I have been reading the book of Jonah. It has got me thinking a lot of things; maybe because I can be stubborn and I see a lot of me in Jonah.
My thinking of Jonah, what has really stuck over the years, is the shark story. This man was sent to Nineveh, he refused to go and then he experiences sharks for not obeying – the being swallowed by the fish etc. Guess the result of a nice Sunday school class lingers for many years on. However, recently as I read bout Nineveh, the Lord created a new ‘Sunday school’ memory.
When finally Jonah went to Nineveh to deliver the message God had given him, the Ninevites turned away from their wicked ways and God saved them. A yee moment, right? The kind of moment every preacher / sharer of word of God longs for; deliver the message and the hearts of the people are convicted and they transform to be what God wants them to be. Yee, let us celebrate. Not for Jonah. Jonah is disappointed that God has saved the Ninevites, that He had mercy on them.
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
My first reaction to these verses is daah Jonah, is it not obvious God wanted to rescue the Ninevites? Why else would He send you to warn them?
The heart problem
Then I start to see the heart of Jonah.
Perhaps he was just delivering the message coz God had said to, perhaps he did not believe in it and therefore the disappointment, perhaps he was just tired of running away from God and decided to just comply, maybe he just got tired of surviving the stench of the shark’s stomach; I don know. All I know is that the heart of Jonah as he delivers this message he is not very ‘Christianly’ (if there is such a word).
Jonah’s response reminds me of the older brother to the prodigal son, the one who was disappointed at his father for throwing the party for lost son. A writer once wrote that this older brother should have been out there searching for his brother; he should have been the one to bring him home and most excited to see him but no, he was angry at his father.
I will use you anyway
I guess in all these I see the heart of man. I see my heart. I see how my heart sometimes is not in the right place. I see how sometimes I will do things for God like Jonah coz He tells me to not necessarily coz I heart for the people. I actually see my heart a lot in Jonah.
But what excites me, what is the highlight of this story is this, God uses Jonah anyway.
Do not imagine God did not know Jonah’s heart, do not imagine he dint know this guy will not celebrate the salvation of Ninevites. God probably knew Jonah would obey and deliver the message as it should regardless of the state of His heart and that was enough.
The reason I love that God uses him anyway is this, it tells me God will use me in the places He has called me to serve regardless of the state of my heart (remember the thoughts in the work in progress blogpost?)
Often I feel as Christians the devil uses the lie that ‘we are not good enough, our thoughts are not good enough, and our intentions are not good enough’ to hold us back from serving God. In the process we stay in the stomach of the shark forever. Our lives are forever about us than the calling God has over our lives. We are forever trying to be better so that we can serve God yet never really reaching the mark.
Come as you are
He reminds me today, He reminds you today, come as YOU ARE.
I love the way God goes about explaining to Jonah why He saved Nineveh. He does not beat him away for having such a hard heart, He instead uses the language Jonah understands, the language of a tree shade that was taken away. You can feel the love even as God asks Jonah if he has a right to be angry, its not an intimidating ‘you are such a bad person’ kind of conversation. It’s a conversation of love, its a conversation of a loving Father to his ignorant child. Read Jonah 4 sometime.
That’s the God we serve. That’s my story, in between a heart that I aint sure of its state, I find such a fulfilling love, I find such a loving Father. He fills my heart to the brim. He chooses me just as I am. He uses me anyway.
Regardless of where you feel you heart is, regardless of how worthy you feel you are, regardless of how messed up you feel you are, He says COME JUST AS YOU ARE. He will use you anyway. He will deal with you anyway. All He says is come. And as He uses you, He will deal with your heart. He will open your eyes to things only He knows. He will woo your heart to be as His is. He will work on you. Just come as you are. The Lover of Your Soul is calling.