Simply obedient

And Jonah got up and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD’s word. (Now Nineveh was indeed an enormous city, a three days’ walk across.) Jonah 3:3

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord. He did what God said to do this time. He got up and went. God specifically told him do do something and he did it. It's the same thing that God told him to do before, that he did not do, which he got in so much trouble for not doing. God gave Jonah a second chance and he is taking that chance now.

Jonah exercised his faith. Faith is an action. You say you have faith. Good, now show me. That's action. Faith is not just a belief, but belief acted upon. If you act upon it, it's real faith. When you act on faith, you also risk. John Wimber said that faith is spelled r-i-s-k. Jesus asked various people to do something often and complimented others who did something to express their faith like the guys who lowered the man through the roof to get to him (Mark 2:4). Remember when Jesus said to the disciples, "you give them something to eat" (Mark 6:37 & Luke 9:13)? Jesus told the man with the shrivelled hand to stretch it out (Mark 3:3 & Matt. 12:10). Jesus told the man at the pool to get up (John 5:8). Paul said that we must work out what God works in (Philippians 2:12-13).

What is faith? Is faith when we get the blue print or get the orders or plan from God and then go do it, go make it happen? No, that is not faith. It is God that does it, God that makes it happen. Faith is in God who does it, whatever it is. His faithfulness provides all the power. I put my faith in him. My faith is in his faithfulness. Even if he does not do it, my faith is in him, in his person. He is good no matter what happens. If it does not happen, whatever it is, it does not make me or anyone else bad; but he is always good. This is how Job could say, "though he slay me, yet I will trust in him", (Job 13:15).

Did Jonah perhaps get way ahead of God, in his mind, the first time and get overwhelmed? It says that Nineveh was enormous. It does not say that God's assignment was enormous. It was simple. Like the U2 song, Jonah got, "stuck in a moment", and he could not get out of it. But God got him out and gave him a second chance. Big plans seem overwhelming, but a big God is up to it. God tries to say to us, "don't worry, I will do all the heavy lifting." Yes, he says, "don't worry". When we worry, we are calculating without God in the equation.1 God gives us peace in the storm, the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). When we try to understand or figure some things out that are beyond us, we can get overwhelmed and depressed and anxious (Philippians 4:6). That's why we need to exercise faith in God by casting our cares on him (Psalm 55:22 & 1 Peter 5:7).

When Jonah again began his journey of obedience towards Nineveh, it was just one foot in front of the other, step by step; simple. To try to figure it out is complicated. Making our plans outside of God is sophisticated. God is not sophisticated, but simply brilliant. What God is looking for is simplicity. Simple faith. Simple trust in him walked out. Simply obedient.

1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, July 5th, Don't Plan Without God: Psalm 37:5

Get up and go (again)

Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and declare against it the proclamation that I am commanding you.”
-Jonah 3:2 (CEB)

The Lord's second word to Jonah was almost identical to the first word he gave him. The first time, the Lord said, "Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, for their evil has come to my attention.” God had patiently taken Jonah through the "hard way" and now again offered him the "not as hard way".

Jonah might have thought to himself, "remember what happened last time when I didn't go to Nineveh?" Obviously, Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh the first time, for some reason. We don't know what that reason was at this point. We do know that there was an evil in Nineveh that had come to God's attention. Something bad was going on with the Ninevites and Jonah previously had a strong aversion to them. Was it fear, prejudice, dislike, anger, or all of these?

Notice that both times, God said to him, "get up and go". Jonah was being commanded to specifically do something. Not to think about it, write about it, talk about it, pray about it, but to do it. This was a directive "now" word. Some or perhaps most prophetic words are future words, words in which God says, "I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope." (Jer. 29:11)

This word from the Lord was a command word. He did not obey the command the first time. Will he obey God the second time? What happens when we don't like God's assignment for us and refuse to do them? Sometimes when we take the wrong turn, the only way to get back on the right path is to go all the way back to where we missed the turn and retake it.

There was something that Jonah did not like about his assignment and we might not like our assignment either and try disobedience. If we focus on our selves, saying, "I can't do it", "I don't want to do it because I am afraid", "I don't want to do it because I don't like those people", or, "they are too far gone to hear"; we have missed it. We have gotten our focus off God! God has decided on this assignment in his wisdom. He knows best. Will we trust that where God guides, he provides? But, the proviso of God's provision is that he may not provide the way you think he should.

Maybe God gives us assignments we would not choose and do not like because he wants to stretch us? He stretches us to change us, to make us more godly and Christ-like. During the rest of Jonah's story, we will see how God wanted to change Jonah; how God wanted to give him a deeper revelation.

Where has God called you to get up and go to? Are you having trouble just getting up? Perhaps God has not given you an assignment like Nineveh, but he is calling you to get up and just go, to follow him, like Abraham. The rhythm of the kingdom, modeled in Jesus is going and resting. We go and we rest.

Obedience. Will we obey when God assigns us? Will we take our second chances when they are offered again?

God of the second chance

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time. Jonah 3:1

Did you know that God is God of the second chance? The Bible is filled with the stories of people who got second chances and Jonah is just one of them. Jonah deliberately disobeyed God's assignment and some negative consequences followed.

Jonah repented and sought God. Then providence struck. Jonah was expelled out of the giant fish and found himself on dry land, breathing fresh air again. Then Jonah's life went on.

We can imagine that Jonah went on with his life. We can imagine that Jonah returned home. Perhaps he told his friends what happened. He had a testimony. God had saved him from death. Was he ashamed of himself? He had been one who spoke God's special messages and he had failed to do his unique job. He had failed to deliver a special message from God to Nineveh.

Life went on for Jonah. Did he feel like a failure? Was he thankful to be alive, but became the "former Prophet"? Did he live incognito, assimilating himself back into his Hebrew culture? When people who knew who he was or used to be would approach him and ask him, "what is the message from God?", did he look down and shake his head?

We don't know the answer to any of these questions, but we do know that life went on for Jonah. Was he happy to not be a Prophet any longer or did he miss it? Was he ashamed or just resigned? We don't know, but life went on. Days, weeks, month, or years; we don't know. From the time of Jonah being deposited back into fresh air and dry land to the "then" of what happened next could have been hours or years.

Some time went by and then God spoke to Jonah again, a second time. Since Jonah was a Prophet, God had probably spoken to him before the time recorded in the book of Jonah. He received and delivered messages. That was a Prophet's job. But the text here says, "God spoke to Jonah a second time". It's the second time in this story, in this part of Jonah's life; and it's the second time God spoke to Jonah about the same thing. Same orders, same message, same God, for the same people, to be delivered by the same person.

God gives Jonah a second chance at the same assignment. God does not stamp Jonah with "failed", but with "try again". God is a God of the second chance. There were consequences of Jonah's disobedience. He failed and it was painful, but he lived and he gets a second chance. Again and again in scripture, this is God's way. People blow it and fail, but God in a sense says that his plan is greater than us and he is willing to pick us up when we fall and help us get our bearings and then sets us on the path of his plan again.

We can fail a thousand ways and God can still bring us back. It does not mean that the failure never happened, but it means that God uses failures and gives them second chances. It's always, "the great God of man", and not the other way around. God likes using weak and broken people and giving glory to himself though them. We do not overcome our weaknesses so we can stand up and fight, but we stand up and walk in God's blessings and assignments for us in our weaknesses. God uses cracked pots that leak.

He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

When God calls to Jonah the second time, it does not necessarily mean that Jonah is now, at that moment, ready for God's assignment to him. It means that God is ready and has something he wants done, that he wants said. All the heavy lifting is done by God, but God chooses to use people like Jonah, you, and me to be his representatives!

Grace Greater than Our Sin by Julia Johnson

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Back from the dead

And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. Jonah 2:10

Jonah had been saved from drowning and for that he was thankful. But, "what was next?", he might have thought. He didn't know, but he thought about God. He prayed to God, thanking him and worshiping him from that place of a living death. Jonah repented.

There is a time to get right with God and that time is always now. But to shake us awake, God provides awakening experiences for us that are rude and uninvited. If you are walking close to God and something bad happens in your life, you might cling to God and receive comfort from him. But, if you are distant from God, the pain is pointing you back to God. To be in need of God is good and normal. The crisis brings us into needing God and into coming home to the Father.

Jonah came to the end of himself and sought God. Jonah died to himself. Jonah's plans died. All he had left was God and to God he prayed to God he gave himself. Jonah surrendered to God. Jonah became subdued to God. In a sense, he became born again. He became a believer again, but this time, a surrendered worshiper and humble servant. Jonah had been humiliated and humbled.

Some have speculated that after three days inside the fish, Jonah's skin may have become permanently bleached from the fish's digestive secretions. This might be true, but we do know that his near death experience changed him, because of what he said to God after three days. He changed.

When we are filled with despair and hopelessness, do we seek God, turn from our selves, die to our selves, and repent? Do we consider God when we are at our lowest or forget him? Do we call to mind God's goodness when we are in trouble? Do we cast our selves onto God when we fail?

If we find our selves on a cross, suffering; will we look to Jesus and ask him to remember us, putting our hope in him who is also suffering but having done no wrong?