Thursday, September 1, 2011
Nineveh Or Bust
Picture yourself heading out on a trip.
A trip you want no part of.
You are "supposed" to go somewhere for your Father.
Somewhere you REALLY don't want to go.
Your Father says, "Go to Nineveh."
But the directions You printed off of Map Quest to get you there have you heading straight for Tarshish.
A city in the opposite direction.
But you keep going there anyway.
This is the situation Jonah found himself in. Minus Map Quest, of course.
Jonah 1: 1-3
The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
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.
Jonah intentionally boarded a ship headed in the opposite direction of where the LORD told him to go.
Have you ever done that? I know I have, even though I know there is no where I can run to that God doesn't follow me.
"Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD.
So many times in this life, we run from what we know is right, because it's too hard. We choose instead to head straight to what is wrong, because it seems easier. It's familiar. It's comfortable.
Problem is, that comfortable feeling doesn't last for long.
Then one day you wake up and find yourself in a very uncomfortable place having to finally face yourself. Face your mistakes. Face your fears.
Just like Jonah did.
Jonah 1: 4-17
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. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work 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 dry land.”
This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)
The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
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 out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Can you imagine? He was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights. Alone. In the dark. Surrounded by what must have been the foulest odor imaginable.
Jonah was definitely uncomfortable.
I've often wondered why God stuck Jonah in the belly of a huge fish to get his attention. As I was talking to my friend the other day about a difficult period in my life, she pointed something out to me that I had never thought of before. During that time, all of my friends seemed to scatter. I was left alone. Or so I thought. It wasn't until years later that I realized God had my friends scatter, so He could get my full attention to help me work through my problems. Maybe that's why God stuck Jonah in the belly of the huge fish as well. There was no escape. There was no one to run to or talk to for comfort. No distractions. It was just Jonah and God.
After his days and nights in the belly of the huge fish, Jonah prayed to the LORD.
Jonah 2: 1-9
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said:
“In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, LORD my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’”
Jonah finally got it. After three days and nights in the belly of the huge fish, he finally got it, so the LORD set him free.
And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah 3: 1-3
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” 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.
The LORD told him a second time to go to Nineveh.
I would imagine the stench of the vomit alone would have kept Jonah on the right track the second time.
Scripture says that Nineveh was a large city that took him three days to get through. Three days. He sat in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights.
I've read before that the number three in Scripture is used of God to signify His Purpose or His Will. That's interesting to me. Every single word of Scripture is significant. As is every seemingly small detail of our lives. We need to see God in the details. We tend to see Him only in the BIG things that happen in our lives, instead, we should see Him in ALL the things that happen in our lives. God is in to details.
If Jonah had listened to and obeyed the LORD the first time he told him to go to Nineveh, he could have made that same trip in a more timely manner without stinking to high heaven.
Thankfully, the LORD loves us and is patient with all of us. He is the God of Second Chances.
The Bible is full of stories of men and women just like you and me that made mistakes in their lives, yet God did not give up on them.
He will NOT give up on you either.
1 Chronicles 16:34
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."
Are you heading to Tarshish in your life right now, even though you know the LORD has called you to go to Nineveh?
One way or another, you will have to go to (your) Nineveh just like Jonah did. It's up to you if you want to arrive there earlier and smelling nice, or if you want to show up later with the stench of vomit on you.
"Remember, if you’re headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns!" ~Allison Gappa Bottke