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March 4 | Jonah 3:1-10


 

DAILY READING

 

Unpredictable Outcomes

by Mary Alice McGinnis

We like things to be predictable, don’t we? If we do this, that will happen. If we follow these ten steps, we will reach our goals. If we think right, we will do right. If we just find out the right combination of taking care of ourselves and loving others, things will be perfect. If we meet the right people, we will gain the right influence.


Predictability is an idol. The need for control is the worship of ourselves.


But God often does the unexpected.


Look at Jonah. God had told him directly to go to and foreign place, Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, a city filled with paganism, debauchery, gluttony, greed, and riddled with violence. The Assyrians were enemies of the Israelites. God wanted Jonah to go there and cry out to them.


We know the story. Jonah runs the other way, takes a ship bound in the opposite direction, gets thrown overboard and then swallowed by a big fish.


After three days in the belly of that fish, God causes the fish to spit him out, right on the shores of Nineveh.


God gave this reluctant, cowardly, disobedient prophet, a second chance.


"Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.'”


This time, God does not reveal to Jonah right away what message he is to give to the Ninevites. He waits to reveal it until Jonah arrives in the city.


This time Jonah did as God asked.


"Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, 'Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.'”


What happened next seems unlikely and even impossible.


"The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth."


It caused me to wonder, what was so special about Jonah’s words, that cause the Ninevites to react as they did? How could God have used such a failure as Jonah in such a way?


Yet He did! God used Jonah’s reluctant, cowardly, rebellious story as a “sign” of what was yet to come.


Matthew 12:38-41 says,


"Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.'”


"He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'"


"The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here."


Isn’t it strange that a wayward prophet such as Jonah pricked the hearts of a pagan city, causing them to repent and believe God? Yet the very Son of God, Jesus, God’s perfect messenger, found the hearts of the religious leaders of His day calloused and even blasphemous.


God’s ways are often unpredictable. He specializes in unlikely outcomes. His purposes can never be fully comprehended.


God’s chosen nation, Israel, and their highest leaders rejected Jesus, even calling Him the prince of Satan. God used even this in His plan. Their hatred lead them to seek Jesus’ death, and led Him to the cross. It also led to the spread of the Gospel to the entire world.


“Again, I ask: Did they stumble and fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”

(Romans 11:11)


Jonah could not have predicted that God would use his story as a foreshadow of the Messiah. He could not have known that he would be used in God’s grander story of reclaiming all of humanity back from the evil of sin and rebellion through Jesus' resurrection from the dead.


PRAYER

Thank you, Lord, for your grand, unpredictable ways that are far beyond what we can think or imagine. Help me relinquish my need for control and trust in Your relentless love. You have done the unthinkable and unimaginable - choosing to sacrifice Yourself on the cross for my disobedience and rebellion. Help me now to bow at Your feet humbly and gratefully as my King and My Lord.




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