A Prophet Is ChosenJonah 1:1-3
1Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
2Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
3But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish:
so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
Jonah is chosen by God to take His Word to Nineveh.
Certainly not for human reasons was Jonah chosen.
All we know is there was 'wickedness' so great that it came up before the personal presence of God Almighty.
We are shown in the story of Jonah that he was not specifically qualified for the work by character, piety, or virtues.
God never calls qualified men, He makes men qualified whom He chooses.
Everything begins the moment God decides to choose.
Thusly the story begins when the Word of God Almighty is revealed to Jonah.
Recall when the Word of the Lord first came to you?
Recall the power and might displayed to you personally when God's living (Rema) Word first came to you?
Everything was frozen in time as you realized that God Almighty was addressing you from eternity.
We usually see the translation "The Word of the Lord came to...," but in fact the Hebrew simply says "is."
The Word of God is.
It is for Jonah and to him.
It is for you and I and to us.
This shows clearly that the Word is not just words.
1 Corinthians 2:3-5
3And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
It is a power which exists and manifests itself.
This is why, when the Word is thus revealed to a man, he is not at all in the situation we always imagine: a subordinate receiving orders from a superior; a subordinate who ought to fulfill the order, though this is just a collection of words, which certainly aims at action, and is backed by social sanctions, but which is not itself an action so that in large measure the subordinate is free: he may obey or disobey.
The Word of God, however, is not at all like this.
It is power and not just discourse.
It transforms what it touches.
It cannot be anything but creative and salvic.
It never fails to take effect.
A human order, when not obeyed, is without effect, but God's Word always attains its end.
In fact this is one of the main lessons of the Book of Jonah.
The Word effects God's decision after all kinds of detours and complications which arise because God takes into account and respect's man's decisions too.
When the Word intervenes in a situation, it changes that situation.
When it comes on a man, it changes that man even if he refuses to listen.
This goes beyond mere obedience.
The Word enlists man in an adventure into which he carries all those around him and which may be a controversy with God.
This Word is addressed to an individual man.
This Word was addressed to you individually. In effect it is always specific.
It is not general truth which any man might grasp and understand with no particular action on God's part.
God is first the God of an individual man.
Election and vocation relate to an individual and not a crowd, not mankind, not man in general.
We know nothing about the one thus chosen and designated.
The Bible does not think it necessary to give us this information.
We know almost nothing about Jonah, his family, village, or person.
He is a stranger to us.
He begins to be important only when the Word of the Lord is on him.
We are like that too.
He becomes personal at this moment.
Before he no doubt had the worth of any man.
He was an individual.
Perhaps he was very important.
But his destiny was fixed.
He was subject to destiny.
Now he is taken from the ranks.
He achieves singularity. He masters destiny. He is called to change history for himself and others.
Are we who have been called by the Word of Almighty God not unlike this man?
This does not imply individualism.
Jonah is a member of the chosen people.
The Word he is given is part of the covenant. Jonah belongs to the people of God and this Word integrates him the more closely into the people of God.
Throughout his adventure he is alone: alone in face of God and in face of death and in face of Nineveh.
But in his solitude, whether aware of it or not, he belongs to the cloud of witnesses, to the 7,000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal, to the remnant of Israel.
In fact Jonah represents the whole people of Israel, and if he is quite alone he still represents the whole people, both Israel and the Church.
This is why God cannot rest content with his individual and arbitrary decision. when Jonah turns his back and flees, it is not just Jonah who is at stake but the whole Church and the world.
God cannot let him go. If this man is not independent of God it is because of the world to which he is sent.
The Word had only to come to Jonah for his situation to be genuinely and totally changed even though he himself was not yet changed. What was it that changed, according to the text?
We note first that this Word which manifests God's choice or election is not just an intimation of this election.
It is not a kind of announcement which makes known God's decision and which contributes to our personal satisfaction, our personal joy, our edification, and our peace.
This Word makes known to Jonah that he has been chosen for a purpose.
God's election is never a choice which stops with the choice.
When God Almighty picks out a man and speaks to him, it is to engage him in a work, an action.
Nowhere in Scripture do we find indeterminate or purely ambiguous vocation. Nowhere do we find general election to fulfill the will of God at large.
When God addresses a man He does not merely give singularity to the man; He also particularizes His will to him.
There is of course a general will of God which in some sort applies to all of us.
But election does not consist in knowledge of this general will. It is enlistment in a precise action, a specific work.
If God chooses a man, it is in order that he may serve in the work God has undertaken.
