Wednesday, August 23, 2006

...the LORD's great power...

Jonah 1

1 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai:
2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.
4 But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.
5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.
6 So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
7 Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit.
8 “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”
9 Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.
11 And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?”
12 “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
13 Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it.
14 Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”
15 Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!
16 The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.
17 Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.

I read this devotional this morning and it seems that the story of Jonah keeps popping up. I have been personally dealing with this Jonah stuff for several years now. I find it interesting that each time I see this story or read it, I see something completely new in there that I had not noticed before. I believe this is what is meant by the Holy Spirit speaking to us through scripture. Speaking to us as it pertains to you, in your situation, in your walk with the Lord, right now, wherever you may be. That's what's happening to me.
We are all familiar with the story of Jonah. God told him to do something that Jonah didn't agree with so Jonah took off in the opposite direction and God went after him and forced Jonah into obedience. God had a purpose and a plan for Nineveh and He was set on Jonah to do His work.

But I've noticed something different in this passage this time. Notice verse 16.

16 The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.

Even though Jonah was running from God and being selfish, God still used Jonah's rebellion (sIn) to reach those sailors. As soon as Jonah hit the water, the storm stopped and all those sailors realized that their "gods" were nothing and that the God of Heaven, the LORD, is everything and has more power than they had imagined. Their "gods" could do nothing, but the LORD controlled the storm. You see? There is so much more to the story than what is being taught in Sunday School. The story of Jonah is not about "Jonah and the Whale". The story is about us. When we refuse to follow what God tells us to do, He sends something or someone into our lives to set us back on track. If we're stubborn enough, it may take spending a few days inside a big fish! But even in our sin, God can still use us or our situation to reach a dying world for Himself. Jonah was used by God to reach those sailors. Of course Jonah never knew that, since he had problems of his own trying to figure out how to get out of becoming whale dung.

If Jonah had not disobeyed God, those sailors would not have realized "...the LORD's great power…" and then turned to the LORD.

Here's something else to think about: Jonah's sin effected other people, not just himself. Remember, Jonah was sleeping through the storm until the captain woke him up. Then the crew found out that Jonah's sin was the reason for the storm, and they tossed him off the boat! The problem was Jonah so they got rid of him! Sound familiar? Has this happened to you or someone you know?

Are you caught in a storm? Did your friends "toss you overboard"? Do you feel like you're about to be whale excrement? Hang in there. It just may be that God is using your situation for His Glory to someone you don't even know. Gee….maybe that's why the Bible tells us to be thankful in all things (including our trials). You never know who God is talking to. It may even be you.

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