Posted by: glorifyhim1 | November 8, 2010

When Obedience is Hard

Sometimes obedience is not easy. Ask the prophet Jonah.  

God had a definite job for Jonah. He told Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn the people of God’s judgment because of their great wickedness. Jonah, however, resisted God’s instruction. He didn’t want to go to Nineveh so instead he climbed on a boat headed to Tarshish to flee “from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3).   

Why? It wasn’t because Jonah was afraid to go to Nineveh. It wasn’t even because he wanted to do something else. Simply put, Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he didn’t like the people of Ninevah. The people of Nineveh were enemies to the nation of Israel. Jonah didn’t want to take the message of God’s judgment to them for fear they might respond and God, in His mercy, would relent from the disaster He planned to bring upon them. In other words, Jonah didn’t want the people of Nineveh to escape God’s judgment.

Before we are too hasty in judging Jonah, we probably need to ask ourselves if we are ever guilty of doing the same thing. Jonah felt he was right in the way he felt about the people of Nineveh. They were marked by wickedness. Nahum 3 describes the nation’s violence and bloodshed, their extreme paganism. They deserved judgment and it was right to hate their wickedness. But the book of Jonah makes it clear that it was not Jonah’s place to say who would or would not receive the mercy and grace of God. That belongs to the sovereignty and freedom of God.

There are countless examples in our world today of wickedness, many horrors beyond our imagination. It is easy to be like Jonah and pronounce our judgment on those guilty of such evil and corruptness. Yet Jesus warned His followers: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). Instead, Jesus told them to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This is when obedience is not easy. Murderers, rapists, abusers of children deserve out wrath, but Jesus instructs us to not judge them, but pray for them.

Ironically, it is actually through this most difficult act of obedience that we ourselves can find peace. Romans 12:19 instructs: “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” When we surrender the perpetrators of evil to God, we know that whether He chooses to show mercy or judgment, that He is a just and holy God in whom we can trust. Deuteronomy 32:4 states: “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.”

 

Just as Jonah feared, when he finally went to Nineveh and warned the people of coming judgment, they repented of their evil and God showed mercy to them. Jonah was angry just as we sometimes are when we feel evil doesn’t get its just rewards. But, then, I’m reminded of how thankful I am for the mercy and grace that God extended to me. I, too, was guilty and condemned. God didn’t save me because I was good or deserved to be saved. He saved me because of who He is – a God of love that gave His only Son to die that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). God is not only a just and holy God, but He is also kind and longsuffering. 2 Peter 3:9 states: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

 

That kind of love demands obedience – even if it is sometimes hard. And the better I come to know my awesome God, the more I want to obey Him.

 

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