What if God asked you to deliver a message to your enemy? Would you obey? What if that message was a message of God’s forgiveness to someone who had harmed you?
Jonah, a man who received God’s word, was given such a message. He, however, fled his assignment and did not obey God. Instead of doing what God asked, he traveled the opposite direction and tried to ignore the command. I do this when I refuse to forgive those who have hurt me or I stay angry at my circumstances in life.
Jonah jumped on a ship and traveled in the opposite direction of where he was told to go. He didn’t get far before God got his attention with a big storm. Jonah landed in the water and was swallowed by a great fish. God got Jonah’s attention. God gets my attention with the trials in my life.
How many times has God asked you to forgive someone and you’ve not obeyed? He talks to us in His Word when he says, “love thy neighbor.” He talks to us through the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
God’s message is always one of love and mercy. He is forever forgiving us and He asks us to forgive others. Jonah did not want to relay this message to the people he hated. So God had him sit in the belly of a fish for three days. Distress set in. He began to pray and God heard him. He was released from the fish.
Jonah finally submits to God’s request and heads toward the city of his enemies. He tells the people if they don’t repent God will destroy their city. Jonah knew God was gracious and kind, but he did not want that kindness extended to those he hated. He became extremely mad at God.
Doesn’t this all sound too familiar? We get mad at people who hurt us. We hold a grudge. We just don’t want to release our anger so we tell God “NO”. And what happens to us? We let that anger eat us up inside. We hold on to our anger as a way to tell God we are mad at him. Why should we forgive the one who has hurt us? Why should we forgive God when he lets people die that we love?
I spent time being mad at God for allowing my mother to have colon cancer. I spent time being mad at God for allowing me to have breast cancer. I spent time being mad at God for allowing my marriage to fail. Really, I could spend the rest of my life being mad at God. But where would that lead me? I choose to forgive. I choose to obey. I choose to have faith that all these things are under God’s control and he will take care of me. This obedience brings me to peace.
The story of Jonah is being told in a production in Branson at the Sight and Sound Theatre. I went with my family to see the play on Saturday. It captivated the attention of my two nephews, ages 6 and 8, as well as my own two daughters, ages 13 and 16. It captivated me. The story of Jonah is both ironic and humorous. The format of a play was helpful to get several points across to me; namely, obedience to God.