It is in the measure that he does serve thus that his true election is made known and that it becomes more clear and certain for him. You know your election and your calling.
We cannot be content, then, with Christian virtues; vocation presupposes taking a part in the work. There is no election apart from taking part in this way.
Moreover, when God has chosen a man who has a function to discharge, He never goes back on this.
The man who is thus enlisted willy~nilly in God's action remains a chosen man even though he refuses and flees.
The fact that Jonah flees is by no means unique.
On the contrary, one might say that all men, when they become aware of this call, begin by refusing and fleeing.
But God's choice persists.
He has chosen for a precise action, and so long as this is not performed God Almighty pursues man.
This is true of all the men of the Bible, including Jonah and you and I.
OK, so in spiritual reality it is much too simple to think that god offers His grace to man and man accepts or refuses.
When God has graciously chosen a man His grace continues even though the man does not do what God has decided. On the other hand, this persistence of election, of which Jonah is an extraordinary example (Which is connected with the fact that God Almighty chooses for a specific action), does not entail a negation of man's will.
God pursues this man, conducts him through his whole life, in order to bring about the consent of this man's will to what God has decided.
We see this in the details of God's dealings with Jonah.
In the word's of Lonnie Frisbee, "Don't run, give up fasssst. God always wins..."
On each occasion man can refuse and on each occasion God begins again until man has finally chosen to accept.
It may thus be said that by this word man is both more free and also less free than in the presence of a human order.
He is more free because he is detached by this word even from social contingencies; he must break with the world.
That is what we find with Jonah.
No matter whether he decides to obey or flee, there is a rupture with his daily life, his background, his country.
Hencefourth he is separated from others.
The matter is so important that everything which previously shaped the life of this man humanly and sociologically fades from the scene.
He is in a situation such as no human order could present to him.
Anything that might impel him to obey according to the world has lost it's value and weight for him.
But he is also enlisted in an action which he has not chosen and cannot avoid.
He is pursued by a devouring love which wants him totally, in the ardor of his own converted heart.
He is pursued by an unweary patience which will use every means to bring it about finally that this man yields to God's reason.
And the adventure in which man is obliged to stake everything in a freedom which is given, but given only for this adventure, seems to be extraordinarily important for God.
In some sense God engages Himself in the work in which He engages man.
Another aspect of all of this situation in which the Word of God sets man is that everything around the called man circles him because he has been chosen.
A tempest is unleashed.
The people around the called man are inadvertently involved in the work being done in this man's life.
God uses everything at His command to nudge this man into compliance to the action for which the man has been called.
There will be no rest for anyone around this called man until he does what he has been called to do.
This does not mean that we have to inquire into the spiritual meaning of every event.
But we have to realize that these events, in spite of their rational appearance, are in effect part of the formidable accomplishment of the work of Almighty God.
It all begun while Jonah was asleep in the hold of a ship. Jonah had refused the Word of the Lord and ran...a storm erupted.
God is asking the impossible from Jonah, from the human standpoint he has good reason for running.
The people he is being sent to are cruel, they decorated their walls and pyramids with scorched enemy skins.
Jonah was being sent to mighty conquerors!
A fierce people. Anything is better than certain death at Nineveh.
Jonah will not accept the impossible from God. He judges as the world judges.
But he does not take into account the fact that he is engaged in an adventure in which it is no longer possible to judge this way or that.
Decisions made according to the reasoning of the world will lead nowhere and solve nothing.
We see God taking nature into play to see that Jonah fulfills his vocation. The others, the sailors, on the ship are impacted.
Jonah has set off in a direction which is precisely the opposite of that indicated by God. He finds that he can no longer live his life where he is.
He must leave, and does so as a fugitive. He flees, the text says. He has a bad conscience and flees like Adam and Cain. He flees "away from the presence of the Lord."
It seems to me that the real sense here is spiritual. In departing. Jonah breaks with the people which God has chosen. He no longer wants to belong to the chosen people. So impossible is the order.
The story of Jonah is indeed the story of all of us. What sacrifices are we not ready to make to be far from the face of God, unable as we are to accept that it is from God Himself who fulfills His impossible will!
One more thing, Jonah flees from the presence of God and during the stormy tempest he sleeps. The point is that he refuses even to contemplate this storm.
He refuses to see it except as a natural phenomenon about which he can do nothing. He will not see in it God's act, God's appeal, God's pointer.
He prefers to know nothing about it. He continues to flee by plunging into unconsciousness of sleep in order not to know that it comes from God.
And we all know what comes next...
In the word's of Lonnie Frisbee, "Don't run, give up fasssst. God always wins..."