“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jonah 2:8, NIV84)
The prophet Jonah was disobedient. The Lord sent him to Nineveh to preach, and Jonah went the other way. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He didn’t like (he hated) the people of Nineveh. So, he fled from the Lord. Now, before we judge Jonah too harshly, let’s admit that there have been many times in our lives that we have run from what the Lord has wanted us to do. Either we felt that it wasn’t the right time or simply that it wasn’t our cup of tea, and we didn’t want to do it. The fact remains the same, we too have run from things the Lord has wanted us to do–and from what He has wanted to do in our lives. You see, this trip to Nineveh was just as much for Jonah as it was for the Ninevites. God wanted to make some changes in Jonah’s life, too. But, like us, Jonah ran from the changes. Are you running, too?
The good news is that God doesn’t stop when we run. He doesn’t let His fleeing child go. The Lord pursued Jonah, and He will pursue us. He caused a great storm to rise up until the sailors threw Jonah overboard. Once Jonah was overboard, the Lord caused a great fish to swallow him whole and gave Jonah a place to contemplate his life for a few days. Has God caused a storm to rise up in your life? Is He pursuing you because you’re going in the wrong direction? Do you feel stuck in a place where there is nothing you can do but contemplate your circumstances? Then join Jonah and contemplate. And as you contemplate, pray! Pray for discernment. Pray to know and understand what the Lord wants you to see.
As Jonah prayed to the Lord in the belly of that great fish, a couple things become clear. First, Jonah was certain that the Lord was involved in everything He was experiencing. God was in the storm. God was working through the sailors. God sent the great fish to save him. There it is–to save him. Jonah couldn’t get past the fact that even in a state of disobedience God loved him and saved him. Jonah had experienced grace. One cannot experience true grace and not be changed. Jonah called out to the Lord in his distress, and the Lord answered him. The Lord saved him–just like He has done for you and me. Just look at Jesus and see how much God loves you. See Jesus dying on the cross and be certain that God saved you. Second, Jonah clearly understood the worthlessness of turning to anyone but God. Turning to anything other than the one true God would be useless and grace-forfeiting. Grace can only be found at the hands of God. Everything else is worthless. Jonah must have realized that the sailors’ vain attempts to handle the storm on their own were useless. He must have contemplated that when the sailors began to call on their gods, nothing happened. Nothing happened until they were introduced to the one true God. Once they came to know Him, they found grace. This is why Jonah had to go to Nineveh. The Ninevites needed to know that their idols were worthless and that by turning to them they were forfeiting the grace that could be theirs.
What about you and me? Are we forfeiting the grace that could be ours? Have we turned in the wrong direction looking for help? Let’s stop! Let’s contemplate and pray. Let’s turn toward the one true God so we can experience His grace.