Growing up I had the privilege of having my dad drive me to school every other week when I was in the second and third grade. My best friend Jessica and I attended a magnet school downtown, so our dads would alternate dropping us off. Girls and dads have such a special relationship, and we were so blessed with dads that were present in our lives. Each morning when we jumped from the car, our dads would say, “Make wise choices today! Be a leader!” In the mind of an 8 and 9 year old, that statement meant obeying school rules, being kind, and not laughing at the jokes of the class clown! But, as I have grown older, I have realized that everyday is full of so many choices. How can we know which choice is “wise?” After all, wise choices do not always lead to popularity or fun! And what happens if I make the wrong choice?
The prophet Jonah knew this truth all too well as the course of his life reflected the rejection of the wisdom and instruction of God. This story has always been a favorite of mine. Jonah was told in verse 2, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah immediately, without much thought, decided that going to Nineveh was not something he was going to do. He packed his bags and in verse 3 Scripture tells us, “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”
Talk about a fight or flight reaction. Now, we cannot exactly fault Jonah for his choice since the people of Nineveh were less than pleasant. They were dangerous, unkind, ruthless, and evil; however, when God tells us to go, we can trust He will take care of us. We are simply the vessel whom He has chosen to use. What an honor! As Jonah continued to run, God continued to prove that He was the one true God.
In the midst of the storm, Jonah knew that he had been unwise. As we look at the story of Jonah, we learn that there is a wise response after an unwise choice. We’ll see how are we to handle our second chances and make Jesus known in our mistakes.
The Wise Girl Admits to Sin
When the other sailors were praying to their “gods” and the storm did not settle, they asked Jonah to pray to his “god.” From there, Jonah proclaimed that he served the one true God in verses 11-12. He answered, “’I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, ‘What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?’ ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’” How humbling must it have been for Jonah to have to admit to terrified pagan god worshippers that He was running from the Almighty God? In summary, Jonah accepted fault for the consequences of his sin. He admitted to his mistake and started the return back to God’s instruction. We, too, should own up to our sinful and unwise choices.
The Wise Girl Rejoices in the Mercy of God
As the story continues, Jonah tells the sailors to throw him overboard, and a big fish swallows him up. He spends the next 3 days in the belly of the sea creature. During that time, he cried out to God thanking Him for his rescue from disobedience. The beginning of his prayer confesses, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me” (2:2). In Jonah’s prayer, he confesses that God is the one who brought his life out of the pit (2:6), and he says, “With a voice of thanksgiving I will sacrifice to You…Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (2:9). Jonah celebrates God’s mercy in light of his mistake! By the end of chapter two, God tells the fish to spit Jonah out on dry land. God then gives Jonah the command a second time to go to Nineveh and tell them to turn from their wicked ways. What grace. Our God is so forgiving!
The Wise Girl Responds in Obedience
After all of that, Jonah made his way to Nineveh. He was finally obedient, and the Lord used him to share the message of salvation with a sinful nation. The lesson: obedience is still just as important after we mess up as it is before we make the mistake. To respond wisely requires us to be obedient.
I can relate with Jonah. I am a fast mover, and I hate taking a long time on one task. I love to see just how much I can get done in a small amount of time, and it gets me in a mess sometimes! So when Jonah decides in an instant that he is not going to go to Nineveh, I see a red flag. His fear overtakes his ability to make a wise decision, and he definitely doesn’t stop to think it through. We make poor choices, some by mistake and some on purpose. Sometimes I get ahead of myself, depend on my own knowledge, and ignore God’s wisdom. In the middle of my mess, I have to stop, admit my mistake, celebrate forgiveness and ultimately take steps to correct my sin. This may look like asking a fellow believer to hold me accountable in weak areas of my life, or completely changing the sinful habit. We are sinners pursuing a relationship with a Holy God, so we are sure to mess up. With each chance we are given the opportunity to pursue wisdom, and we get to display the forgiveness of Christ in our lives for others as we continue in obedience.
I challenge you to be wise women of the Word. Cling to the promises and commands of God as you make choices in life and not what culture tells you. It’s ok if you have to make a decision that will not get hundreds of likes on Instagram. Learn from the story of Jonah that when God calls us to follow Him, He is not going to give up on our obedience. We are to admit to our sinful disobedience, praise God for His mercy, and walk forward in obedience to Him. He is full of second chances and rescues us from the pit when we run in rebellion. Live confidently as Christ is fulfilling His plan for your story!
Jesus, I thank You for the challenge to be wise. I thank You for Your Word and the many examples You give us to follow. Thank you for heroes of faith that have gone before us and lead well. I pray that we become hearers and doers of Your Word even when we are scared, tired, stressed, or alone. Thank You for Your love that is deeper than the ocean, Your grace that is abundant, and the gift of second chances. We love You.