Daily Reading: Jonah 1
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah” (Jonah 1:1). The initial reading of this verse may bring several questions. Let us start with one of the most significant truths here. This was not an obscure voice from beyond; nor was it a dream. In those days, the people of God did not have the readily available Bible we have today. Nor where believers in that time indwelled and sealed with the Holy Spirit as believers are today. Communication in those days seems quite limited compared to the relationship we share with God today. Nevertheless, the book opens not with a far off God, but a close one. You will notice in many translations that the word “Lord” is in small caps. Translators use this to denote the difference between the word “lord”, simply meaning ‘master’, and “LORD”, which is the personal name for God. If we could see the Hebrew translation we would see YHWH, pronounced Yahweh. Why the personal name? Jonah served a personal God!
If you are tempted to think, “it would be so incredible if God actually spoke to me,” remember – He does! There are so many ways He speaks to us. Jesus Himself said that the method of communication we have today is far superior to that of old. What could possibly be better than the God of this universe speaking out loud from the heavens? Jesus said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7) What could possibly be better than God speaking from heaven, or Jesus Christ in the flesh, seriously? According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit (the Helper) is better! He said, “it is to your advantage.” What an incredible truth. You and I have the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, teach, convict and encourage us.
Jonah, however, heard the Word of Yahweh and now had to make a choice; “Will I obey or disobey?” God’s instructions were simple, hard and risky for him, but simple. He was told to “go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it.” It looked like Jonah was going to be doing some open-air preaching… in Nineveh. This might not seem like a big deal, especially if you’ve ever done street preaching before. Nineveh was no small city. Likely there were well over a half a million people there. It was an old city, mentioned all the way back in Genesis 10:11. It was an immoral city, God had said “wickedness has come up before me.” Nevertheless, Jonah was to go. It would be a bit of a journey for him. Nineveh was about 500 miles from his home town of Gath-Hepher. We can wonder if perhaps Jonah thought, “God, can’t you use someone closer?”