I happened across the book of Jonah in my reading yesterday and today, and I began to think of Jonah in a somewhat different way--God told Jonah, "Go preach to Nineveh." Jonah didn't want to do that, so he ran from God, and boarded a ship going to Tarshish. Modern scholarship is in disagreement regarding its exact location, but one of the Assyrian kings (capital city of where Jonah was supposed to go) identifies it as the most distant place he had subjugated. In other words, it was as far away as you can go from Assyria/Nineveh, and still be in a world with which Jonah was vaguely familiar.
Once Jonah boards the ship, and they are on their way, God sends a storm, which disables the ship, and the sailors are forced to throw Jonah overboard.
Jonah has actually asked them to do so--figuring, I suppose, that even death is better than having to go to Assyria to preach the message God wants, since that message is calculated to get Nineveh to repent, and Jonah hates the Assyrians for the things they've done to his country.
So the sailors throw Jonah into the ocean, and suddenly the ocean quiets. However, Jonah, who expected to die, is eventually swallowed by a huge fish (whale). Three days later, Jonah, who had thought "Anything is preferable to preaching to Nineveh," has now had a revelation--he doesn't want to be digested. Death is not what he really wants in exchange for leaving Nineveh to its own devices. Jonah wants to live.
At this point, I began to think, "Isn't that how it usually is? All of us want to live. All of us would want a second chance to choose life, if we could."
And that was true of Jonah. When he had time to think, to pray, to suffer, he realized that life is better than death--but the only way God would let him out of his fishy prison was if he promised to do what God called him to do in the first place, so he says in Jonah 2:9, "I will pay what I have vowed..."
We are greatly blessed when God gives us 2nd and 3rd and 4th (ad infinitum) chances, and death is not a good choice, since by choosing death, we never get to see what God will do with the rest of our lives.
Jonah preached the message God gave him, and the entire city of Nineveh repented. At the end, God gives Jonah the true point of the story:
"You had pity on the plant (a plant Jonah sat under, but which died); should I not have pity on Nineveh, that great city...??"
God pities wicked men, women, and children. None is ever too far from Him. He can always find them, call them to repent, and give them life. Of course, God is silent about Jonah himself in his reminder, but God pitied Jonah, his running, his anger, his depression, his rebellion--and God wanted Jonah to live. It wasn't as if Jonah had to be the one to deliver the message of repentance to Nineveh: others could do that--but God didn't want Jonah to lose his life. Jonah's life was valuable to God. God chased him down, caught him, and redirected him.
The same is true of you.
God doesn't want you to lose your life, to give up, to be destroyed, to be ruined. His mercy is infinite, and He desires for you to have life.
Accept it. Don't love death. Love life. Love God. Let your path end in His presence, not in rebellion and anger, or sorrow and self-pity.
I have no idea what your word from God has been, or is, or will be. But I know this. Life is better than death. If you are running, STOP. Turn to Him. Let Him give you life. It is much better than death. Choose life.
Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.
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