“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. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, ‘What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish…’
“Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.” Jonah 1:1-6,10
The heathen mariners labeled Jonah in ways beyond their understanding. In the hurl of a great tempest, as each was crying out to his god, Jonah the disobedient was fast asleep in both body and soul. His disdain at the wicked people of Nineveh had put to sleep compassion and any appetite for God’s mercy. His hard heart had hypnotized obedience into slumber. And he was called on it in spectacular fashion. God would jolt this sleeping servant awake to achieve His ends, regardless of his spiritual drowsiness.
We do not know if Jonah stayed awake. We do know he came to his senses and fulfilled his vow of obedience, and witnessed the repentance and salvation of the people of Nineveh. But he also continued to nurse resentment, so we can imagine that the Lord may have continually, lovingly, faithfully, nudged him awake throughout his prophet years unto His gracious character. God doesn’t give up on His own. (Jonah 2:3-6,9-10; 3:1-5,10; 4:1-4,8-11)
Are there commands that make us cringe, areas of obedience we shirk or flee? If so, check the root. Is there a bitterness against wrong done to us, or a resentment at another’s seeming successes regardless of unjust or greedy dealings? Do we think ourselves above someone else’s behavior choices? Have we failed to extend mercy as Jesus has to us? Do we insist on some right we think we deserve, or simply prefer our plans over God’s? Would we see that His commands are for the good of everyone, including us whom He is sanctifying? (Deuteronomy 10:12-17; Psalm 37:1-13; Hebrews 12:15)
What adjustments might we make to schedule and attitude to increase our attentiveness to the Lord? Taking time to focus on Him and His goodness instills eagerness to understand His ways and follow His lead. Active obedience brings rest to our souls.
Lord, awaken me to Your mercies every day, and keep me attentive and responsive to Your voice. Shine on me unto wise walking and obedient living, to the praise of Your grace and glory. (Lamentations 3:22-23; Ephesians 5:14-16)