Life in Reverse
March 9, 2006 • By Ed Wrather
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." But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. - Jonah 1:1-3.
In Australia, a 23-year-old man has gotten into some trouble because he drove his car in reverse 48 kilometers before he was stopped by police officers. The man had planned to drive an additional 90 kilometers to his home but was prevented from doing so by the officers. He will be charged with, "reversing a vehicle further than necessary" along with some other unnamed charges. According to the officers, the man was traveling in reverse gear because it was the only gear that was working in the car. The transmission was almost gone except for the one gear.
Jonah should have been charged with "reversing his life further than necessary." We can understand why Jonah did not want to evangelize those wicked Ninevites. They were evil people who struck fear into all who encountered or heard about them. The Ninevites would do horrible things like skinning people alive and putting them up on stakes outside of the cities they captured. We would not have wanted to go to Nineveh either. I would not have wanted to go because of the "fear" factor. I would have been a little concerned that they might do the same thing to me. Jonah, however, never indicates that he is afraid of the Ninevites.
Instead, he is just concerned that God will spare His wrath if the people of Nineveh are warned. When this was what God actually did Jonah had this to say to God, "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the LORD, and said, 'Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm (Jonah 4:1-2).'"
The good thing that we can say about Jonah is that he did finally get his life out of reverse. Of course, he had to be thrown overboard in a raging storm, be swallowed by a "great fish", and spend "three days and three nights" in the "belly of the fish" - before he shifted gears.
Jonah after his attitude adjustment at the hand of God prayed, "When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy. But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD (Jonah 2:7-9)."
Jonah is not the only one in the Bible to have lived life in reverse. We have some great examples and some very sad examples. King Saul started well but shifted into reverse and got stuck. King David started out well but did shift into reverse with his adultery and the murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah. However, David when confronted with his sin by Nathan the prophet did change gears and we have his great prayer of repentance in Psalm 51.
David gives a wonderful example of how to change gears from reverse to forward when he prays, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:1-3)." "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:7-10)."
If you have been living your life in reverse you may want to make David’s prayer your prayer. Remember God is still God and He is still capable of giving an attitude adjustment (Hebrews 12:5-11) to His children if it is necessary.