“Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days.” (Jonah 3:3, NIV84)
“Jonah obeyed the Word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.” Now that’s better. But maybe not a whole lot better. Jonah was obeying God’s Word but maybe not His heart. He went because God rescued him and called him to go again. Note that Nineveh was a large city. It would require three days to travel through it and effectively share God’s message. Interesting, isn’t it, that it took the same amount of time for Jonah to come to his senses in the belly of that great fish? But as we will learn tomorrow, it didn’t take the Ninevites three days to respond to Jonah’s message. They began to respond on the very first day. We will talk more about that in tomorrow’s devotion. The thing I would like to talk about today is obedience.
Throughout the Scriptures the great prophets of God are found stating, or at least implying, that God desires mercy, not sacrifice. This was a very tough thing for the religious leaders in Jesus’ day to grasp. They were so busy living righteous lives of obedience (“see how good I am, God!”) that they were guilty of not seeing the heart of the matter. From the moment Jonah ran the other way, this was a heart issue from God’s perspective. It appears that Jonah simply saw it as an obedience issue. Through the storm, the raging sea, and the three days entombed in the belly of the fish, God was reaching out to Jonah’s heart. God wanted Jonah to see the world around him as God saw it. He wanted Jonah to know He wanted more than Jonah’s obedience. He wanted his heart.
What about us? Has our Christianity grown so old and stale that we are just going through the motions? Is our walk with God more about obedience than the heart? Don’t get me wrong. God wants us to be obedient to His Word. But true obedience to His Word means to understand the heart of God in the command. He couldn’t care less about our ritualistic obedience. To Him that is all show and no heart. God wants our heart and actions to be directly connected to His heart and His Word.
Today, let’s not just be obedient to God’s Word, but let’s be obedient to the voice of our heavenly Father.