Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 7-8
Having cleared up Jonah’s “hesitancy” to do what he was told to do, the Lord takes it once more from the start. After a futile attempt to run away, having been rescued by God from the belly of the whale, Jonah hears the Lord say again, “Go preach repentance in Nineveh!” And off he goes.
We are told that it should have taken three days just to cover the territory, so big was Nineveh. But after a single day of work on Jonah’s part, the entire city (an “enormously large city”) repents in sackcloth and ashes! Effective preaching? No, the extraordinary conversion of this great mass of people has nothing to do with zeal on the part of Jonah. The Lord wants this city to be converted and the Lord brings it about, even through a reluctant mouthpiece. It’s the power of the message, and not the messenger that brings about success.
For all of Jonah’s reluctance, in the end he does exactly what he is told: he preaches God’s message (not his own). Though we might have preferred a more willing spirit, Jonah provides all that is necessary for a successful mission in God’s sight: he does what God asks.
Perhaps the most important question we can ask at the start of each day is: Lord, what do you want? What do you want me to say, to do—today? Without that kind of radical questioning, our best intentions are doomed to fail. In case we doubt, Jonah’s tale reminds us that God has some very definite wants and desires!
“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders
labor.” Psalm 127
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