I blogged the other day on Jonah (http://www.writergetsreal.blogspot.com/2013/07/sometimes-freedom-comes-covered-in-vomit.html) and guess what I realized when I walked into church Sunday for the first time in a few weeks?
My pastor is doing a new sermon series on Jonah.
My Holy Spirit radar perked. And wow, did He point out some things to me during that sermon.
Jonah isn't a long book in the Bible, in fact, in my Bible, it takes up not even two full pages of text. But it's rich. It's deep. And the analogies can go on for days if you open your heart to it.
My pastor was preaching Sunday on how salvation is the Lord's. He had some excellent points, like about how Jonah prayed his sincere prayer of repentance WITHOUT KNOWING that God was about to have that fish spit him out. Jonah didn't know salvation was coming. He did the right thing anyway, thinking he was likely about to die and had really screwed up big time. He didn't know his second chance was right around the corner.
"And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry ground." (I really would have loved to have listened to that conversation!)
Our pastor also pointed out via a map how when Jonah ran from the Lord's instructions, he literally went the opposite direction of where he should have gone. Instead of going north east to Nineveh, he ran
We were told of a quote from an evangelist "When a believer runs from God, Satan always has a taxi ready." The devil is always ready and eager to help a soul run away from the Lord. This doesn't mean he's in control instead of God, but it sure enough means he'll do whatever he can to help aide us in our disobedience and taxi us further away from God's will for us. Not to say God can't take us right back the right direction, but sometimes, that re-routing involves the belly of a fish.
I'd rather obey the first time...
He also pointed out how Jonah's disobedience ultimately stemmed from self righteousness - he was SO loyal to his patriotism, to his "faith", that he didn't want to see Nineveh repent. He KNEW that if he went and preached, they'd turn from their wicked ways, and in his own "Prodigal son's brother" way, he didn't see how that was fair. They didn't deserve grace, in his misguided opinion.
It's that easy to be that wrong. Even as a follower of God.
(See what I mean? ALL of these topics could be blog posts by themselves! Full sermons by themselves! So much here!!)
My pastor also pointed out something I'd never considered before - how in Chapter 1, the sailors that were taking Jonah to Tarshish, were scared. They were FREAKING OUT, all praying to their various gods, to save them.
While Jonah slept in the middle of the boat! They had to go wake up him and ask him to pray to whoever his god was. All of this I've read before, but as my pastor pointed out, these were SAILORS. These were men who had surely weathered (haha) storms before. There was clearly something about this storm that stood out to them as particularly frightening. They must have sensed the supernatural element to it. Which was true, because as verse 4 says, "The Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break."
God doesn't play around. The movie The Perfect Storm had nothing on this beast. The sailors were, as my dad joked, probably looking around for the Cracken. (Pirates of the Caribbean reference!) This was intense. And they knew it. And these tough sea faring men were scared to death.
So in a nutshell, to finish the story, they cast lots, and realize Jonah is the one at fault, and he finally confesses he's a Hebrew and a believer in the most high God, but is running from Him at the moment. (Oops) He eventually says "Look, guys, just throw me overboard, and it'll stop." The sailors didn't want to, they tried to keep rowing, but quickly see they don't have a choice. So they ask God to forgive them of the manslaughter they're about to commit, and reluctantly hoist Jonah into the giant waves.
Here's where my heart races. Here's where I get excited. My pastor didn't touch on this particular topic I'm about to share at all, but the Holy Spirit nudged me so hard at this, that I almost came off the pew.
Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
Do you see it?
Those sailors became believers.
If Jonah hadn't disobeyed and ran away in straight rebellion from God, he wouldn't have met those men. They wouldn't have experienced all they'd experienced, and wouldn't have come to be follows of God themselves. They made vows to the true God, and turned from their flimsy false gods that hadn't helped them during the storm at all.
Because of, essentially, sin.
GOD CAN USE ANYTHING. GOD CAN RESTORE ANYTHING. GOD CAN REDEEM ANYTHING. Any situation. Any sin. Any mistake. Any regret. He can (and WILL!) use it all for His glory when repentant hearts get involved.
Which is such a perfect tie-in to the post on Jonah I blogged the other day. When we're on dry land and reek of fish-bile, we can bask in the realization that God won't waste a minute of it. He can take our slimy, smelly, fish-vomit remains and save souls. Impact lives. Touch hearts. IN SPITE of us. In spite of our sin. In spite of our mistakes and regret.
Maybe even BECAUSE of them.
He's that big. And He cares that much.
That all excites me so much I'm practically throwing Pringles just typing this!
What do you think?