Here was a man who obviously knew the Lord. Jonah heard the voice of the Lord, and one day he received specific instructions from Him – go to Nineveh and warn the people of God’s impending doom due to their wickedness. However, these were not instructions Jonah felt inclined to obey. He ran, not to Nineveh as the Holy Spirit directed, but basically in the opposite direction. He hopped on a ship going to Tarshish.
Rather than shrugging His great shoulders and allowing Jonah to go on his rebellious way, God appointed a storm to toss the ship about, and then He appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah whole. After Jonah had time to reconsider his rebellious actions in the belly of the fish, God had the fish spit him out on dry land. Jonah then obeyed the Lord’s original directions, walking the streets of Ninevah, warning of impending doom unless the people repented.
Sadly, Jonah’s heart still was not right. He hoped the people would not listen to his words of warning from God, and that God would pour out his wrath and destroy them. He even sat on the hillside to watch the event happen. But God had a plan, a merciful plan, and the people repented and God spared them.
As for God’s plan to use Jonah, Jonah should have been glad that God didn’t simply give up and let him go on his rebellious way to Tarshish. He should have been reverentially thankful that God didn’t just find someone else to do the talking for Him. Instead, God persisted in His plan to use Jonah, sending a storm, the ocean deep, and the inside of the belly of a fish to really get his attention.
I wonder how often we think the storms in our own lives are just the way things are, when actually we are being stubborn about something. We should be thankful He doesn’t leave us in our rebellion, but works to get our attention and obedience, using the storms and difficulties that often surround us.
Here's an example from my own life. God had been speaking to me about having “too many hobbies” and the need to re-prioritize my life. I was out one day on legitimate errands, and when they were done I knew I should point the car toward home. Instead, I turned to go and “just have a look see” at my favorite craft store. I was still in the turn lane when I felt the tire go completely flat. Instead of stuffing more crafts into time I didn’t have, I now had time stolen by trouble. God did get my attention, and I have become a lot more obedient in this area of my life.
This is not to say that everything that happens to us is God’s discipline. There are many reasons to be found in scripture for difficulties. But when I recognize His discipline, I need to be thankful. It proves some things, one of which is that I am a child of God, and that He loves me. It also tells me that God already has a plan for my life, and if I don’t yield to it I force Him into correcting me. If my time is meaningless, and there is no plan, then surely God would let me spend my time in whatever willy-nilly fashion pleases me. But there is a plan, and I yield or I pay a penalty. And in all of this I learn to be thankful for His choosing me.
Hebrews 12 contains wonderful words of admonition for us concerning God’s discipline. I will quote only verses five and six, but it would be a good chapter to look up and read.
Hebrews 12:5-6 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; 6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES."
And here is a long-time favorite scripture:
Psalm 68:6 God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
Job 42:1-2 Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
[ALL SCRIPTURES NASB]