For the past 3 weeks in church, we’ve been talking about Jonah, and if you’ve ever been within 200 yards of a bible teaching church (or within 1,000 yards of a rowdy group of VBS kids) you know the story. God wants Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah is afraid/against the idea so much so that he runs 3,000 miles in the OPPOSITE direction to try and escape. Nowadays we can roll our eyes at this story, because most of us know the scripture in Psalms that reads:
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”
Or Proverbs 15:3 “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” along with many, many more. We can look back on our favorite biblical stories and clearly see that God knows, God cares and God intervenes… But, let’s not be so quick to scoff at Jonah’s naivete in the moment he ran, let’s not be so quick to assume that we – even with all of our reminders about God’s omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience – wouldn’t (or haven’t) done the very same thing.
But, that’s not where I’m really going with this, although I’ve found many nuggets in following that bunny trail too, this message that God gave me was more about God’s purpose in choosing Jonah. What do I mean? Maybe Jonah had the qualifications, perhaps his resume said he was the right man for the job God wanted done – and certainly he was – but did God pick him because he was the right guy to do the task initially requested of him (going to Ninevah) orrrrr….. did God pick him because he knew Jonah would run?
Listen, guys and gals, as soon as we get the idea that God needs our compliance to accomplish what He wills, we are acting a fool. God doesn’t need us, the bible says if we fail to praise him the very rocks will cry out! (I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a rock taking my place!) God could have found someone else capable of going to Nineveh, I think he selected Jonah specifically because of the way He knew Jonah would react!
Now, I’m not saying that God purposely made an example of him, setting him up for failure, willing that he make some bad choices and end up rocking in regret covered in fish guts by the end of his rebellion – but I do think – rather – I know – that God uses our bad decisions and failures for His glory. It’s no more shocking than the revelation that God knew that Eve would sin and fall for the Serpents temptation in the garden. The bible tells us that God is all of those long O words:
Omnipresent – everywhere at the same time
Omnipotent – All powerful – supreme power, no limitations
Omniscient – all knowing
So, instead of reading the bible like we watch our favorite dramatic TV shows, movies and sports (screaming at the TV “nooo, don’t go in there!” “don’t fall for that!” etc, basically expecting the characters to know better), perhaps we should read it as God’s instruction book, he’s showing us real-world examples of how people screw up, and how He – our good, good Father – redeems us, and uses our failures, faults and weaknesses for his ultimate glory.
God is always planning ahead, always setting things up in ways that only He can. He was the only one there before the earth was formed, and He’s already there at the end, He created the world and everything in it, He knows how it all fits together and how everything will turn out. God knows what you’ll eat for breakfast on your 9,753th day of life, it’s wild to think about but it’s also extremely and ridiculously comforting, isn’t it?
So, instead of looking back at our own screwups (which maybe aren’t as bad as Jonah’s, or perhaps they’re worse in our eyes) and feeling condemnation and sorrow, allowing our darkest nights of the soul to define and regulate us – maybe we should practice what we preach – forgiveness, for ourselves, and realize that while, yes, we messed up, we serve a God who can and will use anything to accomplish His ultimate purposes, even our bad choices, faults, flaws and failures.