If Jonah was claustrophobic, he was out of luck. You would think a man of God who had his levels of faith would just do what God told him to do. However, great faith doesn’t necessarily issue forth in great acts of obedience. Nineveh was a no-go zone for this prophet. If preaching in Nineveh meant salvation for the wicked Assyrians, then Jonah was sailing in the opposite direction. And that he did. No one anymore believes that God deliberately sends storms to bring men to his senses. I do, and Jonah also did, but he didn’t care. Things got rough on Jonah’s westward cruise, and the terrified sailors, to save their own lives from certain peril, reluctantly and repentantly threw him overboard – at his suggestion.
Ironically, they cared more about God’s will than Jonah did. But fear not, God’s will will not be thwarted! God launched the original Operation Jonah and for the next three days and three nights Jonah lay praying in the what must have been the smallest prayer closet in history. As you know, Jonah went to Nineveh, preached his turn-or-burn sermon, witnessed a mass revival, and then perched himself atop a local hill and hoped against hope for Nineveh’s destruction. God is faithful. And with Nineveh’s repentance came God’s mercy and forgiveness. Jonah knew of these expressions of God’s endless love but wasn’t about to wish them upon anyone he hated – especially the Assyrians! God challenged Jonah to see his sanctimonious, solitary, selfish self in light of the 120,000 souls ‘who didn’t know their right hand from their left.’ Sadly, to no avail. The Bible holds Jonah up as an example of a man of God who could have saved himself, and others, a lot of grief if he had just done what God had told him to do in the first place. That’s a good thought to take to my somewhat spacious prayer closet over the next 27 days. (firstname.lastname@example.org)