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Around Cornerstone: News

Obedience, It’s Complicated

Obeying God isn’t always easy. Maybe your plans seem to make more sense than God’s plans. When obedience doesn’t come easy, our greatest temptation is to simply give up and take an easier path. Today’s devotional, written by a Cornerstone first-grade parent, takes a deeper look into the story of Jonah and God’s outrageous grace. 

Out of a place of obedience alone, Christ often calls us into places that feel utterly uncomfortable, to say the least. The book of Jonah was written about the titled prophet who is also often referred to as “the prophet who ran”. Its four chapters really hold weight that is often not fully discussed in Sunday School lessons. 

God Is Sovereign Even In Our Disobedience

In Chapter 1, Jonah is called by God to go to the Assyrian town of Nineveh where the Ninevites were vile and disgusting, hated the Jewish people, and a whole lot of other deplorable acts. Jonah runs away from God and hitches a ride from Joppa to Tarshish, which is now modern day Jerusalem area to Lebanon. In wrath, God lets the seas roar and the fisherman begin to pray to their little-g gods with an -s (vs.5) before they blame Jonah for it. In agreeance, Jonah confesses that he is the problem, with a metaphorical modern-day Taylor Swift lyric. “It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem, it's me.” They throw him overboard, per Jonah’s request, begin to pray to God and wouldn’t you know- the storms cease. God calms everything and proves to these once polytheistic fishermen His ultimate power and might. Their hearts “make vows to the Lord” (vs.16) and now they are believers. 

NOTEWORTHY: Even in Jonah’s running, hiding, and grand display of delayed obedience, He was still sovereign. God knew this knucklehead was being a rebellious toddler, and still ended up bringing every one of those fishermen into a relationship with Himself. 

God Uses All of Nature for His Sovereignty

After being swallowed by a giant fish (Scripture never says whale- a common VBS blunder), which appears to be his fate, Jonah spends chapter 2 inside the belly making his own vows to God. God speaks to the fish in vs. 10 and the fish spits Jonah out onto the shore. 

NOTEWORTHY: Scripture says that God SPOKE to the fish. Can you imagine this fish? The God of the Universe, who created this mysterious sea creature that scientists are still learning so much about to this very day, had to RISK its LIFE approaching the shoreline in effort to be obedient to God’s words spoken over it. 

God’s Sovereignty Desires Repentance 

In Chapter 3, Jonah does what God asked of him, finally. Originally unwilling to do this because Jonah hated the nasty Ninevites. He wanted to see them suffer for the things for which he’d known about them, and he selfishly wanted them to have God’s wrath fall upon them, not provide them with knowledge from God about what would happen if they didn’t. Getting off the hook would have been God’s mercy on them and led them to repentance. 

To be fair, we are faulty humans who desire justice when it isn’t ours to give. Each believer in relationship with the incarnated Savior, Jesus Christ, has received the same grace. We’ve been shown our calling is to tell even our enemies about His mercy. 

Jonah walked and cried out, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The people believed God, fasted, and turned from their wicked ways by crying out to God for help. After seeing their repentant heart posture, God reconsidered His plan for destruction and didn’t go through with it. 

God Desires Our Submissive Obedience to His Sovereignty

Chapter 4, shows Jonah running to pout. Literally, he speaks words of frustration and anger at God for the mercy shown to the Ninevites; the same mercy and grace that he forgets he doesn’t deserve either. The Father’s love was so precious, that He provides a plant for Jonah to shade him from the sun, whilst he pouts like a toddler. He tells God that he has “every right to be angry- so angry that I want to die.” 

The final fourth chapter of the story of Jonah is often one that VBS summer programs and several children’s books will omit for reasons unknown. Personally, I deem it the most appropriate for understanding the weight of our free-will choices to run from what God is asking of us or following through obediently. 

In an effort to “train our children in the way they should go,” we have to be righteously sitting in the space in which we’re training them to abide. We cannot crave their respect and demand their obedience if we aren’t willing to have the rubber meet the road with the same response to our Father. 

Having a Christian heart posture of submission, with a matched knee-jerk response of “here I am, Lord, send me,” first starts with our willingness to stand with arms open, palms up, willingly submitting to the Father’s plan because He knows best. And we know that. We don’t have to know where we are sleeping next. We just have to know that regardless of where we are going to dwell, with Whom we dwell is our central focus. Drawing a conclusion to Jonah first choosing to pout, run, pray for mercy, be obedient, and then pout yet again shows his attitude reflected like that of a toddler, “FINE. I’ll do it. But just know, I DON’T WANT TO!!” 

Here’s the great news: 

Obedience isn’t scary even if God’s ask is big. Giving up worldly security doesn’t compare to the peace that comes when you follow Jesus. Going where He leads actually brings us back to divine comfort because it means we’re under the will of the One who loves us and is for us. And so, we can step confidently, knowing where we’re going is exactly where God wants us!  

In fact, in the New Testament book of Matthew chapter 8, an entire passage is titled: What It Takes to Be A Disciple (vs 14-18). Here, Jesus specifically uses an analogy of foxes having holes to sleep in and birds having a nest to dwell. Saying, “the Son of Man has nowhere to sleep” draws a parallel of what it will require for someone to be a disciple and follower of Jesus. He wants them to genuinely understand that following Him won’t always be comfortable or look certain. You might miss events that you couldn’t have imagined missing for any other reason except to follow Him. What He is saying here is, “What I am calling you to do might not make sense on paper. It might not add up or seem fitting, what I am asking of you. Do it anyway.” 

Ask Yourself: 

  • What is God calling you to be obedient to today? Does it make sense on paper? It can not make sense and still be His sovereign will.
  • When you feel as though God is asking you to do something, is it a knee-jerk reaction to dig your stubborn spurs in the ground? Or are you responsive instead, with a “Lord, here I am. Send me where You need me to best grow your Kingdom” with a heart posture of complete obedience? 
  • Is your immediate auto-pilot response to be like the nonverbal, mysterious creature of the sea or are you more relatable to the prophet who ran, who would rather take his ordained Spiritual gift and toss it overboard into the sea out of self-will?