“Change is inevitable. Change is constant.” – Benjamin Disraeli, Former British Prime Minister and Novelist
How do you respond to change? Just hearing the word “change” can conjure mixed emotions. When change is introduced into our lives, it means that there is an alteration or modification taking place. Whether the change is positive or negative, we may experience feelings of awkwardness, discomfort, and anxiety. We question our own competency to navigate the paradigm shifts and ripple effects of the change. Change is not always welcomed because it requires breaking away from our routines, more effort or work, and adjustment.
There is also the element of surprise. Suddenly, without any warning in the middle of our routines and safe places, change happens. We may obsess over the uncertainty of this new component of change. We could feel a loss of autonomy over possessions, circumstances, or territory. What about the threat of change? Changes such as a diagnosis of a life threatening illness or the company’s announcement of downsizing poses real threats to our welfare and livelihood.
When changes are initiated by God in our lives, are our responses any different? The Prophet Jonah is a good example of how we react to change. Jonah was a reluctant prophet given a mission by God that he found offensive. His mission was to travel to the city of Nineveh to preach against it. Although the Book of Jonah does not speak much of the wickedness of the city, the Book of Nahum gives us insight. The Book of Nahum gives us four major charges against Nineveh. Nahum says that Nineveh was guilty of evil plots against God (Nahum 1:9). He denotes their exploits against the helpless and cruelty in war (Nahum 2:12). Nahum also accused them of idolatry, prostitution, and witchcraft (Nahum 3:4).
Jonah was aware of the evil that existed in Assyria. He grew up despising the Assyrians and feared their massacres. Jonah’s animosity towards the Assyrians was so intense that he did not want them to receive God’s mercy. He feared that if he preached against them that they would repent (Jonah 4:2, 3). Jonah responded in act of disobedience and attempted to flee to Tarshish by ship. In the eighth century, Tarshish was considered “the end of the earth”. Jonah literally attempted to go to the ends of the earth to escape God and his God-given mission.
What lengths do we take to escape our God-given missions? Tarshish could be our place of resistance. It is the place where we preoccupy ourselves with the things of the world so that we can avoid fulfilling God’s vision. This place is where we feel we can hide behind our excuses and justify our positions. Psalm 139:7 (NIV) says “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I go from your presence?” Jonah would learn that there is nowhere to hide.
God used Jonah even in his disobedience by sending a violent storm that threaten the lives of the pagan sailors and Jonah. In this storm, the sailors learned their gods were worthless. When confronted by the pagan sailors, Jonah witness to them about the Lord he served. By experiencing the might of God, the sailors feared God, offered sacrifices to Him, and vowed to serve Him. It was in the midst of the storm that Jonah had to affirm his faith in God and acknowledge that God was superior to idols. Their prayers, repentance, and submission moved God to compassion.
God could have allowed Jonah to drown for his disobedience and abandoning his office as a prophet. Instead, God had the whale swallow Jonah whole showing His mercy toward Jonah. Spending three days and nights in the belly of the whale Jonah was in no position to compromise with the Lord. Jonah used this time to commune with God. He thanked the Lord for His mercy and repented. After his prayers of thanksgiving and his sincere repentance, God ordered the whale to spit Jonah out. Jonah went forth to fulfill his mission.
From the Prophet Jonah we learn valuable lessons. We learned that we cannot hide from God because it is pointless. Our obedience is better than sacrifice. Our acts of sin and disobedience can be detrimental to those around us. Even in our disobedience God can use us to reveal Himself to others. We should not allow our limited vision to try and supersede God’s vision. We must submit to God and acknowledge that He is wisdom. When we lack in any area we should seek God for it.