How often are you given a task you really don’t want to do?
How do you deal with it?
Jonah dealt with it in a way I can understand. He was supposed to be going to the huge city of Nineveh (in modern Iraq) to deliver a message from God. What did he do instead? He boarded a ship at Joppa (on the Mediterranean coast of Israel), sailing west to Tarshish – quite the wrong direction!
While Jonah was on the ship from Joppa, he told the crew what he was doing and soon they were in the heart of the worst storm they had ever experienced.
When the men realised he was running away from God, they were terrified. They knew there was no escape from the storm while Jonah was in the ship. “Throw me overboard”, he told them. (In the Bible, you can read the full story of Jonah being swallowed by a huge fish and after 3 days being vomited to dry land)
Not what he expected
Jonah finally delivered the message and was very surprised when the people listened and immediately turned from their ways, avoiding destruction from God.
Can you imagine how Jonah felt? He had thought he knew better than God, he felt a complete fool and wanted to die. He sat huddled in a makeshift shelter outside the city to watch what would happen.
Another reason I like Jonah, is the way God helped him to learn.
He caused a shady plant to grow up over Jonah’s head, so that he was protected from the strong sunlight. It was exactly what he needed and he was glad of it. Imagine how he felt when, in the morning, it had shriveled up! Now the sun was beating down mercilessly and he wanted to die again.
How was this going to teach him anything?
God knows best
“You had compassion on the plant, although you didn’t make it grow in the first place”, said God. “Shouldn’t I have compassion on more than 120,000 people?” The fact was, God had created those people, and what happened wasn’t up to Jonah.
God is able to see the ‘bigger picture’, but we don’t have that perspective. If ever I need reminding that God knows more than I do, all I need to do is think about the book of Jonah.