What Did The Virgin Mary
And Jonah Have In Common?
Pastor Arn Buck
Heart Song Worship Center
"All heaven is waiting to help those who will discover the will of God and do it." - J. Robert Ashcroft (1878-1958)
"We learn more by five minutes' obedience than by ten years' study" - Oswald Chambers (1874- 1917)
The Virgin Mary and the prophet Jonah were each selected by God to serve Him in a significant way. Although they both had special callings, the way they each reacted to their individual callings was quite different. Their decisions were a reflection of their hearts and uncovered traits of their true relationship with God. It also shows us the importance of God ministering through us to reach those that He loves.
Jonah - A Different Prophet But Not in a Good Way
Let's first take a look a Jonah. How did Jonah react to the great opportunity that God placed before him.
Jonah 1:1-3 (NLT) The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: " Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are." But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish.
What a tremendous privilege! Jonah called by God to save a great ancient city from His wrath. Yet we see Jonah immediately go in the opposite direction. Normally the true prophets of God are men who demonstrate an extremely high level of obedience to God. These are men who put their lives on the line to bring God's unwanted admonishment to powerful Kings. At times their obedience did cost them their lives. Jonah is quite different. Not only was he disobedient, he thought that he cold flee from God. Generally God was able to work through prophets because they knew Him so well and what He was capable of doing. They had powerful faith and this faith was based on first-hand experience with God. What was wrong with Jonah? Did He not know that God was omnipresent? In Psalm 139 King David clearly states that there was no where that he could go to escape God's presence. Evidently this truth no longer had meaning to Jonah. Why not?
Mary - Different In A Good Way
Although protestants do not worship the Virgin Mary, she definitely deserves our respect as one of the great people recorded in the Bible. Her reaction to God's calling is quite different from Jonah and unique to who she was is God.
Luke 1:26-27 (NLT) In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!"
Why did Gabriel address Mary as "favored woman?" Evidently it was because God saw her that way. After all Mary was selected by Him to be the mother of Jesus. I believe that God saw Mary as much more than simply a woman to bring Jesus physically into the world. Mary would be the one who would begin Jesus' education about the Father. Match of Jesus' knowledge and understanding of the essential emotion love was likely learned from Mary. Mary had to be a woman who truly knew the reality of God. It was critical that she knew God's love first-hand.
We must remember that Jesus, although truly God, was made truly man. That meant that He, through great humility, surrendered His divine powers to become the perfect sinless sacrifice for the redemption of fallen mankind. This being the case, God as Jesus, subjected Himself to all the elements of human life - all its challenges and all its temptations - all that we are exposed to physically and emotionally from birth until death. The base for Jesus' comprehension of love, which was probably the single most important ingredient to His success, was being entrusted to a single young woman. A woman who was unknown to the majority of those lived in her town and probably completely unknown to all those outside of it. Yet God know her well and in His eyes she was "favored."
Luke 1:29 (NLT) Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
Mary's humility is shown here. Her humility is what probably enabled her to grow as close to God as she was and to know Him as well as she did. As we grow closer to God we see our short-comings in the light of His holiness. Apart from her spiritual state, it is not likely that she had any significant social status. We should not be surprised that she was confused about being favored by God. In spite of this she did not dismiss the angel. She had faith that the message he was bringing had importance.
Luke 1:30-33 (NLT) "Don't be afraid, Mary," the angel told her, "for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!" Mary asked the angel, "But how can this happen? I am a virgin."
Notice how Gabriel, like God, is very comforting and reassuring to Mary. She must have run through a broad range of intense emotions as she listened to the angel tell her about God's intentions. Can you imagine how she felt upon learning that she would not only see the long-promised Messiah, she would be His mother. As incredible as things sounded she did run. She listened. After hearing the Gabriel she had to ask how this would be possible considering that she was a virgin.
Why did Gabriel allow Mary's question and a similar question that her relative, Zechariah, asked earlier in the same chapter? When being told that his wife Elizabeth would become pregnant he replied, "How can I be sure that this will happen? I'm an old man now, and my wife is well along in years." I believe that Zechariah was not being respectful of Gabriel authority as God's messenger and also because he was question was questioning God's ability to answer his prayers.
