We have been studying the Minor Prophets for Bible Study this year and It has been pretty amazing! The parallels between what Israel had become and what America is right now is a little scary! But the truth’s of God’s character despite the sinfulness of His chosen people leave me undone.
The schedule fell on me to lecture on the book of Jonah. I am sure many of you are quite familiar with the account of Jonah. You know, that one guy, that got swallowed up by a whale. Or for those of you who are familiar with Veggie Tales….”Jonah was a prophet. ooo ooo and he never really got it. Sad but true” really does ring true. With each time I read the book, I became acutely aware that I am just like Jonah.
Disobedience. It is intolerable in many of our homes. We expect/demand obedience from our children. Why do we expect differently from the God of the Universe? If we belong to Him and truly are His sons and daughters, why do we think that obedience is not or should not be expected of us? We, normally, behave in an acceptable manner in our culture but are we truly being obedient to our Father?
The book of Jonah really made me examine my heart, and the truth of the matter was, I have a disobedient heart. God showed me the 5 characteristics of a disobedient heart.
1. Losing sight of God’s Perspective-( Jonah 1:2) Often times we forget that people’s sin is not an offense against us, but rather an offense against a holy, righteous, God. Like Jonah, we take the offenses and sins of others and take it as our offense. We take things very personal and it effects our relationship and obedience to our Lord.
Jonah disobeyed God’s directive because he did not like (probably loathed) the Assyrians. They were a very wicked people and they were Gentiles. Jonah allowed his emotions and feeling for these people to get in the way of God’s directions. God saw the wickedness of the people of Ninevah and wanted them to repent. This was the last thing on Jonah’s mind. He wanted the city of Ninevah destroyed. Which leads to the next characteristic.
2. Blatant disobedience– (Jonah 1:3) Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord. He went in the opposite direction in which he was told. How often do we do this? I am a Jonah! If I do not like the directions, I just turn and run the opposite direction. But in this I am fleeing from the presence of the Lord. Often times, I think we can have our cake and eat it too. We can disobey God, but stay right here with Him. That is not how it works. We have fooled ourselves into thinking this is even possible. Disobedience is sin and sin separates. It breaks our relationship. Just like when our children disobey. We have to get back into right relationship.
3. Disregard for others- Our sin and disobedience, whether we want to admit it or not, greatly affects the people around us. It effects our spouses, our children, and anyone who is close to us. The reality is that we just don’t really care. Jonah did not seem to care either. This huge storm comes upon them and all the other people on the ship are in panic mode trying to figure out what is going on. Not Jonah. He doesn’t seem to care.
4. An unbothered conscience– Jonah, in the midst of this storm, goes below and goes to sleep. Really? Have you ever tried to go to sleep when God is bothering you about something. It is very difficult and next to impossible. Unless of course, your heart is hard to Him. Usually, when we get to this point, God has to get our attention because we don’t seem to really care. Are conscience is not bothered by the fact we are being disobedient to the God of the universe. Scary place to be! But how often do we find ourselves right where Jonah is? Sound asleep when God is trying to get our attention.
5. Outward Obedience in the midst of a non-compliant heart– We call this lip service in my house. When you say yes, but on the inside you are still saying no. You can see it in their face! I firmly believe this is right where Jonah was. Despite getting swallowed by a really big fish, his heart was not repentant. Although, he was now going to do what God had instructed him to do, I believe his heart had not changed.
6. Material/physical becomes more important that the spiritual– God, despite Jonah’s disobedience, sent a gourd for comfort. What did Jonah do when God took that blessing away? He got mad….at God. Really , Jonah?! The dialogue between God and Jonah in 4:9, “ And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.” Jonah is like talking back to God. He was telling God, “I am right in being angry even unto to death.” Watch out Jonah, that just might happen! Jonah was more concerned about the gourd (the material) that God gave and took away, than the hearts (the spiritual) of the people of Ninevah which were 120,000 that could not discern between their right hand and their left.
7. Lost the Heart of God– I think this culminates Jonah’s spiritual condition. I think we can see right into his heart. It is because of this passage that I believe Jonah had an unrepentant heart. In 4:2, he says to the Lord, “And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.” Do you get what he is saying here? Basically he is saying, I knew you would do this and withhold judgement and that’s why I ran to Tarshish. I knew you were gracious, kind, and merciful. So it is better for me to die. I love God’s response to Jonah, “Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?”. God’s asking Jonah are you right in your thinking?
I truly believe Jonah had lost the heart of God. God was and still is in the redeeming business for Jew and Gentile alike and Jonah was more concerned about watching the people Ninevah perish than come to repentance. God wishes all to repent! That is His heart! But when we flee from His presence we are sure to lose His heart!
Are we a Jonah? Do you have a disobedient heart? Have we fled from the presence of God and made the material more important than the spiritual?
I am guilty!
If you would like to watch the video of my lecture, here is the you tube link