March 2021 - The Providence of God in the Life of Jonah
If ever there were a Sunday School classic, it's the account of Jonah. And no wonder, it is a brilliant narrative. Jonah refuses to go to Nineveh to tell them to repent, he hops on a boat to Tarshsish, gets thrown off, swallowed by a giant fish, spewed out on to the shore and then goes and preaches. We should also add that he was unhappy about the people actually repenting because he didn't like them very much. It makes for great reading.
One of the underlying themes in the book of Jonah, is that of God's providence. The outworking of his sovereignty in the details of Jonah's life. It is particularly demonstrated through God's created order. When he gets on the boat in order to run from God's presence, we are told that 'the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea.' When they cast lots to see who's fault the storm is, it lands on Jonah (Proverbs 16 v 33). When he convinces them to chuck him overboard, the storm ceases.
Following this we are told that the Lord 'appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah'. It was appointed by God. Down in verse 10, 'And the Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah out in dry land.'
After he eventually goes to preach to Nineveh and they repent, he goes off in a huff with the Lord because he didn't punish them in the end. Jonah is sitting outside the city and the Lord again 'appointed' a plant so that it might shade him from the sun. Jonah was very glad for this but the next God also 'appointed' a worm that attacked the plant and it died. He also 'appointed' a 'scorching east wind down on Jonah so that he was faint. Once again Jonah was not impressed by this.
Throughout the book God uses his creation and Jonah's circumstances to bring him back to himself and also to teach him lessons and discipline him. It was through the storm and the fish that he got Jonah back on mission. It was through the lesson of the plant that he reminded Jonah that the souls of people are more important than his plant and comfort!
What doe we take from this? God is always at work to sanctify and teach his people. He obviously does this through his word but also through all of life's circumstances and the situations we face. Even in the small and the seemingly insignificant details, he is at work. He is guiding all of our circumstances and he is present in all of them. God is at work in the small things as well as the big. He truly is the sovereign God. That may raise questions for us but it also brings enormous comfort to know he is working all things together for our good, even through small things like a worm or a plant.
Can you see God's providence in your life? Do you know what he has been teaching you recently? Have you seen how he has done this in the past year? Take some time to thank God for his providence and his daily work in your life.