The First Chapter
My favorite part of the book of Jonah is the very first chapter. It is full of so much treasure as we explore this Biblical account, the first chapters of books in our own lives, and the first chapters of those around us. Right off, God says to Jonah, “Get up! Go…” God gives us this message over and over again as well. At the dawning of a new day, God says get up and go. With a new assignment or project at work, God says get up and go. When a new neighbor moves in across the street, God says get up and go. When a friend is hurting or in need, God says get up and go. When someone needs to hear about the never-ending love of God, God says get up and go.
Jonah does get up. However, Jonah does not dive into the first chapter of the new book God has in store for him. Jonah actually gets up to flee!!! Jonah attempts to flee from the very presence of the Lord. This is that point in the chapter where we shake our heads at how ridiculous it is Jonah is trying to run from God! However, if we really take a moment to examine ourselves we will find that we do the exact same thing. We may even find ourselves trying to appease God by doing something else that we think God would view as worthy as long as it is NOT the thing God asked us to do that we do NOT want to do! Take a look at some of the words used in Jonah chapter one when the Scripture describes Jonah fleeing God. He went down. He paid. While this language has its literal meaning, Jonah paid the fare to get on the ship. Jonah headed in the downward direction to Tarshish, and Jonah headed down to the lowest part of the vessel to sleep. I cannot help but latch on to the metaphorical connotations these words have when we strive to flee from God. We pay a price. We go down to the lowest parts of ourselves. We are headed in a downward direction. In future chapters of the book of Jonah, we know that Jonah eventually does follow God’s call. Just think what Jonah could have avoided if he dived into the first chapter of the book God had for him and the people of Nineveh right away.
Instead of fleeing out of fear, discomfort, disagreement, or uncertainty don’t be afraid to get up and go. Start the first chapter God has for you in the book of the Lord’s next plan for your life today!
My other favorite part about chapter one in the account of Jonah are the sailors. In the early pages of their book, we see the sailors afraid in a great storm. Jonah 1:5 clues us in by stating, “The sailors were afraid, and each cried out to his god.” Not only do we read about their fear, but we are told that they do not cry out to the one true God. Despite the fact that Jonah was fleeing from God, God STILL used Jonah in this moment to demonstrate the Lord’s power to the sailors. The sailors knew Jonah was trying to flee from the presence of God. Jonah instructed them to throw him overboard, and when they did the sea stopped it’s raging! The sailors prayed to THE ONE TRUE GOD, and God demonstrated His power to them. At this point, they opened up the first chapter of their books of a relationship with the Almighty God. “The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.” (Jonah 1:16).
Remember that there are people all around you who observe how you, a follower of God, live your daily life. People who are curious, critical, and currently lost. Who knows, today, you may be the one who God uses to help someone else begin their chapter one of a relationship with God. You may know it when it happens, or you may have absolutely no idea.
So, get up and go! Start the next chapter. I hear whenever God is in charge of the plans, it is always a great book!