Remember Jonah in the belly of the whale? Every time I think of Jonah, my mind races back to children’s Sunday School lessons and flannel graph boards. Anybody? The reality, though, is that the story of Jonah was a frightening one. As I’ve read through his short biblical account recently, I was faced with some powerful truths that are tremendously relevant for us today. I want to share these with you as 4 lessons that we can learn from Jonah. Although I’m sure there are many more, these are the ones that lept off of the pages of Scripture. Are you ready?
1. There are consequences for our sin.
“For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.” Jonah 2:3
If you don’t remember the story well, God asked Jonah to go to a city called Nineveh and rebuke the people there of their sin. Jonah refused. He willfully disobeyed God’s command and went in the opposite direction. You and I do this every single day. God has given us guidelines by which to live, and we, in our stubbornness and rebellion, choose to deliberately oppose His ways. Let’s be reminded today that we’re not fooling anyone, certainly not God. Sin bears consequence. Perhaps, you and I need a holy fear instilled within our hearts today in regards to our sin.
2. We can’t hide from God.
“And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot feel on Jonah.” Jonah 1:7
Just when Jonah may have thought that he had outsmarted God, his sin was exposed and called out. We might get away with hidden, secret, or cherished sin for a time, but we are never hiding anything from God. Just because others don’t see our fault doesn’t mean that God doesn’t. And because of God’s great love for us, often times He uses “Jonah situations” in our lives to pull us back to Himself when we’re trying to run from Him.
3. God forgives us when we repent.
“I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.” Jonah 2:6
Aren’t you thankful that the story doesn’t end with points 1 and 2? The grace and forgiveness of God never ceases to amaze me. Out of the belly of a whale He rescued Jonah when Jonah chose to cry out to God in repentance. And He does the same for us today. Every honest cry of confession and repentance over sin is met with His steadfast forgiveness. Every time.
4. God can still use us after failure.
“Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” Jonah 3:4-5
Can I just get an “Amen” to that? Who isn’t thankful that we serve a God of second chances? After incredible failure to obey on Jonah’s part, God used him to bring an entire city to repentance and belief in God. There is no sin that is past God’s ability to forgive. Hear that truth today, and embrace it. The failures of your past only define you if you allow them to. There is grace to be found in the arms of our Savior.