Jonah heard God tell him to go a certain direction, but he went the other way. And you won’t see any trace of remorse while he was at it—his bold defiance—until a big fish gobbled him up and he spent 3 nights in it.
In his dissent, it’s interesting how he still had faith in and relationship with God—though a unique and daring one.
Sometimes, it’s tempting to defy what God wants, especially when He seems to favor those who hate you. Jonah ran away from God because God was telling him to preach to a cruel and wicked enemy—Assyria—and Jonah didn’t want the enemy to receive mercy. Is it possible to defy God and still be closely connected to Him? And then God still pursues you, still choosing you to do His will? And oddly, with God still blessing you? Apparently yes.
Jonah was not in rebellion—he was in jealous defiance. Rebellion is always linked to idolatry and spiritual sexual immorality–going after a God-substitute. Stealing, adultery, murder, prostitution, and even simple acts like lying—all are due to attempts to replace God with something or someone that gratifies the flesh and enthrones the ego. Jonah’s defiance wasn’t anything like that. God was still his God.
It was more like a lovers’ quarrel or misunderstanding. He was blocking God’s move, not because he was against it, but because he thought it unfair. He was not against evangelism per se–preaching to Nineveh. He was against the idea of the wicked ending up in heaven just because they had the luck of availing what looked like undeserved spur-of-the-moment mercy. But of course, that’s what mercy is about—undeserved favor.
Anyway, Jonah had a dark night. God sent a fierce storm, and the key to stopping the storm was to throw Jonah overboard. Sometimes, I also see how remedies to other people’s problems is for me to be thrown overboard. Why such should be a remedy, I don’t know.
Why God would “sacrifice” me or my family for others’ sake sometimes drives me crazy. You go home seeing your family with nothing because you had to spend time sacrificing so that others can have plenty–or have fun. I once was invited to officiate a wedding, it was a far, far place, and the people didn’t even bother to hand me some travel allowance when I left. I was “thrown overboard.” It feels great to serve God like that, but when material lack creeps in, it can sometimes give you Jonah’s night.
And just when you’re beginning to enjoy the vine and it’s protection, He then sends a worm to destroy it.
Like how my wife willingly helps her co-teachers and the school where she works for. While being a teacher, she also does the social security papers of everyone in the school, plus the documents for their health care, the school license from the education department and securities and exchange.
She also does other errands, running here and there and everywhere (many times I accompany her to help), all of which are beyond her responsibilities (and mine, too), with no added pay, and sometimes even with cruel reprimands from the higher-ups. And all the other teachers just relax with their own duties at school, not even grateful to how my wife takes care of everything for them.
This is all okay. But what irritates me is that some teachers even have the temerity to think ill of her and throw unfair accusations, and we just have to bow down in humility because that’s what God wants for us—for now—even if I am a school board member!
To top it all, my wife sometimes suffers high blood pressure because of all these–but then people blame it all to our below-average joint income, as if life were just all about money. Why throw us overboard, at a raging sea, just to make these people happy? Thus, many times, my wife and I sit together spending nights inside a big fish’s belly “arranged” by God to pick us up from the sea—and there talk with Him inside that belly—only to be spilled out in the same kind of underdog life.
Well, in some cases, I knew exactly why. I often headed for an opposite direction to what God had instructed me, because I thought it unfair.
God unfair? NOPE.
I just thought there was some unfairness somewhere, definitely not of God’s making—He merely allowed it. I also felt jealous defiance. I ran. But some storm always traps me in a distressed ship, and I had to be thrown overboard, spend nights in some belly, and then be re-directed to what God wants me to do—so that other people may be happy.
My beloved God is also in the habit of providing a comfy and wonderful vine that protects you awhile from the sun while you’re in a brooding mood hiding somewhere to “see what happens.” And just when you’re beginning to enjoy the vine and it’s protection (God made Jonah’s vine develop to full growth within a day! He also does that with me), He then sends a worm to destroy it.
God sends vines and worms to teach you lessons. What lessons? That He alone is God and Lord? Oh, I already know that, and I love Him for it. So, what else is there to know that necessitates sending vines and worms? Can’t I have more of the vines and less of the worms? (I really think I’ve had enough of those worms!)
The scariest thing Jonah did was to wish he was dead right before God. But God never struck him—unlike the way He did with some Israelites in the desert with Moses, people who didn’t even wish to die. I’m awestruck by Jonah’s love relationship with my God—it was without fear. Perfect love casts out fear. It was too daring. Too radical. Jonah enjoyed a perfect love relationship with the Lord!
Is that how a perfect relationship with God goes, and being God’s flesh—having Jonah’s night?