Now the Lordsaid to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3
There is something at your core, one thing that is most important to you. However, it can be hard to identify it. We often only see it when we think we’re losing it. It’s only when our pride is compromised that we see our longing for approval. It’s only when we lose big that we see our need for success. It’s only when the bank account is drained that we see our desire for security. The storm has a way of excavating what’s underneath all the fluff and words, exposing what’s really at our core.
The storm unearthed Jonah’s identity. Notice the sailors ask Jonah four questions: “What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” However, Jonah only gives them one answer: “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” I’m a Hebrew. That’s the most important thing to Jonah. He also adds that he worships Yahweh, but only as a subset of his ethnic identity.
You have to wonder why Jonah has a careless attitude toward the storm. The sailors struggle and sacrifice, trying to lightened the boat and get to dry land, but Jonah sleeps soundly. Jonah doesn’t care if he loses his life and he doesn’t care if the sailors lose theirs. Could it be that he views them just like the Ninevites? Could it be that they aren’t like him? We’re not sure, but this scene of Jonah is a rebuke of Jonah for not caring about the whole ship, about the sailors, about God’s creation.
As a Hebrew, Jonah had a clear calling. It was found in his own scriptures in Genesis 12:2-3,
2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Jonah was blessed and chosen by God that he might be a blessing to all the peoples on the earth. All the peoples – including the Ninevites and the sailors. Somehow his allegiance to the Hebrew people trumped his calling as a Hebrew.
As followers of Jesus, we are called into this line of blessers. We are called to be for all of humanity; that’s at the core of our identity as Jesus followers. We are Christians before we are Americans or Africans. We are Christians before we are Republicans or Democrats. We are Christians before we are Presbyterians or Baptists. We are Christians first and primarily; everything else is a distant second. Jonah gets that order wrong and it shapes the way he views himself and all the people around him.
Spend some time alone in quiet today. If you consider yourself to be a Christ follower, is that at the core of your identity? If something else is there, repent. Ask Jesus to be your Lord and (re)pledge your allegiance to him.
By Ryan Paulson