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“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah……Arise go to Nineveh…….”  Jonah 1:1

But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord….”  Jonah 1:3

I purposely did not title this post free will versus Our Heavenly Father’s plan.  For the interaction of the two has always been a great mystery and all too often a subject of contention between both believers and nonbelievers and even between believers.  Yet it seems to me, from the bible, there is no real contest between our free will and the fulfillment of God’s plan.  We do not have the power to thwart His divine will.  So of what consequence is our free will?  To us and our relationship with Our Heavenly Father; everything.

We are told that Nineveh is a great city.  However, it is not a Jewish city.  It is the capital of the Assyrians.  Perhaps that is why Jonah has no desire to have anything to do with them.  We’ve seen reluctance to answer God’s call before.  Non other than Moses himself, tried to dissuade God from sending Him to Egypt to save God’s people.  Finally, Moses acquiesced.  Jonah did not.

Jonah had the free will to run and try to hide.  However, Nineveh still needed to be saved.  God had already decided that Jonah was His man.  And God always gets His man.  “God won’t find me in Tarshish ” Jonah thinks.  So if indeed Jonah’s free will had any power as it applied to God’s plan; God would have had to turn to someone else.  Instead, God turns to a fish.

It is after a horrendous storm and when Jonah is at the depths of his misery that his free will changes and he calls out to God to have mercy on him.  God hear’s Jonah and delivers him.  It would seem then that Jonah’s will would become in sync with His Heavenly Father.  Unfortunately that is not the case.  For God calls again for Jonah to go to Nineveh.  Jonah at least has the good sense to know fleeing won’t work but he is none too happy about being called again.

Jonah preaches an upcoming cataclysmic destruction in 40 days because of the city’s evilness.  Interestingly enough, in the bible, it does not say that Jonah called upon the city to repent.  No, he just proclaimed their overthrow in 40 days.  But the people get the message and believe it anyway.  Even the king takes off his royal garments, puts on sackcloth and sits in a pile of ashes to show humble repentance for their evil (much we could learn from their example).  God sees their repentance, has mercy on them and decides not to destroy them.  Jonah is not at all pleased.

Jonah in essence tells God: “I knew you were going to do this.  That is why I didn’t want to come.  You made me look the fool because I said what you wanted and then it didn’t happen!”  In Jonah’s free will, he feels so used that he just wants to die.  Using a plant and a worm God again tries to teach Jonah a lesson about mercy and faith.  The book ends without us knowing if Jonah ever came around.

So to me here’s the bottom line.  God’s plan was for Nineveh to be warned and for Jonah to accomplish it.  And that’s exactly what happened.  So did Jonah’s free will have any impact?  To God’s plan; not really.  To Jonah most certainly.  You see at every turn Jonah had the free will to accept God’s plan, see it as a blessing and find joy and comfort in it.  Jonah instead decided to see God’s plan as an unnecessary burden.  He saw God’s mercy to Nineveh as a travesty and refused to receive any of the bountiful blessings that would have come from his embracing of God’s will.

God has a plan for you and I as well as for all believers.  If we are open to it, the Holy Spirit who, sent by God to dwell within us and testify to God’s plan will guide us.  Yet we have the free will to reject the realization that Our Heavenly Father is acting in our lives.  Understand this, it is only the realization that we’re rejecting.  That does not change the fact that Our Heavenly Father has a plan and is acting on it.  We have the free will to acknowledge the triumphs that we have here on earth as blessings from Our Heavenly Father, or we can decide that it is due solely to our own talents.  We can see struggles as a way of bringing us closer to Our Heavenly Father in ultimate triumph or we can see them as cruel twists of fate or simply bad luck.  We have the free will to reach out in prayer, supplication and worship to Our Heavenly Father or go throughout our life as if we are left to our own devices.

God’s plan will win out in the end; every time.  We have the free will to embrace the plan, feeling the Love with which it was devised, embracing the joy, comfort and blessings which come from its implementation and being confident in the salvation that comes from its fruition.  It is in those, free will decisions, that we will define ourselves as belonging to Him or not.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank you that You have seen fit to have an intimate, loving relationship with each of us culminating in a perfect plan for our lives.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we use our free will to try to modify or reject Your plan.  Show us Your Will in our plan that we might become fully engaged in seeing the plan through to its triumphant end.  That by living out Your plan for us, we would live lives of praise to Your Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

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