Jonah Was Honest about His Disobedience
Jonah does show us one good characteristic: He was honest about his disobedience. After the sailors drew lots to see who was responsible for their peril in the storm, and the lot fell on Jonah, they asked him who he was. "'I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land'" (Jonah 1:9, NIV). Now the sailors were really frightened. Here was a man who had boarded the ship and told the sailors that he was running away from the Lord (Jonah 1:10), and now he informed them that the God he was running from was also the maker of the very seas that were trying to kill them. The moral of this story is simple: If you are going to anger the God who created the sea, avoid sea travel until you have repented.
But at least Jonah was honest about his disobedience, and this is the first step toward true repentance. He knew exactly what God had instructed him to do, and he simply chose not to do it. I have met people like that, and I actually respect them more than I do the people who are disobedient to God and refuse to admit it. Every church in the world has some people who refuse to admit their disobedience to God, to themselves, and to their church family. They are living in disobedience to God and His Word; yet, they pretend they are not and make excuses for their behavior under the guise of religiosity, which is a very thin veil used to cover pride and stubbornness. Other times, we miss God's direction for our lives and do not know it, like the Assyrians, and God sends us a Jonah.
Another form of disobedience is simply lacking the faith to follow God's lead, as seen in Jonah. Many today choose to cling to their own ideas of how God works, rather than discovering new aspects of God and turning loose of their old ways of thinking. Not growing in our knowledge of an infinite God is also a form of disobedience.
Are we as honest about our disobedience as Jonah was about his? Do we recognize when an area of our lives is leading us in direct opposition to God's plans and desires for us? Are we able to admit when we are traveling a different road from the one God would lead us on? Do we understand that admitting our disobedience does not mean that we have repented?
Jonah told the sailors that he was running from God, but his day of repentance did not come until he was deep in the stomach of a rather large fish. Knowing you are wrong and asking forgiveness for that wrong are two different worlds. Too many Christians today are taken up with the idea that if they sin, they need only to feel sorry about it and ask God's forgiveness, and that is the end of it. But Scripture tells us that we must confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), that we must go to the one we have offended and make restitution (Matthew 5:23-24), and that we must change our habits and our heart and empty ourselves in humility. Being honest about our disobedience doesn't mean that we have honestly tried to change our ways. But, as we will see in the life of Jonah, it is a start.
James D. Thornber