God said go. Jonah said no.

Reflections on obedience from the book of Jonah

A couple of weeks ago we went to ReachOut Conference, which aims to help Christians become fully engaged in God’s global mission by sharing our passion for his purposes.

Since the conference I have continued to reflect on one of the messages from Simon Longden in particular, about God at work in the story of Jonah. God showed compassion on the people of Nineveh and chose to work in and through Jonah in the process. He commanded Jonah to go and tell the people to repent. God said go, but Jonah said no. Jonah fled on a ship in the complete opposite direction, faced a storm, three days in a fish’s belly. Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah telling him again to go and warn the people of Nineveh to repent. God gave Jonah a second chance. Jonah couldn’t hide from God – neither his presence nor his commands. He went and told the people of Nineveh to repent and this is what happened…

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Jonah 3:10-4:2

God is and always has been at work in the world, bringing people back to himself. God’s heart is for all the nations to worship him. And in his work of redemption he chooses to act through people. He doesn’t need us (Acts 18:25) but he calls us to share his word with others. It is by his grace alone that he works through broken jars of clay like me.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

God has a plan for my life and things for me to do, that he doesn’t have for anyone else.  It’s humbling and scary and exciting all at once. My experiences, my past, my story, my gifts – I am clay in his hands to be used by him for his purposes, his work, his glory – if I will let him. Am I being obedient? Am I being faithful? Or am I, like Jonah, saying no?

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