Charles Spurgeon once said, “We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in His word, He intended to be conspicuous in our lives.” The way Christians demonstrate their love for their Savior can be summed up in John 14:15, ʻIf you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” To a Christian, Godʼs Word should be more than just a book cracked open on Sunday mornings. The Bible is an action plan that if carried out can transform a personʼs life and it is meant to be obeyed.
There are many stories of obedience in the Bible. However, one in particular, as unusual as it is, stands out as one that illustrates the need to obey God – Jonah and the “great fish.”
Jonah got his own book in the Bible, which should prove to the reader how much God values obedience. He lived during the time of Israelʼs history when God was using prophets to preach His word to the Israelites. Jonah was unique in that God wanted to send him to the city of Nineveh, which belonged to the great nation of Assyria. Assyria was one of Israelʼs worst enemies and were known for their particularly cruel treatment of war prisoners.
God gave Jonah a direct command in Jonah 1:2, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” However, because Jonah didnʼt want God to spare the lives of his enemies, he fled on a boat in the opposite direction to Tarshish. God intercepted Jonah, had a fish swallow him in the water (Jonah 1:17), and had the fish spit him back on dry land. God once again gave him the direct command in Jonah 3:2, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.”
Jonah obeyed the second time and issued Godʼs proclamation. He told the people of Nineveh that God was going to overthrow them in 40 days. When the king of Nineveh heard this, he instructed the people to fast and repent. The king says in Jonah 3:9, “Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.” God did have mercy on the Ninevite people and he did not destroy them. The story goes on to explain how Jonah did not like Godʼs decision, and how he sat outside the city and begged God to kill him. God explained to Jonah that He had compassion on Nineveh just like he had compassion on Jonah.
The moral of the story is that God expects us to obey. Period. When Christians obey, they are telling God that they trust and love Him enough to follow His commandments, even when they donʼt understand it. 1 John 2:3-5 says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ʻI have come to know Him,ʼ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the ruth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this
we know that we are in Him…”