The Jonah Choice

We Americans love our independence, don’t we? We like our own way, to have multiple options. Heard anyone order their coffee in the local shop lately?  For many it’s no longer just “cream and sugar.”  That cup of coffee is customized with a shot of this and a dollop of that to make it just like the customer wants it. In my local supermarket I stand in front of the display of salad dressings in wonder.  5 shelves high and spanning about 10 feet there are dozens of options far beyond the old French, Ranch, or Italian! And, that’s all good, when it involves coffee or salad but there is a part of life where that independence can complicate things for us.

God invites us to a life of blessing but living in His favor requires something many of us find challenging: obedience.  We are tempted to make the “Jonah Choice.”  I am referring to the story from that little book in the Bible that many only know from Sunday School where we learn about a big fish that swallows a guy who got tossed off of a ship. That’s the dramatic part.

Here is how the story opens:  “The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.” (Jonah 1:1-3, NIV)

What the Lord asked of Jonah was no small thing. It involved a difficult journey to an alien culture. It required Jonah to speak with people he considered inferior even deserving of judgment. God says “Go.” Jonah says “No.”  He went beyond just refusing God’s direction. His aversion to the will of God was so strong that he took off in the opposite direction, setting sail westward from the port of Joppa. 

We will return to the story of Jonah in our next devotion thought, but today I want to ask –
Are you making the Jonah choice about God’s will for your life?

It does not have to be about a new career, a move to some far city, or a radical change in your life.
God asks us to love selflessly. Will we?
God asks us to forgive generously? Will we?
God asks us to live in faith, not fear. Will we?

This way of life begins with a choice to trust, to let Him lead as our true Lord. Ah yes, dear friend, it is quite unlikely that we will get the ‘big’ things about God’s will right if we are unwilling to give Him our hearts and minds today.

Curiously there is another story in the Bible that involves choice and the port city of Joppa. The outcome is so different. It is told in the book of the Acts about Peter, the leader of the first generation of Christians. He was staying at a house in Joppa when the Spirit invited him to a choice of faith.

Peter, like all the Jewish converts to Christianity at the time, assumed that the message of Christ Jesus was just for the descendants of Abraham. The Gospel did not reach to Greeks or Romans. It did not even occur to them that it should.

Peter had a strange vision involving ‘unclean’ (non-kosher) animals offered to him for food. He quickly rejected the offer but a voice told him – “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:13-15, NIV)  The vision repeated three times and as Peter was trying to grasp the meaning of it, there was a knock at the door of Simon’s house where he was staying.

“While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”” (Acts 10:19-20, NIV)  Peter took a big step of faith and obedience. He accompanied those men on a trip to the home of a Roman centurion named Cornelius. There he shared the story of Jesus with Gentiles! And the Church was enlarged with the conversion of that man.

Peter went on to preach all over the Empire, sharing the Gospel of Jesus with all people – rich, poor, slave, free, male, female, Jew, and Greek. His willingness to choose humble faith caused no small controversy among his Jewish Christian friends, a conflict that extended for the rest of the 1st century of Christianity.  But, his obedience opened the door of God’s blessings to millions of people.

So, as this new week begins, what choice will we make? Will we turn to face God humbly and ready to follow? Or, will we live in self-will, resisting Him with a “Jonah choice?”

The word from the Word encourages us. Meditate on the truth, prayerfully, as you say “Yes, Lord” in your life today!  “So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to its lustful desires. Do not let any part of your body become a tool of wickedness, to be used for sinning.

Instead, give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you are no longer subject to the law, which enslaves you to sin. Instead, you are free by God’s grace.” (Romans 6:11-14, NLT)


Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah

Guide me O Thou great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land
I am weak but Thou art mighty
Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand
Bread of heaven Bread of heaven
Feed me now and ever more
Feed me now and ever more

Open Thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream doth flow
Let the fiery cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through
Strong Deliverer strong Deliverer
Be Thou still my strength and shield
Be Thou still my strength and shield

When I tread the verge of Jordan
Bid my anxious fears subside
Death of death and hell’s destruction
Land me safe on Canaan’s side
Songs of praises songs of praises
I will ever give to Thee
I will ever give to Thee

John Hughes | Peter Williams | William Williams © Words: Public Domain

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