I just returned home from a trip to the desert. We had a great adventure on the Arabian Peninsula last week, living in a tented building under the hot desert sun. The reserve we visited is a safe place for the oryx, a desert animal that is in danger of becoming extinct. We were taken on a safari drive and while the desert was huge, finding the oryx was easy. There was a man made watering hole in the desert and that is where the oryx would spend quite a bit of time. Finding water is a priority in the desert, so the oryx position themselves close to the water supply.
What a relationship we find between position and priority! When we take a look at where we position ourselves, we find that it reveals our priorities. Where we place ourselves shows what we consider to be of great importance.
In Jonah chapter 4, we find Jonah positioned outside of the city of Nineveh.
Jonah 4:5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.
In chapter 1, God called Jonah to go outside of his own plans to follow God’s. We all know the story. Jonah ran. Jonah sank and was caught up by a great fish. Reluctantly, Jonah obeyed God and spoke the Word of the Lord to the people of Nineveh. Six hundred thousand people humbled themselves before the Lord that day. Six hundred thousand people fasted, prayed and turned from their wicked ways. As they did, their king cried out, ‘Perhaps God will have mercy on us.’ Perhaps…
The people of Nineveh were desperate to know if God was a God of mercy, if there was a chance they would be spared from judgment. There was only one man in town who had the answer they needed…Jonah. But Jonah had other priorities at the moment. He had positioned himself elsewhere.
Jonah wanted to witness the destruction he still hoped would come down on the people he despised. That was his priority so he positioned himself outside of the city, made himself a comfortable shelter, and waited. While the people cried out to God in humility, Jonah sat comfortably outside of the city in his pride.
Priority determines position.
Jonah’s priority was judgment, not grace. Jonah’s priority led him away from those in need, but praise God, Nineveh’s plight was not dependent on Jonah’s position or priority. Nineveh was spared judgment because Nineveh was God’s priority.
We are God’s priority. Priority determines position.
Over and over again in the New Testament, we see Jesus positioned with people who have a need. When the Samaritan woman needed acceptance, Jesus positioned Himself at the well. When the woman caught in adultery needed forgiveness and a second chance, Jesus positioned Himself with her before the religious leaders. When the crowd of 5,000 needed food, Jesus was there with them. He provided the food they needed so they would see their need for more. All of these people needed the grace and mercy Jesus carried with him as He walked among them. They were His priority so He positioned Himself with them so they could know His grace.
When those He came to save shouted for Him to be crucified, Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them.’ Even they were His priority.
We had a need. We needed a Savior. Sin causes separation and requires judgment. But God positioned Jesus to die for us, to take our punishment on Himself. He showed us grace, He positioned Himself on the cross because we are His priority.
We don’t have to sit and wonder like the King of Nineveh if maybe God will show us mercy. We know He already has! What a privilege to be loved by such a Savior who positioned Himself here among us. We have been shown grace because we are His priority!