April Reading from The Message

April 2, 2022

Are you running from God? The story of Jonah being swallowed by a whale is one we all learn as children, but the big fish is only mentioned in three verses. The real story is Jonah’s attitude and the great things God might have planned for us that we might be too prideful to do…

1-3 One day long ago, God’s Word came to Jonah, Amittai’s son: “Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. They’re in a bad way and I can’t ignore it any longer.”

But Jonah got up and went the other direction to Tarshish, running away from God. He went down to the port of Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish. He paid the fare and went on board, joining those going to Tarshish—as far away from God as he could get.

Scripture Insight (1/2)

Serving in a Divinely Appointed Way at a Divinely Appointed Place

Why did Jonah set out for Tarshish? For one thing, it was a lot more exciting than Nineveh. Nineveh was an ancient site with layer upon layer of tragic history. Going to Nineveh to preach wasn’t a coveted assignment for a Hebrew prophet. But Tarshish was something else. Tarshish was exotic. Tarshish was adventurous. Tarshish was a distant and dazzling port. And according to 1 Kings 10:22, Solomon’s fleet at Tarshish fetched gold, silver, ivory, monkeys, and peacocks. Who wouldn’t want to go there?

You and I have been called by God to serve in a divinely appointed way at a divinely appointed place. But sometimes it isn’t the way we want or the place we want. And so, like Jonah, we feel drawn to some other place, some distant place, perhaps, where we can flee from that calling and from the One who called us.

4-17 But God sent a huge storm at sea, the waves towering.

The ship was about to break into pieces. The sailors were terrified. They called out in desperation to their gods. They threw everything they were carrying overboard to lighten the ship. Meanwhile, Jonah had gone down into the hold of the ship to take a nap. He was sound asleep. The captain came to him and said, “What’s this? Sleeping! Get up! Pray to your god! Maybe your god will see we’re in trouble and rescue us.”

Then the sailors said to one another, “Let’s get to the bottom of this. Let’s draw straws to identify the culprit on this ship who’s responsible for this disaster.”

So they drew straws. Jonah got the short straw.

Then they grilled him: “Confess. Why this disaster? What is your work? Where do you come from? What country? What family?”

He told them, “I’m a Hebrew. I worship God, the God of heaven who made sea and land.”At that, the men were frightened, really frightened, and said, “What on earth have you done!” As Jonah talked, the sailors realized that he was running away from God.

They said to him, “What are we going to do with you—to get rid of this storm?” By this time the sea was wild, totally out of control.

Jonah said, “Throw me overboard, into the sea. Then the storm will stop. It’s all my fault. I’m the cause of the storm. Get rid of me and you’ll get rid of the storm.”

But no. The men tried rowing back to shore. They made no headway. The storm only got worse and worse, wild and raging.

Then they prayed to God, “O God! Don’t let us drown because of this man’s life, and don’t blame us for his death. You are God. Do what you think is best.”

They took Jonah and threw him overboard. Immediately the sea was quieted down.

The sailors were impressed, no longer terrified by the sea, but in awe of God. They worshiped God, offered a sacrifice, and made vows.

Then God assigned a huge fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah was in the fish’s belly three days and nights.

Scripture Insight (2/2)

Stripped to the Essentials

A storm is an environment in which we either lose our lives or are saved. In a storm there’s no safe ledge from which to watch the wind and the waves. There are no bleachers from which to enjoy the lightning and the thunder. We’re in it, and it’s an issue of life or death. Whatever else has been on the agenda is on it no longer. There’s only one thing: salvation—or death.

Jonah had been quite deftly in control before the storm. He had decided on this Tarshish destination. And he had paid the considerable sum of money required to get him there. But once the storm hit, he was out of control.

Everyone on the ship, from captain to common sailor, “called out in desperation to their gods” (Jonah 1:5). Everyone, that is, except Jonah. Storm trouble strips us to the essentials and reveals the basic reality of our lives.

For Jonah, it was prayerlessness.

But that was about to change.

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