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The Value of Obedience

As we look at Jonah’s life in the last two weeks in the Sunday sermon, we can see that Jonah is a very interesting character. He is, in some ways, a negative and a positive example. Jonah rebelled, but not in the more usual ways. He did not turn against

Jehovah at all. Jonah did not go off and seek a life of pleasure, as so many backsliders do. He did not go off into idolatry and false pagan religions, as so many Israelites did. As many do today, Jonah did not “deconstruct” his faith and become an agnostic. He did not renounce the words of Moses as fables, myths, or unreliable information as many do today.

In fact, Jonah maintained a strong faith in Jehovah and reverence for Him—what we sometimes call a high view of God. So what went wrong? How did he end up at the bottom of the Mediterranean in the belly of a prepared fish? Surely, we can learn something from

this in our service to Christ.

Jesus identified two great commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. It seems Jonah indeed did love the Lord, though we would identify some shortcomings in his love. But where he really struggled

was loving his neighbor. Jonah likely never thought of the Assyrians as “neighbors” in the sense of that command in Deuteronomy.

We should not be too harsh on Jonah, for he lived in a time of dim revelation compared to you and me. He had never heard the Sermon on the Mount, the golden rule in the compacted sense we have, or the Good Samaritan parable. We are indeed blessed among

people in the history of this globe, but with that blessing comes the responsibility to learn and

not see the world as Jonah did.

But Jonah eventually obeyed the Lord and went to Nineveh, crying out against sin and calling

for repentance. In chapter 4, we learn that he still did not want to do so, but he obeyed, and

God’s Word had its proper effect. It wasn’t his passion, but it was his calling. And from this, I

think we can learn something about the value of obedience and a sense of duty.

I know the idea of a sense of duty is not popular anymore (if it ever was), but consider Jonah’s case. He did not want the Ninevites to repent, but he went and preached anyway.

And God used his efforts to save a generation of people in a large city, reluctant though they

were. Perhaps, at times, we can be so afraid of being legalistic or ceremonial (think Pharisees) that we get the attitude that if we don’t want to do something, we should not do that thing and just wait until our attitude changes. That is not what God wanted from Jonah.

It is in the doing that attitudes most often change in my experience. This is one of the

primary ways God works His will and word into us. We follow what we know is His will

today, and in doing so, we will see Him work in us and others. It is in this process that we

grow, change, and transform. A reluctant heart that chooses in faith and love to obey the Lord is a heart that will not be reluctant for very long. What a blessing to serve the God Who

can work through our ignorance, attitudes, and shortcomings to accomplish His will and

transform us into the image of His Son.

—John Ostic

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