From “But” to “Then”

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.’ But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord… But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up… So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, ‘I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice… But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!’ And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.” Jonah 1:1-4,15,17;2:1-2,9-10;3:1-3

God always gets His way. Sometimes we fidget and fuss and rebel, sometimes we get lazy in delay and deliberation, sometimes we turn hardened and complacent in disobedience, but He will always win out, and we save ourselves a lot of pain and distress if we would yield when first He calls. Jonah learned the hard way, but God prevailed. Jonah took every open door to hasten away from God, away from Ninevah, and his numb conscience lulled him to sleep on a ship headed the opposite direction. But gracious God brought a storm, then conviction when the sailors awakened him. He orchestrated a fish to swallow him whole, and had him ‘stew’ just long enough to relinquish his “buts.” In His mercy, He didn’t chastise him with “I told you so” and “Why don’t you ever get it right?” He simply orchestrated these remarkable events to give Jonah a second chance and bring about His purposes in Jonah’s heart and for the city of Ninevah. This time, Jonah obeyed.

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Where am I resisting God’s word, or delaying obedience, and why? Is my reluctance mired in self-comfort, tradition, preference in my ‘better way,’ stubbornness, prejudice? How often is my first response “but…” instead of “yes!”, and where am I not loving His mercies, extending His grace and love, accepting His plan, trusting His higher and better purposes?

Gracious Father, heed my ears to Your voice and give me a willing spirit to obey, first time; dissolve my “buts” into glad surrender. May I never flee Your presence, even in my will. Thank You for Your mercies when I resist and You patiently prevail. You are God; You are good, and do good, and Your word is good. (Psalm 119:68)

 

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