THE WORD OF THE LORD AND THE RELUCTANT PROPHET

“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”” (Jonah 1:1–2, ESV)

It must have hit Jonah like a load of bricks.  It’s not as if it came out of the blue, for Jonah was a prophet of God.  But when the word of the Lord came to Jonah on this day, his job was especially challenging.  God told Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”  Note three crucial realities that concern this word of the LORD.

First, the word of the LORD is divine speech

The word of the LORD is a sacred edict; it is a precept; indeed it is a royal mandate.  Since this word comes from Yahweh, it carries divine weight; it is laden with divine authority.  Four characteristics mark this divine speech:

1. It is non-negotiable.  The Psalmist says, “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Ps. 119:89).  One might argue, “Did not Abraham negotiate with God?  Did not Moses try his hand at the sacred bargaining table?”  Clearly, there are examples of biblical characters who took turns at negotiating with God.  However, who wins in the final analysis?  Who gets the final say?  Yahweh always has the final word.  Therefore, the word of the LORD is non-negotiable.

2. It stands the test of time.  My late Grandfather, V.W. Steele used to say, “Men and movements die.  But the word of the LORD remains forever.”  Fads fade, ideology wanes, and the collective zeitgeist washes over culture like waves on the seashore.  But the word of the LORD stands eternally.  “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:8).  The word of the LORD stands the test of time.

3. It is dependable.  “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (Ps. 119:160)

4. It fulfills the plan of God.  The word of the LORD is uniquely qualified to perfectly fulfill the intentions of a sovereign God.  “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).

Second, the word of the LORD is God’s appointed way of communicating his character and commands

Herein lies the importance of propositional revelation.  Francis Schaeffer reminds us, “He has spoken, in verbalized, propositional form, and he has told us what his character is.”  Simply put, God uses words to tell us what he is like and what he expects from us, namely – he reveals himself to us.  Let us never forget that the unbelieving world rejects this propositional revelation.  For instance, the evolutionist who believes in the uniformity of natural causes in a closed-system rejects propositional revelation.  It is bunk.  It is nonsense.  This man is autonomous.  He’s not listening.  And this kind of irreverent thinking is tantamount to cosmic treason!

Third, the word of the LORD demands a response

Our response to the word of the LORD should be unconditional, unhindered, and enthusiastic.  In short, people everywhere are required to obey the word of the LORD.  When one receives a word from the LORD, one must remember who the word comes from .  Our response should be rooted and grounded in who we know the LORD to be:  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4).  “This is a confession of lordship,” argues John Frame.  “Therefore, he deserves all our love and allegiance.”

The prophet, Jonah struggled with obeying the word of the LORD.  Oh, the Christ-followers everywhere would learn the lesson of Jonah and respond favorably to the word of the LORD.  He is worthy our unfettered obedience!