I'll tell you someone that had a hard time facing his Nineveh, a fellow by the name of Jonah. He went all the way, but it took him awhile, he took the long scenic route, if you could call it scenic. I was thinking, you know, we all have a little of Jonah in us. Some of us have a lot of Jonah in us. Many times, we find it easy to relate to him. It seems that he was doing, just fine. Probably feeling good and thinking that he had the world by the tail. No problems, happy with life until God knocked on his door and told him to go to Nineveh. Do you know that we all have a Nineveh? Have you ever been to Nineveh, you know, that place we don't want to go? We all have one and God knows exactly where it is. Anyway, God knocked on Jonah's door and said, I want you to go to Nineveh. What was it about Nineveh that Jonah didn't care for? For one thing, it was a great distance away. He would need to travel almost 800 miles by boat, foot, or other means across some unfriendly land to get there. Not like hopping on a plane and jetting off to somewhere today. It was situated in what today we call Iraq. We learn that we all have a little Jonah in us, that we all have our Nineveh and that it is too far to get there. It is a long trip and lots of things can happen on the way. Jonah and us, are alike in that we all think, "I don't need this, I have enough aggravation in my life God." I don't need this. Have you ever been there? Send somebody that is only 400 miles away, not 800. You have lots of people all over the earth, just send someone that is right next door. Why do I have to go, I don't like those people anyway.
That's what Jonah said, he hated the Assyrians with a passion and Nineveh was made up of mostly Assyrians. He hated them, why? Because he was a very patriotic man of Israel, he loved the nation of Israel and he was protective. The Assyrians had plundered Israel for a long time and there was no way he was going to go to Nineveh and share the good news with those dirty rotten scoundrels. That was too good for them. Have you ever been there? Ever known someone that God says, I want you to go share with those people, I want you to give this to those people. I want you to witness to those people; I just want you to show a little love to these people. Sometimes it is even, I just want you to speak hello and smile to those people. We stand straight and ridged and say, no way God. These people have been so nasty to me, I know these people God and they don't deserve you, nor me coming and doing anything good. That was the struggle that Jonah was going through. He made a choice, the choice to get far enough away so that he couldn't hear God's voice. How many of us have tried that, getting to a place where we can't hear that voice? Aren't we dumb, we know there is no place that you can't hear God's voice? We run a short distance and find we can still hear the voice, so we go a little farther and still hear it. The truth is that we can go around the world and still hear the voice. God's voice is going to continue to speak into our lives and he is going to challenge us to do things that we don't want to do.
Jonah hides out and jumps into a boat, wherever it was going was fine, as long as it wasn't to Nineveh. It was headed for Tarshish and he soon had no cares in the world, resting in the boat, trying to find peace. The voice was still there, the voice was not necessarily speaking into his ear, but it was still speaking, and it was speaking loudly. Soon everyone heard the voice; God had brought the storm, the wind, and the waves were shouting out. It didn't take long for the others to discover that Jonah was the center of their troubles. Like those today that find the center of their troubles, they tossed him out of the boat thinking that would be the end of it. That is where Jonah's troubles really began. Don't you think that if he thought Nineveh was really a bad place to be, after landing in the belly of a great fish he probably thought that Nineveh would be a great place to be? Just think, we are a lot like him, why would it take three days for Jonah to say, God, get me out of this fish? Why would we take three days to cry out to God? Why would we want to stay for three days in the belly of the fish? God could take us out of the belly the moment we cry out to Him. Can you imagine three days in the belly, in the middle of our undesirable circumstances? We choose to spend those three days there, we make a choice. Sometimes it is very unpleasant, but we stay there. When we first find ourselves in circumstances that we shouldn't be in we can cry out to God, we can say God, I surrender, I give up, take me out of here, but most of the time we don't. Finally, after three stinking days he gave up and God caused the fish to vomit him up onto the shore. What an experience that must have been. We have all been there too. We get out of our circumstances and God allows us to be spit out of the circumstances that we have put ourselves into.
