The Christian faith is one that focuses on words. We focus on a precision with our words. One of the early church disputes was over one letter in a word – a letter that suggested Jesus’ essence was similar to that of the Father or without the letter, a declaration that Jesus was of the same substance as the Father.
Another church dispute was over one Latin word. The Eastern Church affirmed that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Western Church said the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (a single Latin Word).
My point? Christians try to be careful with their words.
But the Christian faith is more than words. The words that we affirm, the statements that we believe must impact the life that we live. Bruce Waltke has written, “Jew were marked out by three practices: circumcision, Sabbath, and kosher-laws, not by their confessions. Christians are to be marked out, says Jesus, by the way in which they love each other, not only by their confession that ‘Jesus is Lord.’"
Our confession is important. But a right confession that is not followed up with a right (God-honoring) practice, is certainly suspect. The prophet Isaiah denounced the people of his day for honoring God with their lips but not with their hearts (Isaiah 29:13).
Jonah was a prophet who got tripped up in this right confession, but wrong action. Jonah was commanded by the LORD to go to Nineveh. Instead, Jonah fled to Tarshish.
When confronted by the sailors, in the midst of the storm, Jonah said, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9). His confession was right. The LORD did make the sea and the dry land. Later, Jonah will add that the LORD is “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness” (Jonah 4:2).
But the knowledge of who God is and what His character is like, did not impact Jonah’s actions. God is looking for His servants to serve Him with more than words.