But, I with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed
I will make good.
Salvation comes from the LORD.
Most of us are familiar with the story of “Jonah and the Whale.” As children, many of us learned that Jonah disobeyed God, jumped on a boat going in the opposite direction from the city where God commanded Jonah to preach, and was thrown overboard to save the ship from a violent storm. Then a great fish swallowed him and, after his fervent prayer to God for relief, it vomited Jonah onto dry ground.
The prophet, unwilling to fulfill the seemingly offensive mission from God, chose to run rather than obey. Ultimately, however, Jonah realized that God’s way was the only way and, although he remained reluctant, he obeyed God. The people of Nineveh believed and were saved, but Jonah pouted and sulked in anger; complaining to God. He became so angry that he wanted to die. (Jonah 4:9) Jonah hated the powerful and wicked Assyrians of Nineveh.
But God, in His great mercy, saved both the Ninevites and Jonah from their own destructive choices. Initially, Jonah was unwilling to sacrifice his desires to fulfill the calling of God on his life. But, he was willing to sacrifice his life to save the sailors on the ship he chose to board while fleeing from God. His behavior seems to be a conundrum, mind-boggling, a puzzle.
As I thought about the complexity of Jonah’s actions, I realized that you and I face similar dilemmas. For example, your heart’s desire, your hope in life, may be to minister to the hurting in your community or nearby city. However, what if God’s answer is yes to allowing you to minister to the hurting, but His call on your life is to the inner city of Mumbai, India where the population is over twelve million. Are you willing to make the sacrifice? What if your ministry desire lies across the nation but instead, God calls you across town? What if you desire to do “great things” for God by the world’s standards, yet He calls you to a ministry of obscurity where few ever know your name? Are you willing to make that sacrifice as you hope in Him?
The twists and turns of life often lead you to unexpected places, often put you in unexpected situations, and often leave you with unexpected decisions to make. But as my favorite Psalm teaches, there is no place you can run, hide, or rest that God cannot find you. (Psalm 139) The question becomes are you, am I, willing to live with sacrificial hope; hope that seeks obedience to God rather than hope that seeks the fulfillment of a personal desire.
Sacrificial hope draws you and me to look expectantly for God’s direction. Sacrificial hope presents a grateful heart to God for the ability to present the Truth of God’s Word to the hungry broken heart of a desperate lost soul. Sacrificial hope allows earthly eyes to see beyond the natural realm. Sacrificial hope is not confined to the mighty in word and deed, but rather becomes a powerful tool for God’s Kingdom in the hearts of struggling single moms, those bed-ridden by illness, dads working two or three jobs, young college graduates looking for work, grandparents raising their grandchildren, soldiers on the battlefield, surgeons in the operating room, and a myriad of other life situations.
Sacrificial hope means believing and obeying God. I am glad God included Jonah’s story in His Word to you and me. It is in God’s Word that we are allowed to see the imperfections, rocky beginnings, and sometimes shaky endings of those who first believed God; human beings like you and like me. God’s Word teaches us to repent, obey, and believe Him. From the darkness inside the belly of a great fish, Jonah cried out to God with his words of sacrificial hope, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”
Pray with me: Father, I pray that like the Ninevites who were saved because Jonah preached and they repented, many will come to know You because of my sacrificial hope in You.
© Joyce Powell
from "Words of Hope"