In our walk with God, if we’re honest, we can admit that we have our moments (albeit long sometimes) where we have questions. We were believing God for something, waiting for a promise, expecting justice, and even found ourselves at a loss at unexpected turns. I certainly have experienced them all, especially the one of late, with the loss of my son, Joseph and asked God a bunch of questions. Still do in fact.
We present our questions to God, why this, how long, what now, and seemingly we do not get an answer (and definitely not the one we want). In fact, often times God leaves us with a question. In particular I am reminded of the many He asked of Job, starting with “Where were you when I created when I created the earth?” (Job 38).
But things don’t pan out the way we think they should and we ask our questions. We act foolishly, we pout (naturally and spiritually), and throw our spiritual tantrums. Then we host a pity party, inviting God and anyone else who will listen to us complain.
And God in His sovereignty comforts us and allows to groan and moan for a time, but then He shows us the error of our ways. And when we still don’t quite seem to get it, He simply leaves us with a question, just as He did with Job, and even more so as He did with Jonah.
In case you are not familiar with the story of Jonah, Jonah was a prophet of God who was told to go to the people of Ninevah and declare the Word of the Lord, that if they repent, they will be saved. But Jonah did not think that the people were worthy of being saved. Let me stop here. Some of us have the same attitude. God has delivered us and saved us from some things, bad habits that we had, bad attitudes that we had, the wrong way of thinking and doing things, SINFUL acts and we were considered to be unworthy, too. And here is a news flash, we still are, IN and OF ourselves. For it is by grace we are saved, not of works, lest any man shall boast. That means in spite of us and who we thought we were, God yet saw fit to count us as worthy. Worth saving. Hallelujah! But, like Jonah, we have this way of hanging condemnation over other people’s heads, becoming JUDGE and JURY to what they have done or are doing and making them feel as though they are not worthy to be saved. Wrong! God saved you. He saved me, (the wretched one that I was), surely He can save someone else.
Okay, moving right along... This is where Jonah was. He believed that the people were unworthy of God’s deliverance. So instead of doing what God told him to do, Jonah figured he’d run. And so he ran, right into a storm, which landed him smack dab in the belly of a fish.
But let me stop there for a minute also, because Jonah ran away from what God told him to do. The Bible says when Jonah was instructed to go to Ninevah, he paid his fare on a boat that was on its way to Tarshish, the opposite direction. And twice the Bible says, ‘to flee the presence of the Lord.’ Jonah must have thought that Tarshish was a place where God does not dwell. In doing research about this, it was believed by some scholars that the spirit of prophecy was evident in the city of Nineveh because God had a work to do there, so when Jonah decided to flee, he thought he would be fleeing from the spirit of God breathing upon him to go and preach the Word. But if God tells us to do something, it doesn’t matter where it is, God will be there.
We can’t run from God’s spirit. The psalmist David said, “Where can I flee from your spirit? Even if I make my bed in Sheoul you are there. You are everywhere.” Side note. Sheoul is a dark place. It is considered to be hell. That place where evil resides, where evil is practiced. On earth, that place where you do your dirt. God sees it. He sees you. From the minute details of lying, bitterness and anger to the acts of lust, fornication, unforgiveness and murder (whose spirit did you kill with those judgmental words or gossip?) There is no hiding from God. He will ALWAYS find you. Don’t forget HE SEEKS and saves those who are lost (or even in this case, hiding).
Anyway, back to our issue at hand. Being the forgiving God He is, God delivered Jonah and gave him a second chance to go and make it right. “Declare My Word to the people,” God said, “that they may be delivered.” This time Jonah obeyed and delivered the Word, a Word of warning to the people that their city shall be overtaken. And after hearing the Word, the Bible says, “the people fasted and repented.” We have tob stop here, too… what do we do when we receive a cautionary word from the man of God (or woman God sends), do we turn around or do we turn against? Around (change our ways) or against (them), talking about them every chance we get. Do we just get it right or leave the church? I'll just leave that one right there. That's between you and God. But God already knows...
Anyway, when God saw that the people turned away from their sins, He delivered them and after He had done so, Jonah had an attitude. With God. The Bible says in Jonah 4:1-3, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”
Then God shows him an object lesson. God is always about teaching us and causing us to see things from His perspective, molding us to be more like Jesus. As Jonah sat pouting, and angry at God for saving the people, God allows a tree to grow to keep Jonah from the heat. In the midst of our spiritual tantrums, God is YET merciful, as He is with Jonah. And then God allows a worm to eat away the tree. And Jonah is once again upset and expresses it. So God simply asked him a question and left Jonah alone, “Should I not have pity on them, as I have had on you.” Hear the Word of the Lord: “Until you can answer God’s question, He will not answer yours.” For there the book of Jonah ends.
Many of us, myself included, have asked God many questions. We have our whys, hows, whats, ifs, ands, buts. Excuses on top of reasons and reasons on top of excuses why we can’t, or why we won’t do something. And God being the merciful God He is, does for us, anyway. Provides shelter from the storm, makes a way of escape, delivers us, provides for us. And too often that is just not good enough for us. Oh, it serves us for a time. But we have short memories. Things don’t go our way and we forget. There really is Truth in the Scripture, “forget not all thy benefits.” For if we remembered them we wouldn't ask our questions. But we do, so I will say it again, until you are ready to answer God’s question, He will not answer yours.
Have a question, ask it, but be prepared to answer, FIRST.
But God is real.
A servant of the Lord,