Recently, I shared how the story of Jonah teaches us to be accountable to the call of God. This week, I’d like to highlight how Jonah’s story also teaches how seriously we should take the call of God.
When God called Jonah to the city of Nineveh, he disobeyed and boarded a ship headed toward another city called Tarshish. The Bible notes that Jonah fled to Tarshish “from the presence of the LORD” (Jonah 1:3, NKJV). I think it’s very interesting how the Bible describes the scenario. Jonah wasn’t just boarding a ship; he was fleeing “from the presence of the LORD.”
Such a description tells me that the steps people take on earth really matter to God. The actions we take in the natural have supernatural implications. We don’t want to find ourselves fleeing from God’s blessing! We should run to the Lord, not away from Him.
The apostle Paul taught, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15, NIV). We shouldn’t live flippantly or take a nonchalant approach to God’s call; we should be careful to always obey. We can’t just live any way we want and expect His blessing. We need to move with the Lord, not against Him.
Admittedly, what God asked Jonah to do was a difficult task. Nineveh was about 800 miles from his homeland, and the Assyrians who lived there were the enemies of his people. In the same way, God continues to call Christians today to accomplish work that is often challenging and inconvenient. Still, we must obey!
I think God intentionally calls us out of our comfort zones so we can’t rely on our natural abilities. When we HAVE to depend on God and His grace, we draw closer to Him and our faith is made stronger. When we move WITH the Lord, we receive a supernatural grace to handle difficult tasks. However, when we move apart from Him and His call, the challenges become too great for us to overcome.
When Moses led the people of Israel to the brink of their promised land in Canaan, they were reluctant to enter because of their fear of the giants in the land. God spoke through Joshua and Caleb to call the Israelites to possess the land, but the people refused. He rebuked their disobedience, declaring that they must wander in the wilderness and die so that only their children along with Joshua and Caleb would eventually enter the promised land.
After God’s rebuke, the people of Israel changed their minds and tried to possess the land after all. However, Moses warned, “Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the LORD is not among you … because you have turned away from the LORD, the LORD will not be with you” (Numbers 14:42-43, NKJV). By that time, they were outside of God’s will and moving only in their own strength. Indeed, they were sorely defeated.
If the Israelites had just obeyed God’s call initially, they would have received His supernatural help and experienced victory. However, because they disobeyed and tried to move later, they fought only in their own strength and saw defeat.
Let’s learn from these lessons in history that God’s call must be taken seriously. We can’t go through life in our own power and expect to experience victory. Let’s stay in God’s will, obey His call, and live with His hand of blessing upon us. Oh, how we need His presence!