“And he said to them, ‘I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.'” – Jonah 1:9
We sat at the top of the stairs. In the hallway light, I read for what seemed the umpteenth time our children’s version of “Jonah and the Whale.” My then small son nestled next to me listening to his favorite story. Honestly, I tired of reading it and wished he’d select something new.
But the story still speaks.
For good reason, Jonah gets a bad rap. He’d disobeyed God’s direct order, tried to flee from His presence, and went the opposite direction. Yet God wasn’t finished with him yet. This reluctant prophet was roused from sleep by the ship’s captain and strongly instructed to call on His God. Faced with a life-threatening storm, he surely complied.
To Jonah’s credit, he began to make some right choices despite his initial wrongdoing. I find it particularly fascinating how Jonah chose to identify himself. In answer to the sailors’ demand, he unflinchingly revealed, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God …”
Undoubtedly everyone aboard desperately called on his own god. Nothing worked. Though pagan gods of that time were known by their alleged power over various aspects of creation, Jonah’s God differed. He is the God who made sea and land. He is the Creator–the one true God. Even though the sailors entreated their gods, God maintained control of the situation.
When we go the wrong way in our lives … when we disobey God and try to choose our own path, God maintains control. As we resist Him, He often brings storms or calamities into our life until there’s nowhere else to turn. And in that critical moment, we’re forced to make a choice–beginning with our identity.
Jonah came to his senses. He realized he belonged to God as one of His chosen people. He acknowledged his proper fear of God, even though his prior actions hadn’t displayed it. Truth suddenly became clear again and he proceeded to tell the sailors to throw him overboard. With newfound submission to God’s control, Jonah understood what needed to be done.
What about us? Whether we’re engaged in “small” disobediences or “huge” acts of rebellion, we eventually have to answer the question, “Who am I?” May God in His abundant mercy and grace enable us to declare, “I am a Christian, and I fear the LORD God …” Appropriating this truth confirms our surrender to the one true God and equips us to serve Him.
Wherever we go and whatever we’re doing, God maintains control–not us. He never lets us go despite our disobediences, but reminds us who we are.
“And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved …” – Colossians 3:12