SOS Jonah

God called.  I ran.

From there the next few days are both a blur and a painting etched in exquisite detail on the canvas of my mind.  The storm in its fury, the fear of the sailors, the waves reaching up to meet me… all leading to being eaten alive and dragged into the depth of the ocean.

I can’t describe the next few days in a way that you could understand.  Complete darkness filled with barely breathable air.  I was surrounded by a sense of directionless motion, interrupted by snatches of exhausted sleep, incredible thirst and at some point, a sense of peace.

There is something freeing about giving up completely.  To finally and irrevocably surrender control of the situation was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  When God spoke to me, I responded with all of my heart.  Everything was stripped away and it was just He and I.

When I was propelled back into the light, I immediately set my steps to Ninevah.  I never would have predicted what would happen next.

It was the greatest revival of my generation.  I saw more than 100,000 people set aside their sin and selfishness.  I watched as an entire city turn back to God.  It’s frightening and humbling to see something go so far beyond your true ability.  But the spark of revival was a direct result of my speaking.  When He turned me back again and gave me a second chance, I found my voice and my stride.

Empowered by the Spirit I spoke with a supernatural boldness and I could feel His words burning within me.  Those days were swept along before a thunderstorm of His justice.  Their actions were evil and I told them so.  Their time of accounting had come and destruction, richly deserved, was only a few weeks away.  Forty days until God brought holy vengeance and they would pay in full for the evil they had become.

The message didn’t bring the result I expected.

Instead of ignoring the word and mocking me… instead of hearing it with trembling and despair… they responded with greatness of heart.  Instead of shirking blame and responsibility they embraced their own sense of true remorse in the stark face of wrongdoing.  Even though it was too late, they repented and they repented with all of their heart.

That’s when it happened.  God swept through an entire city and they responded to Him with one voice.  It was amazing and I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since.  Repentance and divine compassion combined to restore an entire people back to the Lord.

I’ve never been angrier at anything in my life.

They were brutal and they deserved to die.  They killed my friends and family and over ran the nation that I love.  The people chosen to bring blessing to the earth were nothing but a playground of terror to them.  Our women and children were opportunity for use and evil pleasure.  Thousands died beneath the sword of their aggression and scorn.

They were not my brothers.  They were not my friends.  I would rather have died myself than see them avoid the justice they had earned.

In some sense, that’s exactly what happened. I had to die as the person I was to be reborn as the man God was reshaping.  His compassion to me in the deep was borne of the same wellspring as His kindness to a city of strangers.  My judgment of God’s word over an evil city became a prophecy over my own heart.  Like so many things, I didn’t see it coming until it was already done.

Do I dare cling to life in a time of disobedience and promise God my heart and hands, while denying that prayer to someone else?  Is God the God of the whole earth or just of the people I choose?  Is God the God of all people, even the people who don’t deserve to be saved?

He gives.  And He takes away.

He speaks to cities.  And He speaks to me.

He wants my heart even more than He wants my words and grudging outward obedience.  He wants me to understand His working even more than He wants me to be comfortable and OK.  The days of darkness beneath the water were just the beginning of my truly being able to see.

God’s calling is not about my preference.  The people I hate are the people He loves.

And His work shapes me even as it shapes the nations.

Those who cling to worthless idols

            Forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

But I, with a song of thanksgiving,

            Will sacrifice to You.

What I have vowed I will make good.

Salvation comes from the Lord.  (A Prayer from the Deep, Jonah)

Devotional Thought for the Day

Jonah was called to love things that were unlovable to him.  In ministry we often face challenges that require us to do things we’d prefer to ignore or run from.  Like Jonah, we may not see God’s bigger picture plan for redemption in the midst of our challenges.   Are there things right now in your life and ministry that you’ve been running from, but God wants your attention on?   Possibly a person, a ministry, a past sin issue in your life, etc.?  Spend some time asking God to more clearly reveal these things to you.

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