The Prophet Jonah
I have been going through scripture over the last month finding strong and courageous God followers who faced moments of depression and anxiety. Mainly to prove a point that even the most spiritual followers are human and will face human emotions. There is a stigma that gets me fired up and the only way I feel like I can help is to talk about it, even if it makes others uncomfortable. When I talk about depression or any mental illness, I tread this topic with the utmost care and respect. Because there are passionate believers out there facing pain that we know nothing about, and still used by God. Depression seems to be linked immediately into a faith or spiritual weakness. However, that is not true in every case, which is so incredibly important why we should not be quick to judge anyone's situation. Now, in the prophet Jonah's case, it is safe to say, his depression was a direct result of his spiritual status. It is a dead give away in the first 4 verses of chapter one. As I go through Jonah's story I encourage you to examine your heart and see if there is any part of you that is like him. Running.
Whether you are a believer or a non believer, almost everyone has heard the story of Jonah and the Whale. It is one of those almost mythical stories, hearing of a man who disobeyed God and was later swallowed by a large fish. However, those who doubt it's validity can easily be reassured by reading Matthew 12:38-45, when Jesus confirmed the life of Jonah the prophet.
So who was Jonah? Well, he was one of the 12 minor prophets in the bible. The Lord would come to these men giving them a mission on where to go and what to say. Jonah was a man that God relied on to do His work. Most skim the surface of this story, but when digging down deep there is life giving gifts we can learn from this prophet named Jonah. His life perfectly lies out what happens when God tells us to go/do.... and we choose to say no.
The Commission Of Jonah
His story starts out with a commission. God came to Jonah and explained He wanted him to go to Nineveh and preach against their wickedness (1:1-2). Nineveh was well known for being "sin city". So for God to send him to one of the most "sinful" places must have been enough to shake him to his core. Because, not only did he say no way, he ran for the furthest place from Nineveh that he could think of. Tarshish! Nothing like making a statement to God right? Take that Lord! Within the first 4 verses of these scriptures, it is evident Jonah has a serious heart issue.
Why was Jonah so reluctant in going to preach to the Ninevites? There is deep history between the Israelites and the Assyrians/Ninevites. If you skip to Chapter 4, we see the underlying issue of why Jonah was reluctant to going to Nineveh.in the first place. He admitted he simply didn't want to go because he knew He was a gracious, loving, and a merciful God. He hated those people enough that he was willing to let them perish before taking the Word of the Lord to them. Jonah's disobedience stemmed from the root of his bitterness towards these people. He took pleasure in knowing God would smite them for their sin. Jonah with his Hebrew pride didn't want to be anywhere near these people. Obviously he thought hebrews were the only ones worthy of God's forgiveness. But what Jonah didn't realize, is God loves ALL people. He desires that none should perish but have everlasting life.
Let's not pretend we can't relate to Jonah's state of heart. Someone who has done the unthinkable to us and we just can't wait for Karma to turn around and bite them where it hurts. Been there and done that.
The Flight Of Jonah
Jonah knew God well. Being sent on a mission was not new to him. It strikes me that he chose to "run" from God, as if there would be no consequences, or that God would not be able to find him. I mean, this was not his first rodeo! He was fully aware of who God was and what He was capable of! Im sure by now he had seen miracles displayed. His failing to obey this mission caused a chain reaction that left him pleading for God to take his life. And not only did his disobedience affect him, it affected an entire ship full of sailors.
What we do not realize, is when we disobey God, not only do our consequences affect us, but it affects all of those around us. Like a domino affect! There’s really no such thing as a private sin that only hurts us. There’s always collateral damage. Maybe you find yourself running like Jonah. Any Jonah's out there reading this? Has God called you to do something that completely takes you out of your comfort zone? Remember, God never calls us to go to a place of comfort. Maybe you simply can't muster up the courage to do it. Maybe it requires faith you simply do not have, or maybe it is a task that requires you to lay down your pride and become weak and humble to those who least deserve your time. Maybe like Jonah, you are nursing bitterness towards someone or something that simply doesn't want to allow God to work in your life. Has your sin or rebellion against God brought pain into lives of your loved ones? Or, have you been the victim of another person’s foolish choices? God is calling each and every one of us daily. If we do not find ourselves being challenged to do the uncomfortable, I question if we, like Jonah are fleeing for Tarshish. When God calls us to go, it is not our job to question Him, but to simply obey.
The Pursuit Of Jonah~ The Perfect Storm
When any Earthly father would cast a foolish child like Jonah aside and find someone else to do the job, we see the mercy and deep love our God has for Jonah. God never gave up on him and he will never give up on us no matter how far we try to run. God passionately pursued Jonah, and he will passionately pursue us! Even in the midst of disobedience. In God's endless pursuit after Jonah, He uses three least expected things to rebuke Jonah's disobedience and turn his heart back towards Him. Jonah had obviously moved past the point of hearing God's voice on the gentler side. A still small whisper no longer was catching Jonah's attention. So God sends a violent storm upon the sea.
Just like how the Holy spirit today speaks to us. We cannot overcome sin without the help of the Holy Spirit. So, how we respond to the Him daily when He speaks to us is vital for our overcoming sin. But, if we ignore it and drown it out for too long, that voice grows fainter and fainter, to the point we can no longer hear it at all. They call this grieving the Holy Spirit.
