When I was a little boy, one of my favorite Bible stories was Jonah and the big fish. I can remember one ambitious Vacation Bible School teacher who let a room full of six year old boys and girls act out the drama of this tale. The most fun was being thrown off the boat, being swallowed by the fish, and then thrown up on the shore. To a rambunctious six year old, it was an opportunity to run, jump, and be swung through the air. Obviously, it made a lasting impression as these many years later I still remember the joy of that class. However, the imprint of this story carries weight beyond just childhood memories; recently the Lord has been speaking to me once again about the message of Jonah.
As a child the amazing part of the story was the drama of the fish; as an adult the amazing part rests with the choice of obedience, God’s heart of mercy, and the cry of repentance.
Jonah is at its core a story about obedience. What do you do when God calls you to something, and everything in you wants to run in the opposite direction? Do you run or do you obey? Obviously, Jonah ran. Not only did he run, but he ended up sound asleep in the bottom of a boat headed for Tarshish, the opposite direction of where he was supposed to be going.
What a picture that is of what happens when we run from the call of God. We may be able to lull ourselves into thinking we can find rest in disobedience, that we can subdue our spirit into a state of slumber, but God in his goodness has a way of getting our attention. For Jonah, it was the sailors who woke him up and demanded he give answers for the crisis of the storm. For believers, God has a way of using circumstances around us to remind us of our identity and calling in Him. Sometimes it is in the whisper of a prayer; other times it is in the cry of a culture in crisis. Either way, God calls us back to obedience to Him.
Here we stand toward the end of January 2016. It does not take a prophet to see that this year is beginning with many questions – Who will the next President be? What will the economy do? How do we make _________ safe? (our schools, our borders, our nation) Time promises to answer some of these questions, politicians promise others, but what role do we as obedient followers of Christ have in this?
I can’t promise the answer to the who or the what of the next President or economic solution, but I do know as believers we have an answer about what to do for a nation in crisis. Just as Jonah was given a message of repentance for Nineveh, I believe God in the Bible clearly lays out the prescription for a nation in crisis. Jonah preached a strong message of repentance that resulted in a nation turning to prayer and fasting. In the end God was merciful and brought healing, not destruction. Likewise, scripture tells us in II Chronicles 7: 14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Joel 2:16 echoes this when it cries, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders ,gather the children. . . . Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar.” In this place of consecrated repentance, prayer, and fasting, God’s mercy brings healing and favor.
On April 9, 2016 UnitedCry DC16 is calling pastors, Christian leaders, and intercessors to the Lincoln Memorial to gather in unified prayer, repentance, and crying out for a culture in crisis. In this place of obedience, I am believing for a movement that goes beyond a meeting to mobilize the American churches to the place of unified prayer and purpose to see Great Awakening.
The message of Jonah is relevant today. It is a time of obedience, a time of mercy, and a time of crying out. Please join us in being part of the UnitedCry.