God to Jonah. Pretty clear directive. Not, “Hey Jonah, I was thinking about sending you to Ninevah”, not “Hey Jonah, if you can fit it into your busy schedule, go to Ninevah for me”, not even, “Hey Jonah, go to Ninevah if you feel like it.”
Nope. Just “Arise and go!”
When I started a Bible study of Jonah about 4 weeks ago, I was pretty excited about meeting with the ten or so ladies from my neighborhood who agreed to study and eat dessert together every Tuesday night. Even after the first week, when the lady on the bible study video was talking about how God interrupts our life with unexpected or difficult requests, I was still feeling pretty good. My life wasn’t interrupted in any dramatic way.
After about week four, when Jonah has decided that he just isn’t all that interested in going to Ninevah, and gets swallowed by the fish and violently vomited right back up on the shore, I was starting to feel uncomfortable. And when after all that, God said to Jonah, again, “Arise and go to Ninevah”, I knew that God was talking to me just as surely as He was talking to Jonah.
Without going into details, let me just say that about two years ago, I knew God was telling me to do something. But because I didn’t feel like doing it, I didn’t. And I justified, rationalized and denied with the best of them. Last April, I pretty clearly heard God say it again. “Arise and go!”. And I still didn’t feel like it, but I tried to do it anyway. Well, to the best of my ability. But there were a few special instances where I could justify not doing it that day, or this occasion. Or whatever.
Suddenly, the other day, I realized that I have been in the belly of that fish as surely as Jonah was, suffering the consequences of my unwillingness and disobedience. Unable to breathe right, think clearly, see in the darkness or live right. And I heard God say, with His infinite patience, “Arise and go!” I felt like I had simultaneously been hit with a hammer and set free from prison.
“Arise and go!!!!!”
John Piper, in his poem about Jonah says it well:
Learn how the work of God is done.
That there is fierce and stormy grace
With wind and waves and mangled face,
And sailors with condemning dice,
And demons waiting sacrifice,
And giant fish with slashing teeth,
And gasping, acid graves beneath.
Yet none of this is to destroy,
But to restore the prophet’s joy,
And not his merely, but the throngs
Of Nineveh will sing their songs.
And Jonah, in the coming years,
Will say with tender heart and tears,
Along with each whom God will call,
The price was high and worth it all.
The pain of being loved by God
Is great, so let us kiss the rod.
What is God telling you to do and where is your Ninevah?