At Anchor Gaslamp, we’re continuing the series on Jonah and the Mission of God. Yesterday was the third installment of the series and we’ll be finishing up next week. Here are some interesting points in Jonah 3.
God gives Jonah a second chance. Look at it, chapter 3:1 is almost exactly like chapter 1:1. But by this time in the story, Jonah has experienced what it’s like to run from God’s call. Jonah has seen that God still pursued him for God’s own purposes and for Jonah’s good. Jonah saw God send a storm to keep Jonah from running. And when he thought it was all over, as he was drowning in the ocean, Jonah experienced what it’s like to be literally swallowed by God’s grace (in the form of a large fish.) In Jonah’s prayer, found in chapter 2, he acknowledges that God saved him from certain death, that God brought his life up from the pit.
Another thing Jonah acknowledges in his prayer is that, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” We see that being inside the storm, thrown into the sea, and swallowed by the fish, God has brought Jonah to a place where he can’t run from God anymore. There in the belly of the fish, he is confronted with the truth… the truth about the idols in his heart. The idols that keep him from fully trusting in God’s sovereignty. Clinging to these idols is the very thing keeping him from experiencing God’s grace in the mission to share the truth with others.
And here at this point, when God has used extreme and difficult circumstances to redeem Jonah’s rebellion, Jonah vows to declare that “salvation comes from the LORD.” At this moment is when the fish vomits him up onto dry land, and God gives Jonah a ‘take two’ of sorts.
The situation is still the same. All the circumstances that made Jonah want to flee in the first place are still there. But God’s call is also still there. And given the second chance that he’s given, Jonah makes the decision to obey. He’s learned by this point who is really in control.
In chapter 3, we finally see Jonah walking in FAITH, whereas in previous chapters we’ve seen him walk in FEAR. Yes, the task is daunting. God wants him to walk into an intimidating city of 120,000 people who do not fear the Lord… and he wants him to go in alone and tell all these people how wrong they are… and of their impending judgment. But now that he’s been where he’s been, he knows that God is trustworthy… and that of all the possible missions on earth, only God’s mission will be successful. So he walks faithfully into a task WAY too big for him, a challenge that is impossible without God… but he obeys because he knows that he is working with God.
Finally we see that when Jonah decides to obey God instead of rebel, when he runs toward God’s mission instead of running away from it, he gets to join in with the success of God’s mission as well. The people of Nineveh believe, cry out to God, and repent.
Our challenge in San Diego is this: to recognize that God has called us to this city on mission, and to run toward that mission with faith in God’s sovereignty.
Mission is God’s burden and our blessing.