By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Obstacles, Obstacles

In studying the Hebrew text of Jonah and how the fearful sailors were throwing off cargo in order to lighten the ship in danger of sinking in the great storm-- as Jonah sought to flee by ship from Adonai's command to prophesy to Nineveh, I was reminded of another story of a ship also caught in another great storm in which fearful sailors were also throwing things overboard in an attempt to survive. That story is found in Acts 27 when Paul is on his way to trial in Rome as a prisoner and is caught in a great storm at sea as Jonah was.

Jonah was eventually thrown off the ship and into the belly of a great fish. You are familiar with the rest of the story: the Jonah who initially ran away from Adonai's call to prophesy to the great city of Nineveh, the great power center of the Assyrian empire, ended up on dry land again, out of the belly of the fish in three days, and eventually obeyed Adonai's call to prophesy to the people of the great city of Nineveh.

In contrast, Paul did not undertake his sea voyage to run away from God's assignment. Paul was on the ship heading to Rome as God wanted him to do, so that Paul could testify to the "Nineveh" of Paul's day--the great and powerful imperial city of Rome.

Jonah was fleeing from God on board the ship. Paul was obeying God on board the ship. Yet, both encountered a great storm. Jonah ended up in the belly of the fish. Paul ended up shipwrecked on Malta. Each eventually got to where they needed to go.

How interesting that Adonai sent a great storm in both situations--to the disobedient, reluctant prophet Jonah and also to the obedient, zealous prophet Paul. Our God sends or permits obstacles to arise even when we are obeying him (I credit a teacher for that insight). Remember that next time you face an obstacle. Ask for the discernment to know if you are in the Jonah situation or the Pauline situation, to know if you need to turn around or stay on track. Obstacles in and of themselves do not necessarily mean that you must give up. As in Paul's sea voyage to Rome, obstacles may just be an occasion to demonstrate the power of God even when we are already on the right track.