Before obedience

Jonah 3

When we hear of the prophet Jonah, most times, it’s in relation to obedience. God had a powerful message for a booming city to hear. How would God speak to the people of Nineveh? Through an obedient prophet. That’s where we usually stop with Jonah. The stubborn prophet does what he’s told to do. Just like all good little boys and girls listening to the story should.

Obedience is well and good. “If you love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said (John 14:15). The old hymn also reminds us there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.

But we can’t skip straight to Jonah’s obedience. That would require us to ignore what kept him from following God’s word to begin with. We’d also miss what disheartened him even after he did follow through.

So, instead of Jonah’s obedience, I find it helpful to reflect first on his reluctance. If obedience is the goal, reluctance is the perpetual hurdle.

At the end of the story, we learn why Jonah hesitated. God was too gracious for his taste. That tells us Jonah despised the Ninevites. He knew God would forgive them and that embittered him to the point he would have rather died.

His reluctance can help free us from our own.

What keeps us from being obedient to God? Most people jump to how busy they are. If only I had more time is what we say. But we all know when we want to do something, we magically find time for it. Does that mean there’s something else holding us back?

It could be we know God might want us to do something we don’t want to do. We may have to face our own Nineveh. Do we know obedience to God may cost us something we’re not ready to give up? Why can’t people come to Jesus on my terms! We sulk because God is gracious when we should be rejoicing. The Lord has loved us, after all. 

Yes, it’s worth wrestling with your reluctance. Figure out what you have a hard time giving to God. Confess what you’ve held on to. On the other side of it can be fruitful obedience. 

Stay blessed…john