We have all read the story of Jonah, or have heard it many times before. Jonah’s story has everything in it, but often in the midst of the fantastic story, the message gets lost. Jonah liked his life, it was comfortable, he blended in, but God had other plans for him. God needed Jonah to be the prophet and no matter what Jonah did, there was no way he would escape his call, though he tried. I want to highlight the story of Jonah because there are a few crucial tings that happen in that story that give insight into what God calls for in righteous living.
First, there is the aspect of Judgment and Justice. Jonah has taken the judgmental position that the people of Nineveh are beyond saving. But God wants to give them a chance, God wants them to experience Grace, which Jonah takes onto himself to deny the people, as if he knew more than God. Jonah is very comfortable in his judgment, but when asked to pursue Justice, he is not and runs.
Second, there is the desire of God that all people have a chance for redemption. We all make mistakes! But what actually makes our mistakes worse and even corrosive is when:
a) we do not learn from them, and
b) society does not give us a chance to overcome them.
And finally, that despite our own stubbornness, bravado, or insistence on being right, God will not be stopped and in time will bring us to fulfilling our call.
In Deuteronomy, the passage this week, the writer is laying out a relationship between God and man where God is letting us know that we have a choice. We can choose to follow God or seek to be true to the life God calls us to or we can choose a different way. God knows what we choose and most of the time it is not God.
The interesting thing is that in the book of Jonah, Jonah comes back to this teaching and the ones like it from the Torah and tells God off saying “How can you do this?” where God is very much engaged saying “How can I not?”
God wants the best for us, but knows us intimately because he created us. When we come into this world we have a choice to follow God, or to follow human nature. The problem is that Human Nature can be deceptive and can make us think we are more right than we are, causing us to choose a way that directs us away from God.
Ultimately, this unavoidable choice away from God pulls us into a life that is not going to be easy and smooth, but even though we may choose to reject God, God never rejects us. We learn and grow and continually find ways to be made more full in Christ.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen