Jonah knew enough about God to be afraid of success and content with failure, even prepared to die if he could avoid going to Ninevah. His fears of the Ninevites outweighed His fears of God. The Ninevites would torture him or mutilate him and at least God wouldn’t do that. Trouble is, God can be a nag sometimes, more persistent than any human, and that is what Jonah should have feared, God’s persistence, instead of asking to be left alone to drown.

Who failed to get the memo here?

One of my favorite movies with Paul Newman was Cool Hand Luke. A famous scene in the movie, where Luke, a passive aggressive prisoner that tries to escape several times but fails is called before the warden and the guards. The warden makes a threatening speech. “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” What a line, I get a surge every time I hear it, dripping with understated sarcasm and power. The warden lays down the law, if you inmates won’t listen to what I am saying, you will not last long around here.

In a similar fashion, God could say the same thing, maybe with different consequences, of course. He could say, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”, and add, If you fail to hear Me, many will perish. This change in perspectives is key to understanding God’s voice. His plans are not to make me feel safer all the time. His plans are to save more people over time. He’s willing to trade their lives for my discomfort.

I admit, God must have been the only one that gave the slightest concern for the Ninevites. By many accounts, they were some of the cruelest people of their time. That’s the thing though, God does care about them. And if He cares about them, just think about who else he cares for. That scares me a bit. You mean God cares about every living soul, no matter how messed up they are? Yea, I guess so. I’m not sure what to do with that except to believe it. Anything else would be “a failure to communicate”.

Who does the failure of communication fall upon? You, me, Jonah or God?

I think you know the answer to that.

Eventually Jonah comes around to God’s plan. He walks into Nineveh carrying his sandwich board, “REPENT or DIE. Can you imagine the attendance at that meeting? What a dream job, walking around shouting gloom and doom to people that would just as soon make sport of you watching you die.

My takeaway is simple: Get to know God’s voice and His character behind His voice in the good times. Listen to Him with an open mind when he calls you to serve. Trust him that he has chosen you because He knows what He is doing.

Before I showed up for basic training in the army, my father, a WWII and Korean war veteran gave me some advice. “When they call for volunteers, be the first one to step forward.” He survived many missions where he volunteered. I followed that advice for the most part. It never hurt me and as far as I can tell it made me a better leader. The prophet Isaiah had this kind of response, “Here I am, send me.”

We don’t always know the difficulties of the mission, but we can know the mission is just and important because we know God has placed a high priority on it as He calls us to fulfill it. Jonah accepts his call, accepts his preaching assignment for 40 days and the people are saved. No failure to communicate in this case. A great success. Jonah may have been hard of hearing, but God got His attention. He knows how to do the same with us.