What happens? All of the junk that has surrounded us in our circumstance comes out with us and some of it is still around. That’s what happened to Jonah. He landed on the shore but, all of the stuff that the fish threw up was still around him. The choices he had made had caused some things to stay attached to his life. He had to deal with them. He begrudgingly made his way to Nineveh. I am sure Nineveh was a very opposing city, very intimidating. It says the walls were 100 feet high. That's as high as a ten-story building. You could run chariots on top of it, three abreast. The city was 60 miles across, a three day’s journey by foot. It was a large place to be put in since it was full of his enemy. What is our circumstance when we finally say, yes God, I will go to Nineveh if that is what you want? There were other people and other prophet’s but God sent one man, Jonah. He didn't want to be there, he didn't want to share the message he was to share. He knew in his heart these people were worthless. He just knew what would happen. Aren't we just like that? We know God has set us in a place that nothing good can come from. We really need to say, God, you have set me in the middle of Nineveh, there must be a purpose here. You must have sent me here because you know something is going to happen. I don't want to be here but if this is where you want me this is where I will be. Even though I know nothing is going to happen, I'll be here. Guess what, as he began to speak the words God gave him to speak the people began to turn. All of those that he said would never respond began to respond. The scripture says they began to put on sackcloth and ashes and bow down before God.
Instead of rejoicing Jonah got upset about that. He got upset because he saw these people doing something that he thought they had no right to receive. Have we ever been there? Do we ever see people that we feel are unworthy receive something from God that we think they shouldn't be able to have? Do we ever think that we are in such a place that we should receive, and they shouldn't? Do we ever think that people are so bad that they shouldn't receive, or that there shouldn't be any grace or mercy for them? If you think about it you can think of some real bad people in the natural, those who have done very bad things. We have prisons full of them. If you think of Jonah and Nineveh, every one of those people deserve the best that God has to offer. Not because they are worthy but because God says, it's free. God says you don't have to be worthy you just have to receive. Just receive. He sent someone that didn't want to go to speak words that he didn't want to speak, to watch them do what he didn't want them to do. Is that like us sometimes? I am amazed to think about what would have happened if Jonah had launched out right away and charged into Nineveh, declaring God's glory. Would there have been a different reaction? I am sure there would have been. God had sent him there don't you think He had prepared the way. The response could have been unbelievable, greater than it was. In the midst of all of Jonah's negative input things happened. He is upset because they are responding.
He sets off for the edge of the city, perched in a place where he can watch it crash and burn. He knows this is not for real, they will turn back, and God will smash them good and he is going to have a good time watching it. Boy, does that hit home for us. You know, people that have done us wrong, those that have turned their back on us for some reason or just that place God has asked us to go that we don't want to be. In spite of everything going on around us we sit on the hillside waiting for something bad to happen. Even with a bad attitude and waiting for the city's disaster there in the desert, God caused shade to cover him. He thought, how great God is to shade me while I wait for the judgement of others. The next day God caused the shade to be gone. The waiting became very unpleasant. He begins to understand that God had called him there for His purposes, not Jonah's. We overlook that many times that God has purposes that go beyond us. Our desire might not quite line up with where God is taking us, and it can be a difficult place to be sometimes. Let's not sit on the hillside with our attitude and miss the joy God wants to pour into our spirit. We can rejoice in what is happening and reap the reward or let the sun scorch us and the wind blow us around. If we will allow God to move, even in a bad situation we can have that covering over us.
God will let us know that He is in control. We need to understand that everything we do is in His control. Our concern with our own desire may keep us from those God wants us to harvest for the kingdom. There are things in our life that we don't want to surrender. We are no different than Jonah. We need to confront our Nineveh. Anything that causes a barrier between us and God's will for our life will cause us to end up in the belly of the fish. What a putrid place to be. I can't imagine it, God's word is true. Jonah was in the fish. If it can happen to Jonah it can happen to any of us. We need to daily examine what it is that causes us to look at what God calls us to do from a different perspective than He does. How do we get to the point that we see with His eyes and His understanding? By surrendering all to Him we face our intimidating Nineveh’s with the knowledge that He will cause us to have victory where He puts us. We forget that we are the only Jonah in the city. We soon see only the call that He has placed on our lives. Jonah didn't want to understand that God's love went beyond human emotions.
Whatever or wherever God is directing you to, know that He has been there preparing for you in that very place. Jonah found that many were waiting for what he was bringing. They didn't know how to get out of Nineveh. They needed his help. They had been raised there. They knew nothing else. Answer the call in the midst of an ugly place, you can be their release. Say, Father, I am ready to go to my Nineveh and then hold on, it can be quite a ride. The best part is that you get to bypass the belly of the fish. Don't take the scenic route.