This concluding part of our study in the book of Jonah was given at Calvary Portsmouth by pastor Barry Forder on 23rd January 2022.
Trusting God. It’s probably one of the hardest things in the believers walk. Sure, on a sunny day when all is going well, when you are in good health, with no worries, it’s easy to ‘trust’ God then; but in the dark times, when we go through the valleys, when we are grieving, suffering loss of something of someone, when we can’t see a way out of our current predicament, that’s when the walk of faith is really put to the test. That’s when our hearts are called upon to see if we really believe that ‘all things work together for good…’ (Romans 8:28).
That is the story of Jonah.
Jonah was not a coward who didn’t want to go and preach, he was a patriot, a man who loved the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and loved the nation of Israel – his nation, and desperately wanted to avoid letting Israel’s enemies ‘off the hook’. He may of well prayed daily for deliverance from those who threatened to destroy God’s people. So, courageously, he stood up to defend his people, which meant running from the call to preach a message of hope and repentance to Assyria.
The problem was, he did not understand God’s plan. What Jonah thought would only end in disaster for his nation, was part of a much bigger picture, of which he could only see a part.
That is one of the greatest lessons that can be gleaned from this short book. Do you trust God no matter what? No matter how is seems to you right now?
After preaching to Nineveh and seeing one of the greatest revivals in history, Jonah is somewhat disgruntled that God did indeed spare Israel’s enemies. But God uses an object lesson with a plant that grows to provide much needed shade for Jonah as he sat in the baking Middle-Eastern sun. When the plant died the following morning, Jonah is once again disgruntled, in fact, he is downright angry! God then lets Jonah see that the plant is a picture of himself. His message of ‘relief’ for Assyria (and their subsequent repentance) was short-lived. The prophet Nahum would go on to prophesy of Assyria’s destruction, yet not until God had given a call to repentance for ‘whoever had ears to hear.’
Through Jonah, the message of Salvation went to the Gentiles, and a harvest was gleaned. In the book of Romans the Apostle Paul tells us that God has let the message of salvation go to the gentiles, in part to provoke Israel to jealousy. If the idolatrous gentiles repented and had been spared, the same could have been true if Jonah’s own nation had repented rather than continue on in idolatry. Instead, because of their disobedience, Israel would be led into captivity at the hands of the Assyrians. If Jonah could have seen the end of the story he would have known that all of God’s enemies will one-day be destroyed and Israel will be established in their Land, with their Messiah and King ruling over them. But God was also doing something even greater; through Christ He was bringing together both repentant Jews and repentant gentiles as one people, forever to walk with Him!
Never fear if it seems God is leading you along a path that doesn’t seem to make sense to you right now. His ways are above our ways, His thoughts are above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). All His ways are just and right (Deuteronomy 32:4), God is good and does good (Psalm 119:68), and all his judgments are good (Psalm 119:39). It might not feel like it right now in what you are going through, it may feel the exact opposite, but this is the walk of faith. Not when the way is clear, but when we can’t see how we can continue.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths”. (Proverbs :5-6)
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).
Jonah came to see this for himself. How do we know? Because we have his account; the very fact that we have Jonah chapter 4 in the Bible is testimony to the fact that Jonah acknowledged his own weakness and God’s strength.
May you be encouraged by Jonah’s zeal for God, for His people, for wanting to do the right thing, but may you come to the place of trusting God, regardless of the consequences.
“The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us – ‘I reckon on you for extreme service, with no complaining on your part and no explanation on mine’. God wants to use us as He used His own Son.” – Oswald Chambers