Monday, August 12, 2013

jonah: a lot more than a fishy story (part 1)

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. (Jonah 1:1-3)

Lately, the Lord has been pushing me to discuss Jonah with DW. You know, Jonah... the guy who was swallowed up by the big fish? The prophet who always seemed to be running away from God's will? Yeah. That guy.

It's funny, because when God started to make it clear that I should write about this man, my first instinct was to run in the other direction. You see, I didn't wish to get into all the arguments that would likely arise from "the whale" part of the story. I didn't look forward to the increased volume of emails that I would have to stop and answer about a prophet who was clearly working against the plan of God. Truthfully, I must admit that I started to drag my heels and began looking for excuses as to why I should not share what I know about Jonah. But God kept pushing. So, here we are.

Ironically, the beginning of the book of Jonah shows us a man who also dragged his heels against God's request. Worse yet, he is a guy who decides to do exactly the opposite of what God tells him to do. God asked Jonah to get up and go to the great city of Nineveh and tell them to shape up or they would be destroyed. Nineveh was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire - the world power in control at that time. For those who don't know about this empire, let me just say that they were one of the most brutal and dreaded nations of the ancient world. They were known for their cruel methods of torture and their ability to overcome lands by overwhelming them with the size of their military forces as they advanced into opposing countries. Their method to penetrate into a nation would include massive, surprise attacks upon the opposing nation's main city. There, they would torture and kill the men and children, as well as rape and take captive the women as slaves. These guys were so nasty, that it is said that some cities chose to commit mass-suicide rather than fall into the hands of the Assyrians. Can you imagine?

Anyway, it is clear that Jonah hated the Assyrians. He was strongly against God's request to go warn them of any upcoming judgement. So much so, that Jonah decided to flee into another direction and disobey God's order. Why would he do this?

Well, it is likely that Jonah's home town of Gath-helpher in the northern kingdom of Israel had seen the brutality of the Assyrian military first hand. History tells us that Assyria eventually took Israel captive. This would include Jonah's home town. Now, I can only speculate, but I wonder if Jonah was there when it happened... or at least nearby when they came. Is it likely that his own family members were raped and murdered by the Assyrian army? Sure. Perhaps his own parents were killed before his very eyes? Perhaps his sisters raped and beaten? Perhaps he alone was spared because he was a prophet? Hmmm. The Bible does not share these details. But it does show us a very bitter Jonah, hating the Assyrians so much that He wished them dead. We see a man who didn't want this enemy to turn from their wickedness. He didn't want God to give them mercy. No, Jonah wanted their capital city destroyed. He wanted God's full wrath to come down upon Nineveh and His judgement to wipe them off the face of the earth.

Have you ever hated someone that much? Have you ever wished that someone would actually go to hell? Have you ever prayed for God to bring down His judgement on someone you considered so wicked that you wholeheartedly believed they didn't deserve His grace? Has your anger boiled deeply against someone who has wronged you or your family in such a way that you no longer care about God's command to love them. No, in your opinion, "loving your enemy" does not apply to this horrible person or this crowd of evil people. They do not deserve such a courtesy to repent. This is where Jonah's story begins.

Now, you may be thinking, "Wow, Victoria. All that, and we haven't even read past verse 3! There is a lot more here than I thought." ... I know, right?

So, for the next few days, I invite you to come sit with me in the book of Jonah. It is an easy read - four little chapters. But it is packed with a few punches and many valuable lessons. Oh, and it has a big fish in it too. (Wink.)

I encourage you to block out some time to read these four chapters. Begin praying over what God wants to teach you from this small book of the Bible and I will do the same. I'm not sure where God will ultimately take us with this study... but unlike Jonah, let's show up willing to obey God's call and go where He instructs us to go. Join me, ladies. Let's study to show ourselves approved unto God! Until tomorrow... XOXOXO!

Blessings!
Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

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