We’re going through the book of Jonah at my church, and last week (I think?) the pastor said something that blew me away. He pointed out that in the story, there are times when God commands the wind and the sea, the fish, and a worm to do various things.
Not only do they obey the Lord’s commands…it’s not even a question that they will. It wouldn’t even make sense to be reading along, see the text say, “And God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land,” and then read, “But the fish ignored the LORD and swam for Joppa.” If you had been in the rhythm of the story up till that point, you’d do a double take and go, “Huh?!” Because when God decrees something, it happens, to avoid negating all existence.
Except for just one thing: There is an element of the creation that flagrantly disobeys God’s commands: the man Jonah.
(Now back to my thoughts.) Yet even here, all is well: God manages to take Jonah and still fulfill His plan. Everybody knows that, but here’s something that only occurred to me upon this reading: There’s more to Jonah than simply, “He disobeys God.” No, see, Jonah knows the Lord. He understands His nature quite well, as he discusses at various points throughout the book. And not because he is preaching, but he says it matter-of-factly: to the sailors in the beginning of the story, and to God at the end.
Furthermore, Jonah is very stubborn, and he doesn’t think much of others. So he is just the kind of guy the Lord needs to send His message to Ninevah. But first, He needed to bolster Jonah, to give him absolute confidence and not be afraid of getting laughed at, let alone beaten and killed, as he walked through the streets of Ninevah.
So God very particularly singled out this man Jonah, perfect for the job, gave him His initial order–knowing full well Jonah would flee on a ship–so that He could have a fish (/whale) swallow Jonah and let him fester for three days, really coming to appreciate what he already knew intellectually, that the Lord is in control.
And then, after that crucible, the Lord physically delivered Jonah to the land and had him march through Ninevah. We don’t know exactly what Jonah said or how he said it, but we do know it was enough to convince an entire city to repent.
So just remember: You’re exactly the person God needs to carry out His wonderful plan, whether you’re on board or not.