Our church did a series on Jonah. Unfortunately, with my “job” as children’s ministry director, I’ve really only been able to sit in on most of two of the four sermons. But, the one I was able to catch today was really good! Today was the last in the series. You can catch them all online at our church’s website.

I really enjoy our youth pastor’s style of preaching. It’s helpful that he and his wife are two of our closest friends, so… no bias there at all! 😉 But honestly, I really enjoy listening to him speak. This morning, he was preaching on the last chapter of Jonah and brought out something I had never honestly thought about before:

Jonah wrote the book of Jonah.

Well… that’s kind of a “duh” moment, but when he elaborated on it and I started thinking about it, it really began to click how ironic and kind of awesome it is that Jonah himself wrote the book of Jonah.

When I normally read through Jonah, I find myself criticizing this man. I think he’s such an idiot for running from God and then he’s so incredibly selfish and arrogant to sit and wait for judgement to fall on this city and then he mourns the stupid plant as if it’s his dead pet. I normally end the book of Jonah frustrated and critical with this man. And annoyed that it ends so… open-endedly. Like a book where you just know “The Sequel” will be out soon. And yet… there’s never been Jonah, Part 2.

But, then, Mike brought out the fact that

Jonah wrote the book of Jonah.

And he encouraged us to read it through in the first person, imagining that Jonah himself was talking about his life. All of a sudden, my perspective on this prophet did a 180*. He went from being selfish and arrogant to remarkably humble. Because, think about it, what man (ahem, man!) would tell a small part of his autobiography in such a belittling – towards himself! – tone?? No one! And he finishes it at a point where you are led to believe that he sat under that stupid dead plant until he roasted to death.

But, he couldn’t have! Because he wrote Jonah!

Which begs the question: Did Jonah repent and change? 

I would dare say that YES. Yes, he did. And, like Mike said this morning, he probably repented to such a degree that he didn’t even want to put that repentance in the story for fear of bringing glory to his own name. He wanted the story to reflect ONLY God and in talking about his repentance, it would have brought the whole thing back on himself. He wanted the story of Jonah – HIS story – to be about God.

So, he tells the story honestly. Humbly. In shame and reproach. Not to make you think less of him, but to make you think more of God. What other god in this universe would dare to use someone like Jonah to accomplish His will? What other god would want to send a message to an entire evil city through a prophet who honestly desired their destruction more than their repentance? What kind of god would grow a plant and raise up a worm to destroy it just to teach one man a lesson?

What kind of god? Ours. The real One. The One Who interacts with His creation and cares about each one individually.

He used a “nothing man” like Jonah to save an entire city – a city that rightly deserved mass destruction! And then He took the time to teach that same man a valuable lesson: He is in charge. He is sovereign. His will is accomplished whether we are in the way or not. And He will get us out of the way in order to use us. Even if that means we spend three days in the belly of a whale and three days preaching to a wicked city a prophecy that never even comes true.

It’s not about us. It’s not about the story we want to write about ourselves. I’m sure if you ask Jonah, he would probably tell you there are better parts of his life he wishes we knew about him. But, that’s just it. It’s not about him. It’s not about you or me. It’s not about the life we want to have or the life we even strive to make for ourselves. It’s about how we use the time God has given us and how we follow His will for our lives. We can follow Him kicking and screaming (and need a time out in the belly of a whale to calm down and start over), or we can follow Him willingly (like Abraham!) and see where He takes us.

A year ago, Brian and I never would have been able to tell you that we would be living in the States, serving God where we’re at. If we had been in charge of the pens of our lives, it would not be written like it currently is. But, it’s not about us. It’s not about our desires to go or not go, or stay or not stay, or live here and not there. It’s not about our wants and wishes and hopes and dreams. It’s about God. Our lives are not our own. Our plans have become His plans. His goal is now ours. It’s not easy. I think I’ve sat, metaphorically anyway, in the belly of the whale many times – arguing with God and telling Him, “Absolutely NOT – I won’t do THAT! I’m not the right one for THAT! You have me confused with someone else!”

The point of today’s sermon was about how we need to be obedient in our hearts and minds, not just with our actions and words. Jonah obeyed with his mouth, but his heart wasn’t in it. I was challenged today to do what God has asked me to do, which isn’t always easy (rarely… if ever… is it easy!!), with my heart – for HIM – not for me, my comforts, my glory. Quit doing lip-service only and serve Him from the heart out.

Maybe the story of Jonah is so open-ended so that our stories won’t be. Let’s obey – from the inside out. I have a feeling Jonah would tell us it’s a lot easier than the alternative.