Jonah’s story is one with a lot of ups and downs. He is a lot like us, because if we are honest, our stories have a lot of usp and downs, too.
As a prophet in Israel, Jonah’s job was to hear from the Lord and speak it to the people. With a favorable response to his previous prophecy, he was well respected by the people and the king of Israel. God had spoken a word of victory for Israel through Jonah and Israel had won. Because the king liked what the Lord had spoken through Jonah, the prophet became a very popular guy.
I would imagine with this kind of response, he was anxious to hear the Word of the Lord again! If hearing the Word of the Lord led to the defeat of enemy lands, victory for Israel and personal popularity, then speak, Lord, speak! The prophet was listening!
One day, God spoke again. But this time, Jonah didn’t like what he heard.
Instead of giving a word for Israel, God gave a word for Jonah. God told him to rise up and go to Nineveh, an enemy nation to speak grace to the enemy instead of speaking defeat. Rather than seeing the enemy destroyed, God told Jonah to speak so the enemy could live.
God had never told him anything like this before.
The Word that God spoke made no sense to the prophet. It went against everything in his heart, everything he had planned, everything that seemed right in his eyes. It wasn’t what he prophet wanted to do. So the prophet rose up and in his pride, he went down.
Down to Joppa.
Down to the bottom of a boat.
And eventually down to the bottom of the sea.
Three days later, caught up in grace by a fish provided by the Lord, Jonah was spit back out on the sand. Wearing the marks of his sin and shame, Jonah chose to finally obey and go to Nineveh. He would tell the people the Word of the Lord, hoping they would hear, not repent and still be destroyed.
But when the king of Nineveh heard the Word of the Lord, the response was not at all what Jonah had hoped. Like Jonah had a few days before, when the king heard the Word of the Lord he also rose up. He left his throne and bowed down before the throne of the One True God. With his own will put aside, he humbly repented of his sins and the sins of his nation. God saw his response to the Word He had spoken and God and spared the city of Nineveh that day.
The Word of the Lord is alive and powerful. It always requires a response. When God told Jonah to rise up, his response to go down. Going down put him in the storm of his life until God caught him up in grace.
When the king rose up, his response was to go down as well. Going down to his knees put him in a place of worship as God caught him and his people up in grace.
What a difference we see in the response to the Word of the Lord. One man responded in pride, the other in humility. The prophet choose his own way, the enemy king chose God’s.
Every one of us has a throne in our hearts. God created it for Him, but He allows us to choose who will sit in that space. Most of us would say without hesitation when asked who is seated on the throne of our hearts that we have reserved that place for God. Like Jonah, we may be serving, helping, hearing.
But the true indicator of who is seated on the throne of our hearts is our response to His Word. When God speaks to us through His Word, through personal prayer, or through a prompting on our hearts, do we rise up like Jonah in order to run away from His will? Or do we rise up like the king of Nineveh to bow down in submission?
There is no other appropriate response to hearing the Word of the Lord than to bow down and submit our will to His.
Jonah was bothered later that day when God showed grace to a city full of souls who had submitted to the will of the Lord, as he proudly sat on a hill watching for the destruction of a city. The king was grateful that same day when God spared a city full of souls humbly bowed down before the One True God.
God is speaking and it requires a response. We will response one way or the other. We can go rise up or we can bow down. We can choose our own path or we can submit to His.
The correct response to God’s Word is always humility, always obedience. There is no other way to rise up from the places where we have been sitting on the throne of our hearts, submitting to His will, His ways, and His work in our hearts. There is no better place to be than the place of humble submission before the throne of Almighty God!
Submit yourselves therefore to God. James 4:7