Luke 1:35-37 (NLT) The angel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What's more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she's now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."
Gabriel not only answered Mary's question, but he gave her a way to verify that what he told her was true. Mary could visit Elizabeth to see if she was pregnant. God know us. He knows that sometimes we need things to re-enforce our faith. He knew that Mary would be facing some immediate challenges. She would need all the assurance she could get.
A good friend of ours knew a girl who became pregnant out of wedlock while she was attending high school. The scorn that she received from others was quite severe. The emotional stress of the matter caused her to attempt suicide by jumping from a window. The society of Mary's time was even less tolerant of such social and moral infractions.
Luke 1:38 (NLT) Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true." And then the angel left her. After listening to the astonishing news, Mary had one simple response. Oh if we could only be so intent on please God to say, "I am the Lord's servant." If that were always our focus imagine how God would be gloried throughout the earth!
Getting Back to a Sinking Jonah
After attempting to run from God Jonah finds himself underwater inside a great fish. In utter desperation Jonah calls out to God in prayer. His prayer ends with the following lines.
Jonah 2:7-10 (NLT) As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. in your holy Temple. Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God's mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone."
Now that last line sounds more like what one would expect to hear from a prophet. God answered Jonah's the prayer and ordered the fish to spit Jonah out on the beach. After being asked a second time Jonah agrees to bring God's message to Nineveh. They repent and God decides to spare the city. This was a great thing! 120,000 people were spared from destruction because of Jonah's reluctant obedience. He should have been exuberant. Most often the words of prophets went unheeded. Yet Jonah was disappointed that they repented.
Why did Jonah try to run from God? Why was he upset that God spared the city of Nineveh? The answer is found in Jonah 4:2-3.
Jonah 4:2-3 (NLT) So he complained to the LORD about it: "Didn't I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, LORD! I'd rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen."
Jonah was prejudice. He hated the Ninevites and wanted to see God's wrath poured out upon them. So strong was his hatred that it clouded His knowledge of God's truth. He rationalized that he escape his assignment and could run from God. Throughout the ordeal Jonah never changed his heart. His heart was in direct conflict with God's will. Yet he was used to accomplish God's will. However, God had to bring him to the very edge of death to motivate Jonah to serve Him.
I am amazed at how hard some people resist God working in their lives. Even after their lives are turned upside down, they cling to things that are meaningless in comparison to God's eternal plan. They resist even after being counseled and shown how they are fighting God. If they could only see the blessings they are causing God withhold from them.
As a young Christian I found myself working with a person that I just could not stand. Worse yet he seemed to like talking with me. He never did anything to justify my not liking him - there was just something about him that annoyed me. We are such strange creatures at times. It is amazing that God has as much patience with us as He does. At one point this person started watching Oral Roberts on TV. Eventually he surrendered his life to the Lordship of Jesus while watching one of these shows. He come up to me the following day, told me what happened, and asked me to help teach him what is was to be a Christian.
Yes Jonah did God's will but he regretted it. As far as it is recorded, in the Bible, Jonah never overcomes his dislike of the Ninevites. The chapter ends with him sulking with the sun beating upon him wishing that he would die.
In Contrast to Jonah
Unlike Jonah, Mary did not sulk. She was excited about her opportunity to serve. This is shown in exuberant praise that she offered after meeting Elizabeth.
Luke 1:46-55 (NLT) Mary responded. "Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever."
So what do the Virgin Mary and Jonah have in common? Not much. They were both called to serve God in an important way. They both were obedient to the call although Jonah required quite a bit of persuasion. However, they had virtually nothing in common where it counts. Their heart attitudes were completely different. Jonah was against God's plan before and after he was used to accomplish it. He was miserable because his heart was out of alignment with God's heart. Mary was totally submissive from the start. Her heart and will were in very close alignment with God's heart and will. As a result she experienced exuberant joy for being chosen to serve God as she was.
When God chooses us to serve Him in any way we should feel blessed.
It is an honor to be chosen to serve Him.
Serving Him usually provides an opportunity to grow.
It is an opportunity express our love to Him by allowing Him to be glorified through us.
Given a choice would you rather serve God in a church full of Jonahs or a church full of Maries?