Yeah, the title sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?
But it is true: God's will is up to us.
Now, before you get the wrong idea, I do NOT mean that without us, God's will cannot or will not be done; NOR am I saying that WE decide God's will (please put down the pitchforks!!! ). What I am saying is that it is up to each of us whether or not we will be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and follow the Lord's perfect will.
Jonah is a prime example of how NOT to do God's will:
"The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” (Jonah 1:1-2, NASB)
God gave Jonah a mission: to preach to the Assyrians at Nineveh. God intended Jonah to deliver his message to the Ninevites, that he was going to wipe their city off the map.
So what does Jonah do?
"But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. " (Jonah 1:3, NASB)
Yup, good ol' Jonah gets in gear all right, and charges into action: AWAY from the assignment God gave him in the other direction!!!! In fact, Jonah heads for Tarshish, which was amongst the furthest places known at that time.
Talk about dedication!
Now, most of you know the story of Jonah: runs away, takes a boat to Tarshish; God sends a storm while they are partway. Jonah gets tossed overboard, fish swallows him, spits him up on dry land. And God once again tells him to go to Nineveh to preach, where he does so and they repent:
"Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. “But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. “Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish. When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. ” (Jonah 3:5-10, NASB)
Pretty cut and dried, right?
There are times when god puts something on our hearts that he desires us to do, but for whatever reason, we are not so "hot" to do it. We find out specifically in Jonah's case why he felt like this:
"But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life" (Jonah 4:1-3, NASB, emphasis mine)
Jonah didn't WANT them to repent!!!
Jonah didn't do God's will because he didn't want the Ninevites to repent, but be destroyed instead. In Jonah's mind, he had relegated them to less than human beings (which the Ninevites were reputed to do to their enemies in battle and to their captives afterwards), and knew in his heart that God wanted to have mercy on them.
Now, we can say that Jonah repented of his sin and that he asked God for another chance, but as we can see in his words, that isn't the case:
"Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, “I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. “For You had cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me. “So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ “Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, Weeds were wrapped around my head. “I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple. “Those who regard vain idols Forsake their faithfulness, But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.” Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land." (Jonah, chapter 2, NASB)
After reading this, we see that Jonah wasn't sorry about what he did; he was scared of where he was and was screaming for God to help him!!! Jonah still held to his vehement disdain for the Ninevites, as evidenced in Chapter 4. God gave him another opportunity, but for his OWN reasons...
He needed to teach Jonah something:
"The LORD said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”
Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant." (Jonah 4:4-6, NASB)
As part of God's plan, he made a plant grow over Jonah's head and it shaded him from the sun. Jonah was very happy about this event, as the sun in the Middle east can be brutal.
But God wasn't done yet:
"But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.” (Jonah 4:7, NASB)
All it took to ruin Jonah's day was for God to take away his plant, and turn the heat up a little.
And as we can see from Jonah's reply, he was NOT happy about this turn of events. But as Jonah was fuming about his now crispy eggplant, God revealed the crux of the lesson to him:
"Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight."“Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” " (Jonah 4:9-11, NASB, emphasis mine)
Jonah had pity on a poor plant that he didn't do SQUAT for, but died. yet he was willing to let 120,000 people die? Keep in mind: the saying "did not know their left hand from their right hand" referred to children (Nineveh was a BIG city: 120,000 would have been a drop in the bucket!!!). And God exposed this in Jonah when he provided, then took away the plant.
And then we hear no more from Jonah. In fact, the next time we hear of Jonah directly is when Jesus refers to him being in the fish for 3 days and nights. Jesus mentions about Nineveh as well, but he never mentions Jonah in conjunction with it. He isn't even listed in the 'heroes of Faith" in Hebrews 11.
Whether God ever used Jonah again is not mentioned in scripture.
Because God has given man free will, God will not force anyone to do his will that does not wish to do so: this is the reason he does not force people to repent or accept salvation against their will. God's will is not circumvented by our refusal to do it, nor is it destroyed by our unwillingness to obey. But God is NOT obligated to use us in his will: if we refuse and do not repent of our stubbornness, he is more than capable of raising up others to do his will in our place. And in this dispensation, the Age of Grace, while God will forgive us and cleanse us of our sins when we come to him in repentant faith, stubborn refusal to obey his will leaves God with no choice but to remove us from the immediate plan and move another who will do his will into place. It is up to us, like it was up to the two sons in the following passage:
"“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ “And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. “The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” ( Matthew 21:28-31a, NASB)
In this passage, we see that one of the sons at first refuses to go, but changes his mind. The second one says he will do his father's will, but then fails to do so.
Yes; he knows ahead of time that we will refuse, just as he knew that Israel would refuse Jesus as the Messiah. Nevertheless, he offered the gift to them all the same, just as he offered us, and as he seeks to use us in his will.
God will not force us to obey him...
But if we do not, we will end up wishing that we had.
I bid you all peace.