Several years ago, God asked me to do something specific. It was way outside my comfort zone, and I was pretty sure that either I had not heard correctly, or He didn’t know what He was saying. So, I rationalized and ignored the God mandate all for what I considered very good reasons. Looking back on that situation, I see that I am no different than Jonah. Can you think of a time when you ran away from what God was asking you to do? How did that play out in your life?
Many of us are familiar with the story of Jonah. We have seen movies about this man of God, receiving the Word of God, and going as far in the other direction as he could. Like many of us, Jonah didn't understand that it is impossible to run from the Lord (see Psalm 139). The Lord always sees and knows where we are, 24/7, 360 days a year. We like to imagine how that storm rolled in; Jonah gets thrown overboard and spends time in "fish jail" as God transports him back to the base of his assignment.
What we do not focus on is the city of Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire and full of people who were precious to God. However, the culture was such that they would celebrate their military conquests of ground covered with bodies and cities burned to the ground. Some emperors were known for dismembering and decapitating their prisoners. They would even cut off an individual's legs and one arm, mocking them as they died. The Assyrian culture was known to be one of the cruelest and most violent cultures that existed. The culture was far from God.
Now we understand that this was not just a thorn on the side of the Jewish people but a threat to their existence. But God is El Roi, the God who sees. God saw the culture's violence, and the Word he gave Jonah to deliver was a word of judgment.
Jonah had judged the people of Nineveh as deserving destruction, as they had done to many others. Jonah also knew the nature of God; Jonah understood that if God was issuing a decree of annihilation against the city, that attached was potential mercy tied to repentance. Jonah wasn't willing to risk His enemy repenting and God relenting, so he ran away from his assignment rather than running toward it.
We live in a culture where wickedness is on the rise. As we move toward embracing evil, it becomes normal within the culture. I suspect that many people within the Assyrian empire didn't realize what they were doing went against their health and wholeness. As the culture degraded, they adjusted and were desensitized to the destruction and demoralization around them. They were so desensitized that they joined in rather than fighting against it. We can easily assume that evil was considered good and good was considered evil.
All of us have a bit of Jonah in us. We are created to hear the voice of God, but we also tend to judge what God is saying or what we suspect He may do. It can be easy to justify running from the Lord's Word, plans, and purposes and justifying our decisions based on emotions, feelings, and cultural acceptance.
I am troubled as I look at the culture and the acceptance of evil. When I see bad things happen to bad people there can be a temptation to rejoice. However, each person is created in the image of God so when I adjust my viewpoint Heavenward, I realize that I am not justified in my rejoicing. Each soul lost is a soul doomed to an eternity in hell. It is serious business.
I also live in a culture that is increasingly anti-God and anti-Bible. The Biblical worldview is on the way out and a dangerous alternate worldview is taking its place. I must ask myself what my role is. Jonah ran because he believed that God may relent and save his enemy. He judged the people of not being worthy of God’s love and mercy. However, Jonah’s role was to deliver a message from God of judgment along with an unspoken invitation for change.
The tripping hazard is the plumbline by which we are judging. Are we judging according to a Biblical standard, seeing both the justice and mercy of God? Or are we judging from the cultural plumbline that may not align with Scripture? Are we judging by our thoughts, feelings, and emotions or are we seeing through the Father’s eyes?
To align with the Biblical mandate, I must know what Scripture says, so I have a responsibility to be in the Word and so do you. It is only from this space that we can have an understanding and courageous ear turned to Heaven and faithfully execute God’s will.
When I look back on my “Jonah” days, I can see how I made excuses and even doubted God’s ability. I can also see how when I got over myself and rightly focused on the Lord that He opened doors that I never would have walked through otherwise. He extended mercy to me despite my initial disobedience to what He asked me to do. I am so grateful for His mercy.
Radical faith requires a radical Biblical worldview wrapped in strength and courage from the Throne room of Heaven. We can try running but we will likely find ourselves in a God-ordained “time-out” because God loves us so much and His desire is for success. He has plans and purposes in store for our lives that are good, and those plans and purposes will also impact others in ways we cannot see. However, we must stop arguing and running from His plan. Father truly does know best, even when we don’t understand.