Links Daily Devotional

In the Depths with Jonah, Part 2

“Forty days from now and Nineveh will be destroyed!” (Jonah 3:4, NLT)

We started our mini-study of Jonah yesterday by asking a non-critical question and promising today to take up a critical question. Here it is: How does God get our attention?

When we try to discover who God is and how he works by reading the book of Jonah with this critical question in mind, we wind up amazed by the answer, because there isn’t just one.

In the case of the sailors in chapter 1, God used a chickened-out prophet, a violent storm, and dead calm to get their attention. In fact, it was the quiet after the storm that turned them into Yahweh worshipers: “Then the sailors picked up Jonah and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power and, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him” (Jonah 1:15-16). Let’s just say you would not get very far if you tried to pitch to a publisher your book proclaiming this as your formula for evangelism: run from God so that his judgment can fall on you in the form of a calamity so terrifying that people must kill you in order to placate his wrath. Yet this is the very “method” God used to draw the sailors to him.

In the case of the metropolitan Ninevites, God used a stranger from a despised nation to the south, who walked into town and started shouting up and down the streets, “Forty days from now and Nineveh will be destroyed!” Try winning over your golfing buddies with that plan of attack! Yet the Ninevites, right up to the king and his court, repented.

And then there is Jonah himself—for God’s desire to gain our attention does not just come for the purpose of salvation. God is trying to get our attention all the time, but we’re so busy, so loud, so distracted, so caught up in what we’re doing, that we simply don’t hear him enough. Even after the fish, God employed three things to get Jonah’s attention: the repentance of the Ninevites, the rapid growth of the vine, and the insipid work of the worm (see chapter 4). Jonah was angry at the first, glad at the second, and despairing at the third. This guy was a wreck! But God had his attention.

It’s fascinating, when you think about it. God used one weak man to get the attention of a vast city, and God used a vast city to get the attention of one man.

God does this. He appears in burning bushes and he sends accusing prophets; he comes as a wrestler when we stand alone on the other side of the river; he sends a king to the fields to graze like a cow and brings a man into his throne room to see the cherubim attend him; he fills nets till they break and says something as mind-boggling as “you must be born again.” He goes to the cross. And he rises again.

Honestly, we can’t predict what God will do. But we know why he does it. He does it to get our attention. My attention. Your attention. And that leads us to our most critical question, which we will take up tomorrow.

Jeff Hopper

April 30, 2014

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