Join me in a look at Jonah.
2 Kings 14: 23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, became king in Samaria, and reigned forty-one years. 24 And he did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin. 25 He restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.26 For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter; and whether bond or free, there was no helper for Israel. 27 And the LORD did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.
At this point, Jonah is speaking for the Lord and helping Israel, the northern kingdom, to be prepared for the onslaught of Assyria in an earlier time from the book by his name. Assyria is to the northeast and has been growing in power as it has taken over more and more territory and even nations around them. The kings of Assyria and the whole nation of Assyria were known for their sinful brutality in war and their detestable practices in life. They didn’t just defeat the peoples around them, they slaughtered them viciously as terrorists would. They invented ways of torture for those that they captured that were unthinkable to God’s people.
So here in 1 Kings 14 Jonah’s message to Jeroboam, king of Israel, was to strengthen the boarders to the north and doing so gave Israel a few more years of protection from this terrible nation. Jonah is a patriot and a prophet. He wants good things for Israel and bad things for Israel’s enemies. If Jonah had had access to our modern military weaponry and nuclear capacity, I have no doubt but that Assyria, Egypt, and maybe even Judah to the south would be toast.
Read Jonah 1:1-3
Now, God comes to Jonah again. This time God tells Jonah a message that Jonah could not imagine. God said, “Jonah, Go to Nineveh that great city and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.” Nineveh is the capital city of Assyria. Jonah never in his life expected this assignment.
God has a way of surprising us, does He not? This reminds me of another story in the New Testament.
Remember Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9? Saul was the churches worst nightmare. He was bound and determined to wipe the name of Jesus out by whatever means he could come up with. In Acts 26:11 he says, “and as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.”
Paul was obsessed with stamping out Christianity.
While this man Saul of Tarsus was in Damascus, the Lord spoke to Ananias, a Jewish Christian, and told him to go to Saul and restore his sight.
Ananias was about as bumfuzzled as Jonah, but Ananias submitted after the Lord answered his objection, Jonah, on the other hand, just took off to the ends of the world in Tarshish.
Notice the words of scripture here. Jonah went down to Joppa, and went down into the ship. He will also go down into the sea and down to the roots of the mountains before this is all over. When you try to run from God, you go down.
You would think that a prophet like Jonah would know better, wouldn’t you? Yet the text is plain as day, verse three and verse four say it twice: Jonah fled to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down into the ship to go to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
At least that was what he wanted to do.
What was Jonah thinking? Jonah can run, but he can’t hide. You and I can’t either. But that doesn’t keep us from trying, does it? Jim Feher shared something with me that hits home: There’s a stairway to heaven and a highway to hell, you do the math on how many go where. How many people turn away from God’s way? What percentage would you say? Isaiah 53 tells us, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Romans 3:23 tells us: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Jonah is a lot like the rest of us and the rest of us are a lot like Jonah, are we not?
Read Jonah 1:4-17
Let me ask a question that Jonah raises: If God told you to go and tell someone a message from Him, would you do it? How many of us would take God’s call seriously and obey Him the first time? What if he made matters difficult in your life and then called you again and gave you the same job? Would you take God’s call seriously and obey it? What does God have to do to get his people to take His commission to heart and go make disciples? What would God have to do in your life to get your attention and submission to obey His great commission? Do you and I need to become fish food before we will take the commission of Christ to heart and share our faith with others?
I wonder how many people have we as a church tried to share the gospel with this year. How many have we prayed for? We have mission works that are going on in other parts of the world and we just had a group come in from Montana this past week from a mission point there. It is a great blessing to be part of a mission minded church family. But let’s make this personal. I want us to hear God’s voice in Jonah speaking to us individually today. I think we can do more. I know I can do more. I want to see more people in this community coming to Jesus Christ and being baptized here in this baptistery and growing up in the Lord to serve Him and become disciple making members of His kingdom right here. Don’t you?
Now we can do something about that. We can start by listing names of friends or neighbors and praying for them and then taking time to talk with them and invite them to church with us. Can you do that? Can you share the gospel with someone?
You who are younger, God may call you to move to another nation and share the gospel in a place that will hear it, repent and obey it better than those who live in this country. Will you follow His call?
Jonah the prophet was reluctant and resistant to God’s call, but God kept chasing him down and preparing him for the job. Don’t make God chase you down.
Parents, are any of you resistant to the idea that your sons or daughters might take the commission of Jesus Christ so seriously that they move to another nation to serve in spreading the gospel? Do you want to send them somewhere else where they can be safe from the presence of God’s call? Or do you pray for them to serve the Lord however and where ever He may send them?
The book of Jonah shows us God’s heart of mercy and desire for repentance for His enemies, and Jonah’s heart of reluctance and desire for the destruction of his enemies. Aren’t you glad God is not like Jonah? None of us would be here today if that were the case.
May God help us to have hearts like His own and listen to His call to go take His message to others.