I’m very intrigued by the Bible’s account of Jonah, as it illustrates the responsibility of men and women to obey the call of God. Most of us are somewhat familiar with the story.
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to sinners, but he did not obey. Instead, he fled from the presence of God and boarded a ship bound for the city of Tarshish. However, God caused a great storm to arise that threatened the safety of the ship. The passengers determined that Jonah was the cause of their misfortune, so they threw him overboard. Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, remained in its belly for three days, and then was spit out on dry land.
After all that, the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2, NKJV). I find God’s word to Jonah in that moment to be quite remarkable. God never even addressed Jonah’s disobedience or his encounter with the fish. He simply told Him the same message He had already told him the first time.
I can think of a lot of other messages God could have delivered at that time. He could have told Jonah, “That’s it! You lost your chance. I’m done with you.” He could have questioned, “Jonah, why didn’t you listen to me? Why did you disobey?” He could have made him feel guilty, saying, “See what happens when you don’t listen? I hope you learned your lesson.”
No, God didn’t say any of those things; He simply reiterated the same message He had told him initially. God’s words recorded in the third chapter of Jonah are nearly identical to the ones recorded in the first chapter. Even though a lot transpired between those two statements, God didn’t change His mind. He remained steadfast in His call to Jonah.
I believe this account illustrates a principle taught years later by the apostle Paul. He preached, “For the gifts and the callings of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). The Amplified Bible elaborates, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable [for He does not withdraw what He has given, nor does He change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call].”
God didn’t give up on Jonah even though he made a big mistake. God didn’t refuse to use him anymore just because he messed up the first time. God gave him another chance and issued His call once again. Why? Because His gifts and callings are irrevocable; He doesn’t change His mind about those He calls.
Knowing that God does not withdraw His call certainly does not give us a license to sin. Instead, this truth should instill a deep sense of accountability. We need to know that we are responsible to obey the call of God despite the circumstances we encounter.
We’re accountable to God in the good times and the bad. We’re accountable when things are easy and when they’re difficult. We’re accountable when we feel like following Him and when we don’t. God charges us to move with Him regardless of our personal success or failure. God is looking for obedience!
As the story of Jonah demonstrates, God’s call demands a response, and the best answer we can give is “Yes.” Let’s be accountable to the responsibility He has given us and obey His call in every situation.