THE IMPORTANCE OF OBEDIENCE (LESSON 3)
What happens to a child when his parents give him specific instructions, but the child disobeys those instructions? What will a good parent do? What happens is the child gets punished. The child has to be taught a lesson. Well, once again we will be discussing being obedient to God. In this lesson we are going to talk about someone in the Bible who was given specific instructions by God, but they chose to do things their own way instead of God's way. And because of their disobedience, God had to discipline them and teach them a lesson. Hopefully, you will learn from this man's mistakes and think twice the next time you are tempted to go against God's will.
But before we get to the people in the Bible, I wanted to ask you guys a question. Did you know that God has specific plans in mind for each and every person He created and that the plans are special according to your individual personality, talent, needs, potential, or environment? But sometimes we get in the way of what God wants to do in our life. We either listen to our friends instead of what the Bible tells us is right, or we listen to the devil's lies and get sidetracked. Or sometimes we are just stubborn and we don't have anyone to blame but ourselves when we miss out on what God had in store for us. Here is a verse that shows that God wants to instruct you: Psalm 32:8-9, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee." God is telling us not to be stubborn like a horse that the rider has to discipline to get it to do what he wants. God wants to lead and direct us, but we have to respond promptly to Him and believe that the way He would have us go is better than what we want for ourselves. God will guide you, but you have to be willing to hear and obey. Isaiah 30:21,"And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee saying, 'This is the way, walk ye in it...'"
So we have the opportunity to be directed by the Spirit of the living God. But if you hear the voice and are disobedient to it, you either run the risk of God having to teach you a lesson, or you might even harden your heart so much that it's almost impossible to even hear God's voice anymore.
Anyway, let's read an account in the Bible about a man who had to be taught a lesson by God. This fellow's name was Jonah. But before we get to it, here's a little background on Jonah. Jonah was a prophet of God. He was told by God to go to a town called Nineveh. He was supposed to warn the people there to turn from their wickedness or face the wrath of God. Nineveh was a place of violence and bloodshed. The people there worshipped false gods. They did immoral sexual acts. They burned and sacrificed babies to idols. And although God is forgiving and longsuffering, there came a time when he said enough is enough. Jonah 1:1-2, "Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me."
(Side note: What are some other times that we read about in the Bible where God eventually destroyed the people because of their wickedness? Thee people of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their wickedness and disobedience. The people of Noah's time felt God's wrath and displeasure. And how many people would agree that the world that we live in has become as bad, if not worse, than those places? So if there were ever a time that you should be obedient and heed God's commands, now is the time. You don't want to be like the people of Noah's time who missed the boat.)
But, anyway, back to Jonah. Let's read how Jonah responded to God's directions for him to go and warn the people of Nineveh. Jonah 1:3, "But Jonah arose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord."
* Jonah disliked the Ninevites and did not want them to hear God's message. Jonah wanted them to perish. So instead of warning them, he went to a town called Joppa. There he got on a ship going to Tarshish. He was trying to go as far in the opposite direction as possible. How many of you have been told by God to do something (or to stop doing certain things), and instead of obeying God's command, you rebelled and did just the opposite. You maybe did your own thing, made up a new game plan for yourself like Jonah. But can you run away from God? Can you hide from God's presence?
Let's see how God dealt with Jonah's disobedience when Jonah was trying to run far away from God on that ship. Jonah 1:4-5, "But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto to his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay and was fast asleep. (Elaborate).
Jonah 1:6-8, "So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O, sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then they said unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? And whence comest thou? What is thy country? And of what people art thou?
* Isn't it interesting that whether you are disobeying God or whether you are surrounding yourself with others who are disobeying God, that sin has repercussions that will effect everyone that it touches! A disobedient child will bring hell and heartache to the entire household. A man or woman who is having an adulterous affair will possibly break up a family unit, destroy trust, and possibly bring home a disease. Innocent bystanders are harmed every day because of the disobedience of some man or woman. Jonah's disobedience was jeopardizing the life of everyone in the ship. Let's see what Jonah told his crewmates.
Jonah 1:9-12, "And he said unto them, I am a Hebrew; and I fear The Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: For I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you."
* At least Jonah was honest. He owned up to what he had done, and he advised the rest of the crew to save themselves by getting rid of him. Can you imagine how much calmer your life would be if only you stopped associating with certain sinful people? But like the men in the boat with Jonah, instead we think we can keep those sinful people around us and just try harder to change the situation.
Jonah 1:13-16, "Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought and was tempestuous against them. Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows."
* Sometimes it is not until we see someone else brought low by the Lord that we realize God's power. These heathen men went from worshipping false gods to fearing the one and only true God. While disobedient Jonah was still learning a lesson, his crewmates were making vows to the Lord and offering sacrifices. Let's see what happened to Jonah next.
Jonah 1:17, "Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
* Because Jonah chose to be disobedient to the Lord, all kind of trouble came his way. And, again, not only his way, but also he brought trouble to all the people around him. But ultimately Jonah could not hide from God. God came and taught Jonah a lesson. God stopped Jonah dead in his tracks and did what He had to do to get Jonah's attention.
But you should realize that God didn't send the whale to punish Jonah. God sent the whale to save Jonah from the sea and to give him time to think about what he was supposed to do. What will God have to do in your life to get you to stop running from Him? Will He have to knock you off of your feet before you will start obeying His instructions to you? Will he have to send you to prison to save you from the destruction you have fallen into?
Well, as Jonah was inside the whale, we can see from Jonah's prayer to God that Jonah finally came to his senses. Jonah 2:1-10, "Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever; yet hast thou brought up my life from my corruption, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land."
* Jonah was in the whale for three days, and then God had the whale spit Jonah out. Then once again God told Jonah to warn the Ninevites. God will do whatever he has to do to get our attention, even put us in the belly of a whale to make us stop running and start listening. Maybe right now God wants to get your attention. You're not in a whale, but God is somehow still saying, "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). Are you going to learn the lesson right away, or will it take a whole lot of chastising? Have you made a vow to God that needs to be paid?
So why does God sometimes punish us? Does God do it because he is a big bully? No, he chastens us because he loves us. Hebrews 12:5b-6,11 reads, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
Thank God that He loves you enough to give you a second or third chance and does what it takes to teach you a lesson. That is what any good parent should do. And if you are a child of God, you will appreciate what your Heavenly Father is doing in your life, even if it feels painful for a time.
As for Jonah, he finally obeyed God and went and warned the Ninevites, and they repented and turned from their wicked sinful ways.