Read Jonah 3:1-10

There is this board game. It’s called Mouse Trap. The object of Mouse Trap is to build this complex system that ultimately traps a plastic mouse on the game board. Each piece of the system interacts with the next to create a chain reaction. There is a boot that kicks a ball down a track and that ball hits a lever, which causes a bigger ball to fall into a bathtub. I never really played Mousetrap. I just liked building the pieces to see the whole system play itself out. The game of Mousetrap is based off something called a Rube Goldberg device. In essence a Rube Goldberg device is an overly complicated series of actions that work together to do something relatively simple.

The thing about a Rube Goldberg device is that everything has to go perfectly in order to get the desired effect. If one part of the device doesn’t work, the whole thing fails. In the game of Mouse Trap, something would often go wrong and the mouse at the end of the line would stay cage free. A ball would roll the wrong way or a lever would fail and you would have to reset the whole system. There is this tension that builds as the chain reaction gets closer and closer to the end. One miss could be the difference between winning and losing.

I have this false assumption that creeps into my mind every now and then. Is tart to think that God’s will works like a Rube Goldberg device. I imagine that He has this complex plan and everything is riding on all the pieces to work perfectly. I imagine that He is watching as the tension builds to the part that involves me. I am the marble that is supposed to drop into the bucket that triggers the cage. I worry that I am going to mess up and God’s plan will be ruined.

“Sorry everyone. God had this great plan for salvation but Michael ruined it. We will all go home and try again tomorrow.”

Consider this… Jonah was told by God to speak against Nineveh. Jonah was afraid that his actions would ultimately lead to God having compassion and sparing Nineveh so he actively tried to mess with God’s plan. He thought running away would do the trick, except a storm and a fish brought him right back to where he started.

In chapter 3, Jonah finally reaches his destination. The Bible gives very few details about what he said. According to the text, Jonah simply says, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” That’s it? Many of the other books concerning prophets devote pages and pages to the long and drawn out messages that the Prophets give. Often we find that a prophet speaks for weeks or even years and no one listens. Jonah’s message, on the other hand, is comically short and really quite vague.

“Hey everyone… In forty days you will be in trouble.”

It is almost as if we are supposed to infer that Jonah, even after being swallowed by a fish, wasn’t really trying that hard to give his message. Like maybe he was going through the motions because he had to.

It seems to me that even after the whole fish ordeal, Jonah is still trying his best to ruin God’s plan. No matter how short or halfhearted Jonah’s message was, Chapter 3 is clear about the response from Nineveh. Everyone listens. Everyone repents. Even the animals are ordered to fast. The shortest sermon in the bible yields a complete and total change of heart from an entire civilization.

Jonah thought like I do sometimes. He assumed his part in God’s plan was this make or break turning point that could mess everything up. That somehow God would be surprised by Jonah’s actions. I don’t want to say that we are not important to God or that our actions don’t matter. We are important. Our actions do matter! The important thing we can learn from Jonah is that, God uses all of it. He uses the good, He uses the bad, and He uses the ineffective, half hearted, and unproductive. The amazing news is that even at our worst, God can still use us.


  1. What can we learn from this?
  2. What does this say about your own beliefs?
  3. Do you ever think you have ruined God’s plan?

Day 5 of 8 from the 2015 Mission Discovery Devotional