Decisions and the Consequences They Bring
Every day, man is called upon to make decisions. It can be over something as minute as what you should have for breakfast, or as enormous as whether or not to leave a loved one on life support. No matter how big or small the decision is, there will always be a consequence. In the Bible, we find an abundance of characters from whom we can learn many of life’s lessons, if only we would take the time to read and study God’s word. One such character is the prophet Jonah.
The book of Jonah starts with God giving a command: “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me’” (Jonah 1.1-2). Jonah had a decision to make, and he chose to resist God: “But Jonah arose to flee to Tashish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1.3). Because of Jonah’s disobedience, there was a consequence: “But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up” (Jonah 1.4). The consequence was dire: the ship was about to be torn apart. Because of one man’s decision, many were put in the path of destruction. Our decisions can affect not only our own lives, but the lives of those around us. As we continue to read, we find that Jonah was tossed over the side of the ship and into the sea. There he was swallowed into the belly of a great fish.
Jonah was in the fish for three days and nights. That is a long time to have to oneself. Have you ever been in a situation from which you couldn’t escape, either physically or mentally? I think his reaction would have been the same as ours: first blaming someone else (even God) for the predicament that we were in, then thinking of how we could have changed things, not to do what we should have from the start, but to get out of the mess we currently were in. In the end, as recorded for us in Jonah 2.1-9, we would realize that it is our own fault and who humility.
Jonah showed his humility by going to God in prayer. It is a pattern that Christians follow daily. We have a “me, myself, and I” mentality to our lives. We get comfortable and relaxed with our own abilities and, sadly, we take God out of our daily lives. As Jonah demonstrated, repentance is the only way to fully gain God’s favor: “So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2.10).
Again, Jonah was charged with going to Nineveh and preaching God’s message: “And Jonah began to enter on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’” (Jonah 3.4). The message was received, and the people of Nineveh believed God and repented of their ways, avoiding the destruction that God had planned for them.
Jonah is a character to whom I think we can all relate. He was commanded to do something, and because he refused to do so, he suffered. Today we also have been commanded to do something: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘ All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28.18-20). Because of one man’s obedience (Jonah), 120,000 people were spared from God’s destruction. If you obey the command given to you, how many lives can you save?