A dear friend and I are currently doing a four-week Bible study of the Old Testament book of Jonah. This is something I've wanted to do for almost a year now. There is much more to this book than the "fish story" we heard as a child, and much to learn from it. I don't plan to make this an exhaustive study of the four-chapter book, but will share the sparks of Spirit that the Lord shares with me. I pray that my thoughts will encourage you to reflect on the wisdom of this little book, and maybe even to study it yourself. But my biggest prayer is that you put its life-changing principles into practice.
When I am looking for direction from God, I will often take circumstances, or occasionally my sense of peace, as an indication of whether I am heading in the right direction. I know I'm not alone in this.
I'll say to myself "I'm not sure where in the Bible I should read, so I'll just close my eyes and open it, and start from there." Or, I might be considering whether I should email or call a friend. If I should notice that my husband is currently on the phone, I might decide that is a "sign" I should email.
In another instance, I'd be trying to figure out how to respond to a not-so-friendly comment from someone. I'd be more likely to say what makes me feel at peace. If I start saying something and a knot develops in my throat, I might just hold my tongue.
In my study of the book of Jonah, however, I have discovered that this is not necessarily a foolproof method. It also could mean that I am so spiritually numb that I am not hearing the Lord's nudging.
1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me."3 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. 4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. Jonah 1:1-5 NIVYou can tell as early as verse two that Jonah is absolutely, positively outside of God's will for him. Yet, he was able to find a ship from Joppa to Tarshish. According to Bible study teacher Bill Crowder, a ship would only travel from Joppa to Tarshish two or three times a year. Perhaps Jonah figured that God wasn't serious up in verse one. I mean, what are the chances this ship, bound for the exact place Jonah was considering, would be sitting in the port waiting for him? Must be God's will - right?
And how about verse five? The weather is pounding on the ship, seasoned sailors are panicking. And where is Jonah? Below deck, sleeping like a baby.
Now, I have to admit that I RARELY sleep like a baby--especially when I am rebelling against the Lord. Yet here is Jonah, snoring his way through a violent storm, as if he hasn't a care in the world. It is obvious he has so dulled himself to the Lord's desires that it doesn't even bother him anymore
I can't help but draw a parallel between another Bible figure who was in a similar situation.
23Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" 26He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Matthew 8:23-26a NIVHere is the Son of God, in the midst of a violent storm, also sleeping. Yet what different motives! Jesus is sleeping because He trusts His Father, while Jonah is doing so because of his rejection of Him.
So, don't always assume because things feel good, or because they work out "just right," that you're walking along the path the Lord wants you to walk. You could end up so engrossed in your own plan that you miss His. And we all know where Jonah ended up!
Heavenly Father, help me to never get so disobedient, or set in my own ways, that I miss Your plan for my life. Release me from the stubbornness and self-centeredness that threatens to turn me toward my own way instead of Yours. Guide me on Your path, and help me throw aside my own for Your glory. In Jesus' Name. Amen