I spent the last few months reading, studying and meditating on the Biblical story of Jonah.
For some reason, it seems the main point people usually take away from this classic tale is the fact that a guy (Jonah) survived in the belly of a whale for three days.
Of course, that is not the main point God was trying to convey at all. But I can understand how a man getting swallowed by a big fish (it really was a big fish and not a whale) is high drama for humans to fixate on.
I have always been taught that the true point to this story is the importance of obedience to God.
The Book of Jonah is a great example that if God tells you to do something, you need to just do it the first time you are asked.
Obviously, that is great lesson to take to heart.
But during my time of studying this book once again, God laid a new truth on my heart that I never embraced before.
If we set the story up, we find Jonah being told by God to bring His Word to the city of Nineveh.
Jonah 1:1-2 tells us, “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come before Me.’”
As the story goes, Jonah disregarded God’s instruction and ran in the opposite direction of the sinful city. Apparently, Jonah believed the city was so wicked that there was no way they would listen to what he was instructed to tell them.
I believe Jonah was not only afraid of the judgment he thought God would bring down on the city, but he was also afraid of what the people would think of him as he brought them the truth from God.
Here is the revelation that God wanted me to see.
Jonah’s fear was fueled by the fact that he did not take into account the work that God had already done in the hearts of the people of Nineveh.
Jonah literally saw Nineveh’s wickedness and allowed that visual to trump the supernatural work of God.
The truth is that God had already prepared the hearts of the Ninevites to receive His Word.
God just needed Jonah to deliver His message into newly receptive hearts.
God did not ask Jonah to prepare the people for the message, or to work in a way that would soften their hearts to the message.
All Jonah had to do was deliver the message from God.
Eventually, Jonah did obey the Lord.
“On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.’” 5 The Ninevites believed God.” (Jonah 3:4-5)
The Ninevites believed God.
On the surface it appears they believed Jonah, but remember he was just the messenger. The Bible tells us they believed God because He was the one who prepared hearts for belief.
Jonah’s trouble started when he believed the people did not have the mind or heart to receive his appointed message.
Jonah did not take into account that he was in partnership with God.
God did the part (preparing hearts to receive) that Jonah did not see.
Jonah determined the success or failure of his mission based on how he interpreted the situation instead of what God instructed him to do.
I think sometimes I hear what God wants me to do, but I seem to make the role I am to play bigger or smaller than it is intended to be.
I usually understand the instruction given to me on a practical level, but I just cannot see it working out unless I tweak it in some way.
Maybe add a little.
Maybe take a little away.
I am going to this new revelation from the story of Jonah to heart.
When God speaks into my heart, I am simply going to obey.
But I am not just going to obey because we are commanded to (and it always works out better when we do).
My obedience will also come from a place of understanding that God wants to partner with me and delights in my help.
God chooses me to play a vital part, but I also must remember that God also has a valuable part that I might not be able to comprehend.
I am determined not to alter the mission God gives me because I think He missed something.
Working alongside someone you love, both parties doing their ordained part, is what brings joy to the entire process.
Remember the revival in Nineveh that took place when Jonah finally did the part God instructed him to do at the very beginning.
Drama tends to happen when we fall out of sync with God’s voice and thus His intentions.
Hear His voice, obey His specific instructions and enjoy working in partnership with the One you love.