Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” (1:1-2).
I grew up in the south. Maybe that’s why I love tea. Sweet ice tea was a staple around my home and that of my grandparents. There is nothing like a cold glass of sweet tea on a sweltering southern day!
Recently, though, I’ve learned to drink tea in a different way, hot. The procedure is rather simple, although unusual to a boy raised in Alabama. You take a small cup, fill it with hot water, and dip a single tea bag into the water. This is called “steeping” if you are an uninitiated southerner, and it’s a wonderful way to enjoy a cup of tea.
I want to invite you for a cup of tea. Take the book of Jonah and let it “steep” in your mind. What if you were to take a cup of hot water and dip a tea bag into it for a moment and then pull it out? You would have a cup of hot water. What if you dipped the bag into the water two or three times quickly? You wouldn’t have a very good cup of tea. But, if you place the bag into the water and let it stay a while, all the flavor will work its way out.
Allow the message of Jonah to stay a while. Let it become part of you. Meditate on the story and the meaning in Jonah. The “flavor” of the book will become part of you. As you meditate, don’t empty your mind (that’s eastern mysticism) but fill your mind with the truths of Scripture. A little dip won’t do when it comes to meditating on the Word.
The “word of the Lord” came to Jonah. Five times in this short book the God of the universe has a word for Jonah. This is not a filler phrase. When God speaks it is important. God’s word reveals God’s will. Jonah knows where he should go, what he should do, and what he should say. The Lord’s will for Jonah is not general, it is specific.
People often ask me how they can know God’s will. Usually they want me to give a fifteen second answer for a lifelong pursuit. They want me, in twenty-five words or less, to explain how they can know what the maker of the universe wills. They believe in a "how to" formula they can use, like the instructions to set up a computer or the directions to make a cake. I don't have any simple formula, but I tell them they must start in the Word - the Bible. The Bible is not some kind of mystical answer book with hidden codes and word patterns that spell names. The key is relationship. When you engage the Word you encounter the Lord.
How God spoke to Jonah is not revealed. We only know the word “came” to him. The methods God has used to speak to people are varied. God walked with Adam in the Garden of Eden. He called to Moses out of a burning bush. Elijah heard God in a still small voice. Peter heard God in a cloud. Saul experienced God after a blinding light on the road to Damascus. God has customized and individualized His voice with amazing variety. And why shouldn't the God who made a world where no two snowflakes or fingerprints are identical speak in divers forms?
Let us soak it up.