Lessons From Jonah (Pt. 4): God Is Over All, So Rest!
As we see in the conclusion of Jonah, God’s calling cannot be missed. Jonah tried everything he could to escape, “the presence of the Lord,” yet to no avail. God ensured that Jonah would fulfill what He had for him — we've already covered that. But the question today is, how could God do that?
He can do that because a part of God being God, is him being sovereign. "Sovereign" is a word that we use to describe God’s complete and total rule over all creation. This aspect of God is the reason we can confidently say, “God is in control.” In essence, when we say God is sovereign — we are saying that He is over it all.
[Before moving on I want to make a note about human responsibility. Commonly, there is an objection against the implications of God's sovereignty under the banner of "free will." This issue is beyond the scope of this article, but let me say this, the Bible teaches the following realities: God is totally sovereign and ultimately decisive and humans are free and responsible for their actions. How does that work? We do not know, It's a divine mystery, but a mistake we have made in western culture is unnecessarily jettisoning one of these two truths in order to keep the other. We should not and do not need to do this. Instead, we should embrace both and worship in awe and wonder because there are beautiful implications for both!]
Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases" pointing to the reality that not only is God over all ("in the heavens") but is also free to do whatever he desires or plans ("he does all that he pleases"). Daniel 4:34 is perhaps the best expression of this,
"all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, 'What have you done?'"
What is being confessed here? God does whatever he wants ("according to his will") and no one can stop him ("none can stay [or stop] his hand") or justly question his actions ("What have you done?"). To say it bluntly, we do not get to dictate how God acts as God — he is the ultimate authority and power over all things and is not restrained by our dissenting opinions. This should humble and encourage us.
God's thoughts and ways are infinitely higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8), so naturally, we should get used to not understanding his plans or methods. They are said to be "inscrutable" meaning impossible to understand (Romans 11:33). If you expect God to do everything in a way that makes sense, or in a way you will always like and agree with, you will be disappointed, frustrated, and confused. This is why God's sovereignty should create humility in us. Without that, we will inevitably be crushed.
But with this reality comes great encouragement. Why?
Because God is in control! He does what He pleases (which is only good) and He has plans which cannot be stopped. You and I can have the courage today to walk with the safety net of God’s sovereignty below our feet. Christians cannot lose. He works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28) because he can work all things in accordance with His will (Ephesians 1:11). If God was not sovereign, we wouldn’t have this precious truth to carry us through life. Even when we have wrong motives or when people commit evil against us, we along with Joseph can say, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good...” (Genesis 50:20).
Just look at the sovereignty and freedom of God in Jonah. Five times we see Him providentially shifting the path of Jonah to guide him back to his calling:
Jonah 1:4, "But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up."
Jonah 1:17, "And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
Jonah 2:10, "And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land."
Jonah 4:6, "Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant."
Jonah 4:7, "But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered."
From great fish to tiny worms, from plant life to weather — God is over it all. The smallest details and aspects of our world are being sustained by His very word (Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3). So, what does this mean for us? It means you can rest.
Rest every moment of every day knowing that He is in control. In control of your growth as a believer (1 Corinthians 3:7), in control of your suffering (1 Peter 4:19), in control over your good and bad days (Ecclesiastes 7:14), In control of your next steps (Proverbs 16:9) — He’s already written every one of your days before you were even conceived (Psalm 139:16)!
Meaning, all those expectations you had placed on yourself, or those milestones you thought you would have made by now — mean nothing. God laughs at our plans because we live not even knowing what tomorrow brings (James 4:13-16)! In one sense, we can say God has us exactly where He wants us. He calls us to wait upon him. And while we do so, to know that none who wait for Him will be put to shame (Psalm 25:3). That doesn’t mean we won’t lose some things, doesn’t mean we won’t suffer for some time (in fact we are promised we will), it doesn’t mean we will get what we want. It just means that we can trust him with our every moment.
John Piper says the key to this is learning to conquer the unbelief of impatience. He goes on to say, “The opposite of impatience is not a glib, superficial denial of frustration. The opposite of impatience is a deepening, ripening, peaceful willingness either to wait for God where you are in the place of obedience, or to persevere at the pace he allows on the road of obedience—to wait in his place, or to go at his pace.”
God is sovereign. Rest in that. Wait in His place, and go at His pace.
 John Piper, “Battling the Unbelief of Impatience,” https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/battling-the-unbelief-of-impatience