sort of weight that balances out the scales of our arguments so we can always be right in everything we say and then with time we eventually have convinced ourselves that we are innocent, completely undeserving of anything bad and only deserve the good things in life.
I then gave everyone an envelope and told them to address it to themselves, with Jonah as their middle name.
Nathan “Jonah” Colquhoun
I’ll mail it back to them at the end of the month.