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One-a-Day...for the Heart: The Plot Chickens

   The title, The Plot Chickens, was a typographical error in my text. I wrongly typed the letter “c” for a “t,” as I wrote about an incident that was getting more interesting “as the plot thickened,” not chickened. The error was comical to me, and I thought perhaps the Lord could inspire a One-a-Day with the mistake.

A well-known Old Testament Bible character was the prophet Jonah. The Lord gave Jonah an assignment that he did not like. When we walk with the Lord for any time, we will inevitably encounter such a crossroads of the will when God's will challenges ours. In this case, the Lord told Jonah to go to the wicked city of Nineveh and proclaim the city would be overthrown in forty days because of its gross sin. The prophet Nahum described Nineveh as a “bloody city, full of lies and plunder” (Nahum 3:1). He further described the city by saying, “There is no end to the looting and plundering, murder and destruction” (Nahum 3:19). It was a place of extreme corruption and evil.

Jonah's reaction to delivering the Word of the Lord to the Ninevites revealed his disgust with the people, for he was afraid that if he obeyed the Lord and his preaching was successful, the Lord would show mercy to the wicked people of Nineveh. How's that for a kind, compassionate heart? It gives pause to reflect that even mighty men of God have feet of clay and struggle with negative thoughts and emotions.

Here's how Jonah reacted to God's instruction to warn Nineveh, as recorded in Jonah 1:1-3: The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it, because their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship that was going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and boarded it to go with them to Tarshish away from the presence of the Lord.

God's man of faith and power RAN from the presence of the Lord! Jonah's storyline got complex; he turned chicken and ran. His plot chickened. But before we utter a “tsk, tsk”  in judgment, let's recall a few times in our own lives when we've avoided the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit to do or say something. Let's remember the years we ran off on our own to live without the Lord, for we, too, ran from the presence of the Lord.

Being scared to do what the Lord asks is one thing; being unwilling is quite another, and sadly, Jonah was more unwilling than scared. He chickened out for reasons other than fear or timidity. So, as the story goes, the dealing of God was harsh. The raging storm at sea, the man overboard! horror, the whale, its gross stomach where Jonah sloshed around for three days, the vomit—nothing about chickening out had pleasant results for Jonah. He had a remarkable change of heart as the great fish spewed him out on the shore.

Merciful God gave the prophet a second chance, and upon being asked again to go to Nineveh, Jonah surrendered and obeyed. Still, the story is intriguing because Jonah's preaching was so successful that the entire city repented, fasted, and prayed before the Lord! Wow. It was just as Jonah suspected, and God extended great mercy to all, as recorded in Jonah 3:10: When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their evil way, then God relented of the disaster He had declared He would bring on them. So, He did not do it.  

     Jonah went through a harrowing experience when he chose to run from God. It didn't have to be that way, but even after he was given a second chance and he obeyed the Lord, his flesh rose in anger at God being merciful to the Ninevites, and he stomped off mad as he watched the repentance of Nineveh from a distance at the city's edge. Still, the Lord dealt with the man of God by providing a tree to shade him from the hot sun, which made Jonah happy. By morning, a worm had destroyed the tree, and it withered so that Jonah was exposed to a scorching sun and east wind that overwhelmed him, as his emotions dipped to such a low level that he wanted to die.

Our God is in the heavens, and He does as He wishes. We are reminded of this in Psalm 115:3. He wanted repentance and forgiveness for the people of Nineveh. Jonah's heart was not quite there, but God did it anyway. However, note that the assignment of Nineveh was for Jonah and no one else. Could the Lord have brought in another prophet? Of course, He could have, but being intimately aware of Jonah's heart and character, he held Jonah's feet to the fire and accomplished His purposes in the man of God.

He will do that with us because He is also intimately aware of our hearts, character traits, destinies, and callings. I am very thankful that when God wants to, He can override our mistakes and human failures. He can work and accomplish things through us despite them! If we chicken out on Him because we're scared or stubborn to do something He asks of us, He can achieve it through us anyway. God's Ways and Means Committee is effective!

Don't chicken out—with the least or the greatest assignment He gives you. For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

© 2024, Chris Custer Werre  

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