Summary: Call for rededication, to erase past sins so we can all do the work of the Lord.
Growing up, I never thought I would go into the ministry. I always thought that my past was simply too bad, that I’ve done too much, for me to be in the ministry. In fact, it wasn’t until Pastor asked us to pray about becoming the new youth pastors that I began to even seriously consider it. Now, I can honestly say that this is my calling. Even though I work a full time job outside of the church, and I’ve completely forgotten what free time really means, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here.
But why is that? Why is it that, despite what I’ve done in the past, I’m still confident in God’s call on my life? Let’s face it -- I ran from God for years. Why would God trust me after what I’ve done?
Because He is God, and His love is perfect? Well, yes. But I’m too analytical for that. I can know that He is a perfect God, but knowing something in your head is different than knowing it in your heart, right? So what do I do? I go to the Bible, and I realize that He’s done it before.
Turn with me to the book of Jonah (it’s between Obadiah and Micah in the OT). We’re going to be going over the entire book, but it’s only 4 chapters!
Jonah was a prophet. One day God told him to go to the city of Nineveh and “preach against it”. Essentially, God told Jonah to tell the people living in Nineveh that God was so angry with them that He wanted to destroy them!
Let’s stop here for a moment. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire at the time. To put things in modern terms, God told Jonah to go to Washington, DC and tell the President that God was angry and wanted to destroy the city! As you can imagine, Jonah was pretty freaked out at this point. I would be too! In fact, Jonah was so freaked out that he simply ran. He went to the seaport in Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish.
While they were on the boat, God sent a fierce storm. the crew was throwing everything they could think of out of the boat to try to keep it afloat -- but eventually, they ran out of stuff to throw out! They decided to “cast lots” -- they drew straws -- to see who would get thrown out of the boat. Their logic was that their gods (each of them believed in different ones!) would direct the lots to go to the one person responsible for their “bad luck”.
So they cast their lots and Jonah drew the short straw. At this point they start interrogating Jonah, asking him where he was from, what he was doing, who caused the storm, etc. Jonah’s answer is pretty interesting: he’s honest.
9Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
10The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.
Jonah admitted that he did something wrong. Not only that, he admitted it publicly! He saw that his decision was starting to affect other people, so he gave them a solution to the problem:
11And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?”
12“Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
13Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it.
Jonah was more concerned with the lives of the other people on the boat than he was his own. Jonah knew that he did wrong, and he was ready for the punishment. But the crew didn’t want to do it! The crew on the boat, even though they asked Jonah, “What should we do TO you to stop this storm”, ignored his advice and tried to go around it. They couldn’t, though; they were forced to punish Jonah for his actions.
14Then they cried out to the lord, Jonah’s God. “O lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”
15Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!
Sometimes, the people who are responsible for punishing us when we do wrong do everything they can to try to avoid it -- but when we sin, the punishment is due.