Every child in junior church knows the story of Jonah. Most of us know the 'what' of the story, but how many know the 'why'? At first glance, it is not surprising to think that Jonah would be reluctant or frightened to tell a hostile enemy that the wrath of God is coming. However, the real truth is something many of us are guilty of, but refuse to admit, even to ourselves. Jonah tried to flee from the Lord, even though he knew that it was impossible. More to the point, he was trying to get far away from Nineveh so he would not have to bring the message to them.
We see Jonah sleeping comfortably in the hull of the ship, while everyone else is desperately trying to keep it from sinking. Why? Because he would rather die than bring the message to Nineveh. Finally, out of compassion or sense of duty to the crew of the ship, he told them to throw him overboard, which reluctantly they did. Jonah may have thought 'good, now I'll drown and won't have to bring the message to Nineveh'. Again, his plan failed. God was not willing to let Jonah neglect his mission to Nineveh. After he survived three days in the belly of the large fish, he realized there was no avoiding what God called him to do.
Jonah must have been a very convincing speaker, because in three days' time everyone in Nineveh heard the message and repented. “The Lord said to Jonah a second time, 'Go immediately to Nineveh, that large city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.' So Jonah went immediately to Nineveh, as the Lord had said. (Now Nineveh was an enormous city; it required three days to walk through it!) When Jonah began to enter the city, he announced,'At the end of forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown!'”[Jonah 3:1-4NET]
Of course, Jonah was thrilled; NOT! Now the truth comes out; Jonah disliked the people of Nineveh. The last thing he wanted was for them to repent. He wanted the wrath of God to rain down on Nineveh. That was the real reason Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh. “This displeased Jonah terribly, and he became very angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, 'Oh, Lord, this is just what I thought would happen when I was in my own country. This is what I tried to prevent by attempting to escape to Tarshish! – because I knew that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and one who relents, concerning threatened judgment. So now, Lord, kill me instead, because I would rather die than live!'” [Jonah 4:1-3NET]
Sadly, I believe many of us are the same way. We hide our faith likes it is part of some exclusive society. While, on one hand, we are willing to say that we are dead in trespasses and sin, we still think on some level that there is something good about us that makes us deserving of salvation. There are people we are reluctant to bring the Gospel to, because we are afraid that they will repent, and we will be responsible to nurture them. Maybe we will even have to bring them to church, when we know very well the people there won't like them. Truth be told, we are embarrassed to be seen with them. Remember in the book of Acts how surprised the Jews were when the gentiles received the Holy Spirit. Imagine these barbarian, uncircumcised gentile sinners being brought into the family of God. “Then Peter started speaking: 'I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him. '” [Acts 10:34-36NET] “You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all) – While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message.” [Acts 10:44NET] Yes, we were the undesirables; we were the ones no believer wanted to be seen with. We were (are) completely unworthy, but God reached out to us. There is nothing God will not do to reach those for whom He died.
The Gospel will reach all for whom it is intended. We, who have already been brought into the fold, have the great privilege of bringing the message. Some of us, like Jonah, have been figuratively spit up on the shore, but we still won't bring the message. The angels rejoice over sinners that repent, and we should also. Search your heart. See what your true motives are. If you find they are not right with the Lord, seek Him out and allow Him to do a work in your life. Make His priorities your priorities. Then you will find true joy and contentment in this life and rewards in the world to come.
Think about your life as a thread being sewn into a tapestry. From your perspective, you can't tell how you fit in. You're being pulled left and right, zigzagged around; there seems to be no rhyme or reason to what's happening. Someday you will be able to look back and see that you were part of a beautiful picture, and everything is just as it should be. Make yourself open to the Master's plan and seek His will. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” [Matthew 7:7,8NET]
Jonah did not know that he was a big part of God's plan for Nineveh. Nineveh was completely destroyed, and there is very little evidence of their existence. Like Sodom and Gomorrah, God would not act against Nineveh until there was no one righteous there. If Jonah had not brought the message to Nineveh when he did, it would have prevented God from acting against them. The Ninevites that were formerly ignorant of God's law and repented, later became willful sinners and brought God's wrath upon themselves. Jonah wasn't looking at the big picture. He didn't realize that by bringing them the message, he was actually sealing their fate. We must be careful not to work against the plan of God. God sees the tiny details and the big picture at the same time; the past, as well as the present and the future all at once. “For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.” [1 Corinthians 13:12NET] We have every reason to have confidence in the Lord's leading, knowing that He loves us and cares about us and always has our best interest in mind. After all, that's what faith is.
To The Glory Of God!