Recently, I had the privilege to join some friends (Thanks Shelby’s!) at their bay house. It’s a beautiful place and a perfect place to “get away” a bit.
I don’t think I’ve ever really sat and watched pelicans diving for fish before. They fly up high to get a good wide perspective and scan for prey. When they see something they circle to get a good angle and then dive with abandon. Recklessly even. They aren’t very graceful – just effective. In order to survive, they must do this regularly – every day even.
I wonder what leaders can learn from pelicans? Do we escape our normal routines and seek out “high places” where we can get good perspectives? Do we continually scan for new opportunities? Do we work to get a good angle and then dive recklessly? Are we so afraid of being ungraceful that we just continue to circle without ever diving? Do we get comfortable enough that we stop working this process or do we do it daily?
I just found out last night that the Book of Jonah is not about a guy running from God, getting eaten by a whale, preaching to an ungodly nation, and then going into depression. This was a surprise to me, but God didn’t send Jonah to Ninevah to save the Ninevites. God sent him there to save Israel and bring them to repentance!!! If you’re like me, you’re saying, “Huh? I don’t see anything about Israel when I read it.”
OK – here’s how it all works: First of all, let’s make it clear – I believe that the story of Jonah is a REAL story. It’s an actual historic event. In the same way that Ezekiel laid on his side for 390 days to show Israel that God would bear their sin for 390 years, I believe that what happened to Jonah, was allowed by God so that He could show Israel a few things.
Another bit of understanding you need before we launch in to this explanation is this: Over and over the OT prophets have resounded one specific message. “Repentance and obedience leads to restoration and life, while disobedience leads to death.”
Jonah = Israel – He was given the responsibility to take God’s message to Ninevah (Assyrians) just as Israel is supposed to represent God to the entire world. Israel chooses to follow after other gods ignoring their calling. Jonah runs from his calling and ends up on a ship full of foreigners. When the storm came, these foreigners cried out to their gods and sought their help while Jonah slept down below still ignoring God. When the men ask Jonah what they should do, he knows that all that is required is his repentance and obedience, but he chooses to die instead and asks them to throw him overboard. (Remember: in the OT he is “saved” simply because He is a Jew. The law wasn’t given to save them, (they had already been promised a Kingdom), but it was meant only to set them apart and make them holy among the nations of the world.) Anyway, as soon as the fish swallows him, Jonah already knows he’s been saved. When he prays in Chapter 2, he already knows he’s saved. Notice verse 2:8 – He also knows that like him, Israel has chosen death over repentance, but as for him, he now chooses repentance. When Jonah goes to Ninevah (Assyria) the Assyrians repent and are saved. Again, foreigners who are seeking God while Israel is ignoring Him.
Assyria = the great fish – Because they sought God while Israel (Jonah) ran from Him, God allows Assyria to “swallow” Israel in the captivity.
After Assyria is saved, Jonah again chooses death over repentance, just like Israel had been doing for years.
Plant = Jeraboam – God appointed a “little plant” to grow up and offer temporary comfort to Jonah. In the same way, Jeraboam was given a little success to comfort Israel temporarily.
Worm = Tiglath Pileser – He destroys Jeraboam
East Wind = Assyrians – The Assyrians come from the east and overtake Israel swallowing them up into their own kingdom.
Remember, this whole story happened before the events of the captivity had occurred. These prophecies and parallels are remarkable considering that. When Jonah gave this message to Israel, they would have picked up on these symbols rather quickly as there are other prophets who had been speaking of these things too who used many of the same phrases and language. (Check Amos and Hosea)
In the end, we can conclude that Jonah was sent to Assyria not to save them, but to bring Israel back this message which was meant to lead them to repentance/obedience and renewal/life.
Here’s a pic of my and my brother diving in Cozumel. I’m the one waving at the camera.
It’s been quite a while for me, but one of my favorite things to do is scuba dive. Quite a few years ago I went on a diving trip with Brenda (my sister), Roger (my brother), Kathy (My sister-in-law), and Kim (Kathy’s sister). Anyway, we went to Cozumel which is known for some of the best scuba diving in the world. The area surrounding the island is an international wildlife area or something so no fishing is allowed. Because of this – the fish and reefs are beautiful and full of all kinds of tropical fish. While there we saw lots of cool things. I swam just above the shell of a sea turtle. We saw sand sharks, eels, lots of cool tropical fish, stingrays, and lobsters so big that could pinch your head off.
We also went on a night dive – that’s when the lobster and other fish come out from their holes. Also during the night dive we wore glow sticks. That way in case anyone got lost everyone else could see ’em. Our dive master led us to an area near the ocean floor where we could just float – it’s called neutral buoyancy. Anyway, he took one of the glow sticks and cut it open and let the little droplets of glowing liquid float around us – pretty cool – it felt like we were in space. We were weightless floating around with glowing “stars” surrounding us.
All the dives in Cozumel are what they call “drift dives.” Part of the reason Cozumel is such a good place to dive is because the water has a current that naturally cleans the reef. This current can also be tough for a diver ’cause it’s hard to swim against. Due to this problem the dive boats simply drop you off in one area and then while you’re underwater, they follow your bubbles to know where to pick you up. As a diver it’s pretty cool cause you get to see the reef without working very hard (or using much of your oxygen) trying to swim around – you simply let the current carry you along the reef and try to swim to the areas that most interest you. On one of our dives I decided to completely surrender to the current. I spent those 40 minutes underwater focusing on praising God for His creation. It was pretty easy considering the things I was getting to see. Anyway, I wonder how my life would be if I completely surrendered to the currents that God blows my direction? Some might think a life like this would be out of control – maybe it is out of my control – but don’t you think God would still be in control?
I think about the opening scene of the movie Forrest Gump. The feather is blowing all over the place and finally settles on Forrest’s shoe. That movie is all about two things – 1. “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.” and 2. Lt Dan’s “Destiny.” Which is more descriptive of life? Happenstance or Destiny? I think the feather is the perfect answer – it’s both. What seems like happenstance to us can still be destiny to God. I wanna be a feather on God’s wind – by the way, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit like the wind. In the same way that I surrendered to the current while I was diving, I wanna surrender to the Holy Spirit each day. My life may seem out of control to you, but I’m gonna trust God that He knows what He’s doing.
Here’s a video from our Cozumel Scuba Diving Trip: