Growing up in church you probably heard the story about Jonah. Maybe there was a felt board out on display with Jonah, a boat, a whale, Nineveh, the whole nine yards. The main point was then drilled into your head “don’t disobey God” from your favorite Sunday school teacher. What would you say if I told you that the book of Jonah isn’t just about Jonah and what not to do? It is a book about the nature and character of God. And it helps us learn more about how God speaks.
The book of Jonah is only four short chapters, but it mentions “God” 38 times. Meaning God is obviously the main character here. Sure we may picture ourselves in Jonah’s place and try to learn how to live a better life by not being disobedient the way Jonah was. More importantly, this book helps us know God better and how he speaks to us. When we know more about who God is and how he speaks to us, we find ourselves more willing to obey and open to listening when he speaks.
We can hear from God in different ways because God speaks. He is not silent. God speaks primarily through His Word, the Bible, but he also speaks through people, through circumstances and through the Holy Spirit. These reasons made A.W. Tozer conclude, “To the child of God, there is no such thing as an accident.”
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, but he chose to run away to Tarshish. But did you notice that even in Jonah’s disobedience the circumstances all lined up? He was able to make a trip to Joppa, he found a ship that would take him to his destination, and he even had the money to pay for it! This shows us that it is possible to be out of God’s will and have circumstances appearing to work on your behalf. So be careful.
Like Jonah, we’ve all run to Tarshish in one way or another. We’ve wanted to get away to a place where the grass is greener and where we can be in control. We sometimes get pretty far and can’t imagine anything coming in and changing it, but God is always looking for ways to speak to us. So what does God do next for Jonah? He sends a storm. God sends a storm to get Jonah’s attention and change his circumstances in a significant way. Then God sends a fish, a fish big enough to swallow up Jonah and ultimately save him from the storm. In that moment, Jonah hits rock bottom. But, it was in the belly of a fish that Jonah began to pray again. James Boice said “Jonah found the mercy of God in his misery. While Jonah had forsaken God, God had not forsaken Jonah.” I love that about our God!
After the fish spits Jonah out on dry land, God speaks to Jonah again. God is the God of second chances! But, this time Jonah chooses to obey. Even though the story doesn’t end there, we can learn a lot from this portion of the story. Here are a few things to remember this week as you go about doing the work God has called you to do.
God wants to speak to you everyday.
God is working even when you don’t know He is.
God sometimes speaks through circumstances.
Our disappointments are often His appointments.
God is the God of second chances (and third, and fourth…)