Spending some time recently preaching through Jonah has thrown up some thoughts. There are the obvious ones like was it a whale? Is the story real or not? Could a man stay alive inside a fish for 3 days? And so on.
However something that stuck me even more was how much it took for Jonah to learn that he was going to have to do what was right, in God's eyes. Unhappy to do as God asked, this prophet took a hike to the nearest port followed by a sea trip which nearly proved fatal for the crew. Jonah has to confess that he is the problem to them and ends up over the side, drowning he prays and is saved, only to find himself in a large fish and is finally spat out onto land.
A hard lesson to learn, that he could either choose his way or God's way - its a lesson that we are still having to learn and usually the hard way. All too often we rely on our own strength, ingenuity, resources or systems and all too often they fail us. Our banking systems, our pension funds, our work places, getting a University education to get a good job ... the list is long! Then theres those in the world who pay the price of our systems, who have no justice, find no mercy as their children die of hunger and malaria, for whom there is no education or work at a fair reward.
Christ tells us that dying to self is the right way but that means letting go of our "man made" securities making us vulnerable - the very things that often draw us away from God as we clutch at the false security they offer. Jonah had to become vulnerable to finally accept God's call and charge. Read the story, Jonah was to be God's instrument to turn the hearts of another people from their godless ways, another people who had to learn the hard way - serious fasting and humility.
Are we having to learn our lessons the hard way yet again, that not following God's guidance means we have to land hard before we turn and seek him and do his will?