Jump Start # 2394
Jonah 3:3 “So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days walk.”
On Mondays we are writing about Jonah. I’ve been preaching on Jonah in July. The second chapter ends his three day trip inside the belly of the fish. This isn’t something that Jonah would have enjoyed. Jonah is spit out on dry land. We wonder who was happier, the fish to get rid of Jonah or Jonah to be out of that fish. Three days in the darkness, goo, slime, and stench of that fish. It was a prison. It was a tomb. But it was also his boat and salvation from drowning. The fish was God’s answer to his prayers.
Now, Jonah gets a second chance. God’s word comes to Jonah again. Same message. Nothing has changed except Jonah. God didn’t find another place for Jonah to travel to. God didn’t find another prophet during those three days he was in the fish. God’s plan was Jonah and God was sticking with that plan.
One of the things that strikes me about this chapter is that we are right back where we started in the first chapter. God commissions Jonah to go to Nineveh. Had he obeyed, there wouldn’t have been a great storm upon that sea that put the sailors at risk. They were frightened. They dumped the cargo into the sea. Someone didn’t get what they had paid for. A giant fish wouldn’t have been prepared by God, had Jonah only obeyed. For three days, as Jonah is up and down in that fish, Nineveh is continuing on in her sins. There was so much trouble, pain and heartache simply because one man wouldn’t do what God said. Jonah may have been the shortest book in the Bible, had he only done what God told him to do.
Now, we ought to see a couple of lessons from this:
First, God has given us certain jobs. We may not want to do them or even like to do them, however they are placed upon us. For instance, God tells dads to bring their children up in the Lord. Todays dads may be busy in their careers. They may not be interested spiritually. They may want to pass this on to the schools, grandparents, or even the church. But, like the running Jonah, the job remains. God doesn’t change things because we are busy, back in school, tired, or simply do not feel like it. Jonah learned after all his running, nothing changed.
God calls elders to shepherd his people. They may want to spend their time painting classrooms, making schedules, and paying bills. Yet, the work of getting God’s people ready for Heaven falls upon them. They must get about doing that. They must know the condition of their sheep. They must be watching for trouble and spend time among the sheep. Many elders would rather sit behind closed doors and manage deacons, who carry out their work like mid-level managers. They do all the work and then report back to the elders who make more decisions. This may work in government and business but it fails in the kingdom of God. I was watching a movie about General MacArthur. At the end of World War II, the White House wanted to know if the emperor of Japan was involved in planning the war. Ten days were given to investigate this. What did MacArthur do? He called one of his men and gave him that job. He was to write a report and do all the work. The general wasn’t doing much. This is how some congregations operate. God expects His shepherds to be hands on. Missing sheep are the responsibility of the shepherds. Sheep that are diseased, wounded and not doing well are the responsibility of the shepherds. Many sheep are messy. Their lives are messy. They have problems, issues and troubles. Some elders do not want to deal with those things. It’s not easy work. So, some don’t. They spend their time with copy machines, vacuum cleaners, and buying supplies for the church building. They’d rather shop than go to someone’s home and have a conversation. They are running like Jonah. God didn’t change the message for Jonah and God isn’t about to change the message for shepherds.
Second, when we do not do what God says, things get sticky, messy and most times, others are hurt by our actions. A dad decides that he is not coming to services any more. His choice now hurts the home. He doesn’t think about that. I doubt Jonah thought about hurting the sailors on the boat that he was fleeing from God on. Kids grow up with mixed messages. Mom goes to worship, but Dad doesn’t. Some will think, “I can’t wait until I’m old enough and I get to stay home, too.” We disobey God and all kinds of trouble happens. For some, police are involved and now there is a court date. For others, it means finding counselors, and programs to help deal with unfaithfulness in a marriage, or an addiction of some kind. There are costs that come with these things. Schedules have to be adjusted. There is just a lot of headache, heartache, and trouble. If one had only done what God said, none of this would be necessary. We can certainly make things difficult when we disobey God. Rather than forgiving, we hold grudges. We tell others. Our problem now becomes a church problem. People get upset. Some leave. There is the threat of division. The elders get involved. If we had only forgiven the person like God said, none of this would have happened.
There will never be a better way than God’s way. The religious community doesn’t get this. There are ads and books about how to grow a church, increase contributions, reach the lost, but most of these ideas are nothing more than running a different direction than what God is going. The ideas ignore the pattern and authority of God. They think they have found better ways to do things than what God’s word teaches. And, some are gullible enough to believe in these modern inventors of truth. They’d rather follow slick marketing plans than the plain Word of God.
I wonder if Jonah thought about all that mess he caused. I wonder if he looked back and thought, “What a crazy month this has been.” I wonder if he realized disobeying God didn’t get him where he thought he’d be.
Do we ever see Jonah in our own lives and choices? Do we try to fight God, out think God, and plan things better than God? Are we running from our responsibilities? Jonah chapter three is a good place to spend some time. He was right back doing what God had told him all along. Maybe we ought to just do what God says…