Jonah cautionary tale of how God deals with our stubborness
By Clay Perkins
Saturday, February 2, 2019
“Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah 2:9
We can be so stubborn. Well not you, but you know someone who can be quite stubborn, don’t you?
Being stubborn can be a good thing — after all, determination has many benefits. Being stubborn can be obnoxious — when it is the other person. But what if we are stubborn? The stubborn one in our relationship with God? How does the Lord deal with stubborn children?
Years ago I had the privilege of being in a country where herding sheep was common. Talking to a shepherd and accompanying him to tend to his sheep in an open field was very enlightening. I knew that the scriptures often use the analogy of God as the good shepherd and we, his people, as his sheep (Psalm 23, John 10). My friend Tony, the shepherd, told me many things about sheep and being a shepherd. It seems that sheep may not be the most intelligent or compliant animals in the animal kingdom. He spoke of lambs that were obnoxiously stubborn. These lambs would continue to wander off and go into harm’s way. Reluctantly, but for the good of the lamb, the shepherd would break one of the lamb’s legs so that the lamb could not wander off, keeping it safe. By the time the leg heals, the lamb has learned to stay with the flock and under the eye of the shepherd.
Sadly, there is a parallel. Many of us are so obnoxiously stubborn in our relationship with God that drastic steps are needed to keep us safe. God wants to keep us from running away from Him. He seeks to protect us from that which will harm us, but too many of us learn only from pain. However, healing and wisdom can come after that brokenness.
Remember Jonah? He was a prophet who ran from God. God instructed him to go on a mission. He said no. Nothing good can come from running from God. We find that running from God ends in despair. It did for Jonah. He found himself in the belly of a giant fish. Clinging to life in the muck and stench of fish guts and seaweeds, he was broken and cried out to God for mercy (Jonah 2).
Why would we be so stubborn? Why would we make life so hard? Why do we choose pain? Why don’t we learn from others and avoid the pain? Like Jonah, do we have to sink deep in stubborn disobedience? Like stubborn sheep, do we have to run away from security toward harm?
If we choose a path that does end in pain, there is still hope. “Anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime: weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The story of Jonah should bring us hope. We need no other sign from God (Matthew 12:39-40). This story should encourage us to end our stubbornness with God. Come home to his ways. Accept his will. Learn from pain.
Dr. Clay Perkins is an adjunct professor at Mid-Atlantic Christian University. The opinions expressed in this column belong to the author and may not be those of the university.