This God storm was not just any storm. Sailors who were completely accustomed to storm life on the sea were terrified out of their minds. This storm had a message, and they needed to find out which one of them on the boat was responsible. They were not worshippers of the One True God like Jonah. They themselves worshiped many false God's and idols. And in the midst of this terrifying event, they each were praying to their own God. Meanwhile, Jonah is at the bottom of the deck fast asleep. These non believers were more spiritually in tune with their fake god's than Jonah was with the Great I Am. His spiritual state is clearly evident.
We can't be quick to assume every storm we face in life is from Satan. We give that dude too much credit. The story of Jonah is a reminder that when we try to run from God, He will send a storm to wake us up! These storms will not kill you. But they will wake you up and refine you if you let it. Has God ever needed to bring you into stormy waters to break down your layers of pride? Did God get your attention? When God sends us a storm we should be thankful! It may feel painful for the moment, but it means He is pursing us and will not give up. He is giving us another chance to make things right.
Having more compassion for Jonah than he obviously had for the Nivevites, the sailors tried desperately to row back to land. Tossing him over board was a last minute attempt to save their own lives. They dreaded risking his life, but they felt there was no other choice than to throw him overboard!
The Pursuit Of Jonah~ The Captain
Jonah was spiritually asleep. How else could he be fast asleep below deck while everyone else on board were frantically trying to save themselves. Even the Captain of this ship was completely aware of the spiritual warfare going on and took matters into his own hands. Someone who didn't even have a relationship with God knew! To calm this storm, the only thing they could do was throw Jonah off this ship!
What can we take away from Jonah being thrown off ship? The only way for us to learn and grow is to be hurled into the depths of the unknown. God never calls us into the known and the comfortable. It will always require faith in order to follow through any calling.
Listen, God will send people like this Captain on the boat to "wake us up". We can't be put off by it, especially when it is God appointed. We all need a Captain in our life who loves us enough to sit us down and loving say "It is time for you to grow up and mature". Ouch! Has anyone ever told you that?
Do you know the best way to learn how to swim? All it takes is that one person who has the heart to throw you in.
Be thankful for who God places in your life to help you mature and grow spiritually.
The Pursuit And Preservation Of Jonah~ The Whale
I have this picture of Jonah sinking to the depths of the ocean. Violently being tossed by the under currents. The emotions he must have felt. The fear? Something extraordinary happens after he is tossed into the sea. The scriptures say God provided a large fish. Hence the word provided! This was just another angle to this endless grace chase after Jonah.
During this storm God provided a Whale to swallow Jonah up! For three days and three nights he sat in the belly of this whale. Do you think God has Jonah's full and undivided attention now? I would say so. Jonah is sitting in the dark, alone, covered in whale stomach bile, rotting fish, and Lord knows what else. It's wet, probably cold. There is nowhere left for him to go and nothing left to draw his attention away from God. It took this dark and miserable place to get Jonah to cry out to God and seek His council. God had Jonah right where He needed to be.
Sometimes, God has to let us take a dark, lonely, and broken road to remind us exactly how much we need Him!
So needless to say Jonah submitted to God's authority and vowed to take His message to Nineveh. God then caused the Whale to vomit Jonah onto dry land. WOW!
So speaking of whale vomit...did you know when a whale vomits it produces something that is called ambergris? Ambergris is formed from a secretion of the bile duct in the intestines of the sperm whale, and can be found floating on the sea or washed up on the coast. It is speculated that an ambergris mass too large to be passed through the intestines is expelled via the mouth, leading to the reputation of ambergris as primarily coming from whale vomit. Ambergris takes years to form. It is rare and HIGHLY sought after for its unique beautiful smell. The lucky lump could fetch thousands of dollars. This egg-shaped whale vomit is worth big money. There is a British couple looking to cash in on their discovery of a large piece of whale vomit possibly worth more than $70,000. Certain fragrances by Chanel, Gucci and Givenchy have all been rumored to contain this vomit, better known as “ambergris.”
So while some probably think Jonah smelled of dead fish being vomited out of the whale, I tend to think just maybe he had the aroma of ambergris.
Trials have the tendency to strengthen us, mature us, give us a better perspective on life.
So what can we take away from this perfect storm whale eating experience Jonah faced? We know that even in the midst of disobedience God's love never loses sight of us. He'll graciously pursue us without the slightest hesitation. While the despair Jonah faced was simply from his own heart leading him astray, God was able to bring him out of it to get the job ultimately done.
I really have no idea obviously how the end of theJonah's story goes. It ends abruptly with God telling Jonah he cared more about a plant shading him from the sun than he did the salvation of the Ninevite people. So even after going through this tumultuous storm and being swallowed by a large fish in the very depths of the ocean, He still had heart issues to be worked out with God.
As annoyed with Jonah as I am, I can't judge this guy. Because deep down, I am guilty as well. I think wether we want to admit it or not, there is a little Jonah inside us all. A tale of two hearts. A heart that so desperately wants to serve God while the other is pressed and pulled towards the very flesh of our nature. But in reality, we all have to chose. Will we obey God or RUN?