*** The following is taken from a sermon I preached on Jonah 1 in the summer of 2003. (Notice that I no longer use the NIV translation for teaching, but have left it here as I originally wrote it.) ***
Jonah 1:1-2 (NIV)
1. The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:
2. “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
. In this opening call of the book of Jonah, we see that the LORD calls Jonah to speak out in the same way that he calls all of his prophets. The language is very much the same. The word of God is given to a particular man. That man is called to go and preach a particular message of God to a particular people.
God calls Jonah to perform a simple task: get up and go preach. We know that God tells Jonah to get up and preach against Nineveh. We know that Nineveh is the capital city of Assyria, a brutal foreign empire that will eventually become the Bain of the Northern Kingdom. We know that God wants Jonah to preach against Nineveh because of the greatness of the wickedness of that city. However, in reality, this is not a great deal of detail.
The major point here is that God calls, and Jonah should obey. It is a simple and unmistakable call. Jonah ought to listen. This truth is as true for us as it is for Jonah. When God calls us to do something, he expects our obedience. For those of us who are his children, we have no right to do anything other than obey. Why is that? It is because he is our God, and if we are saved, we have been purchased by Christ for him. Paul says it this way in1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
Obedience is the appropriate response of the people of God to the commands of God. I understand that at times the commands of God appear difficult or unsavory to us. In this instance, we will discover that the command of God was unpalatable for Jonah. However, our opinion about the commands of God is irrelevant. What is relevant is that obedience is a primary tenant of being in relationship with God. Let us look at a few verses of scripture that will spell this out for us:
1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
Psalm 103:17-18 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children–with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
I think that this short list of verses makes it clear to us that when God commands, his followers obey. Obedience is a critical element to a relationship with God. Without it, there is no relationship. God calls Jonah. Jonah should obey. When God calls us, we too should obey.