“Get up and call on your God” - Jonah 1

Susan Narjala   |   May 12, 2021 

If there’s a Sunday School story etched in our collective memories, it’s the one about Jonah and the big fish. Maybe the David and Goliath incident and Noah's Ark are close contenders, but these three narratives take home the prize for most beloved children’s church stories of all time.

This month at IndiAanya, we’ll be diving into (no pun intended) the book of Jonah, starting with this post on Chapter one.

You may remember the events that unfold in the book of Jonah. God tells the prophet, Jonah, to share the message of repentance in the Assyrian city of Nineveh. Jonah doesn’t think that’s a swell idea because he intensely dislikes the Assyrians who had committed atrocities against the Israelites. So he heads off in the exact opposite direction on a ship for Tarshish. While he’s taking a nap on the ship, God sends a storm so violent that “threatened to break up” the boat. The crew realises that the storm is due to Jonah's disobedience and, on his cue, they throw him overboard. Chapter one of the book ends with God sending a big fish to swallow Jonah.

In our Christian mindsets, maybe Jonah was a bit of a scaredy-cat because he lacked the courage to head to Nineveh. Or maybe we think of him as a disobedient and reluctant prophet. Those things are likely true of Jonah.

But as I pondered chapter one of the book, I couldn’t help but notice that Jonah was full of himself. He thought disparagingly of the Assyrians and didn’t believe they deserved God’s mercy. He thought he knew better than God. He thought he could outrun—and outwit—the God of the universe.

And while we are quick to point a finger at this runaway prophet, I know I see traces of his pride, arrogance, and self-preserving nature in myself.

How often have I looked at someone and thought that I am “better” than them and that they are undeserving of their blessings? How often have I pushed God to the sidelines because I considered my plan better than His? How often have I imagined that I could outsmart God?

Just like in the Jonah story, God allows storms to get our attention and to convict us that He alone is God, even though we put ourselves on the throne of our lives.

As I read the chapter, a slightly odd detail struck me: Jonah was snoozing right through the storm. Clearly, he knew a storm was afoot, considering the ship was falling apart. That leaves only one explanation for Jonah’s slumber: He was in denial. He didn’t want to face facts, so he pulled his blanket closer and, perhaps, thought to himself, “Maybe if I don’t open my eyes, this storm will disappear.”

But the ship’s captain shakes the groggy prophet from his sleep and asks a relevant question: “How can you sleep?” And then he says: “Get up and call on your God!” (Jonah 1:6)

That right there is gold. Because that’s a question I need to ask myself and a command I need to follow.

When the storm rages, am I hiding under the covers, or do I see it as a grace-filled opportunity to call on my God?

For Jonah, this was God’s call to repentance, to reset his thinking, to recognize that there was absolutely no way he could outsmart God. This was God’s call for Jonah to humble himself and be broken of his pride.

As I write this post, a storm rages around us as we battle the second wave of Covid that is ravaging India. I don’t need to repeat the details of the devastation that weighs on our hearts, leaving us gutted and broken.

While I don’t believe that God sends this crisis as a punishment, I do see this storm as a wake-up call.

A wake-up call to repent from pride. A wake-up call to stop acting like we can steer our lives in any direction we please. A wake-up call to understand that God is GOD and that He is sovereign and that we cannot thwart His plans. A wake-up call to love our neighbours as ourselves. A wake-up call to obey that very first commandment—you shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20: 3), especially difficult to follow when we've turned our desires and goals into “gods” that have edged out the Almighty from the throne of our lives.

Regardless of why we believe this crisis is unfolding, what is our heart’s response to it? I don’t want to sound callous or casual about this: But if we survive this pandemic, let’s not remain unchanged and unmoved by the violent storm. This is a moment where the harsh winds threaten to break up our lives. Let’s not be found sleeping.

Let’s call on our God in repentance. Let’s cast ourselves on His mercy. Let’s remember to walk in obedience to the God who holds the waters in the hollow of His hands, who marks off the boundaries of the oceans, who promises to not let the rivers sweep over us and who commands the storm to “be still.” He alone is our Hope, our Shelter and our Hiding Place.

 

 

Photo by Oleg Laptev on Unsplash

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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog, www.susannarjala.com

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2 comments on ““Get up and call on your God” - Jonah 1”

  1. Truly, this pandemic is a wake up call to repent! As foolish as I am, I have been wondering what to repent from? Thank you Susan for shows areas where I need repentance!

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