Grace for Today
Jonah’s Great Commission (Part 2)
Last week we left Jonah right after he received his “missionary marching orders” from God. The Lord commanded this Israelite prophet to go and prophecy to a gentile nation.
***Please turn to Jonah and read verses 1:1-6.
It was as if the Lord said to Jonah, Pack your bags Jonah, I’m sending you on your first mission trip. I want you to go straight to where the king of Assyria lives and tell his people, the Ninevites, that I’m about to poor out My wrath on their city. I can almost hear Jonah, Wait a minute God; I’m a hometown boy from Galilee. That doesn’t compute. You must be mistaken, You want me to go to the heathen Ninevites and preach to them because of their sin?
Centuries later the Apostle Paul would call this type of activity on God’s part a mystery because in a sense it didn’t compute with him either.
***Please read Colossians 1:26-27
God has a rich mercy that He desires to pour out not only on the Israelites but also upon the gentile nations.
It seems that between Jonah receiving the command from God and his leaving that the wheels began to turn. Jonah began to put the scenario together in his mind. I believe his thinking went something like this, suppose I should leave my beloved land of Israel? Suppose I should preach that judgment was coming to Nineveh? Suppose, just suppose, they listened and turned from their wickedness? What if God showed mercy to them? This would make them God’s people as well as us. What if God embraced them and showed grace and mercy to them? What if they repented when Israel, my people, refused to repent? Would God use this new god-fearing nation to judge the Israelites? Why else would God want me to go?
Jonah didn’t think that the Ninevites deserved God’s mercy because they were so wicked. Jonah was right. They didn’t deserve God’s mercy. Neither did the Israelites. Neither do we. God is abounding in grace and mercy. He calls all people everywhere to turn and repent. We read in another place,
Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11 KJV)
God is actively involved in the lives of all people groups. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, whether they’re wicked Israelites, Ninevites, or Americans. God would take no pleasure in dealing out judgment to Nineveh, that great city. However, without repentance God would, in fact, deal out judgment. What made that city great to God wasn’t the size. It wasn’t the fact that it had 30’ thick walls, or that it was sixty miles in circumference. It was the fact that within Nineveh were people, people made in the image of God, people who were not living for the glory of God. There were souls that did not know Yahweh. There were some of God’s people in Nineveh who had never been told that He loves them.
Throughout Hebrew history, God would set up a prophet and that prophet would speak to the people for God. As you read the Old Testament this statement or one like it appears over and over again. And the Word of the Lord came to so and so saying. Then, the prophet would do what God asked him to do. Can you imagine how out of place Jonah’s response is to the Words of God?
 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
Jonah believed he could get away from God. Jonah’s theology was wrong. He didn’t consider God’s omnipresence. By omnipresence, I mean that God is everywhere all the time. There is no place a human being can escape to and not be seen or heard by God. This means that every sin we commit, even those we think are done in secret are known full well by God (For further study on the idea of God’s Omnipresence look to Paslam 139).
Rather than obeying the command “Arise, go to Nineveh, Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish. Jonah was headed in the opposite direction. He didn’t seek a ship that was going to Tarshish like God had commanded; he got on the first boat out of town. He wanted to be anywhere other than where he was. He thought, If I leave this place I’ll leave God and I’ll be at peace. Jonah may have had the attitude that the church had when William Carey, the Father of Modern Missions, wanted to go overseas as a missionary, If God wants to save the heathen He’ll do it without your help, they told him. That was a wrong statement and wrong thinking.
It’s amazing how easy things went for Jonah at first. Everything seemed to be going as planned. Just because things are going easy or well should not fool us into thinking we are doing God’s will. According to Matthew Henry, The ready way isn’t always the right way.
God wanted to give Nineveh an opportunity to repent. Jonah didn’t think He should be allowed to do that. He wanted God to come around to his way of thinking. Do we ever do that? Do we ever disobey or act as if we didn’t get the message in hopes that, in time, God will see things our way? Jonah, the prophet, was unwilling to prophecy. He was willing to be a prophet as long as he was in agreement with what God wanted him to say and who he was going to say it to. Many times what a preacher has to say is as hard to say as it is to hear. Do you think God really cared whether Jonah felt like preaching the message? The mission was that God wanted Jonah to tell the Ninevites that they were in big trouble. Their sin had reached the point that God’s patience had come to an end. Judgment was coming in 40 days. The very fact that God’s Word had come to Jonah hinted that He was going to relent of His judgment if Jonah would go to them and preach what God told him to preach. God’s message would be preached. He wanted Jonah to preach it. His will is always accomplished.
Next week we’ll see just how it was that God turned things around. We’ll see how it was that God got Jonah to his God-called destination.
Grace and Peace,
Grace Community Church,
313 W. 2nd Street, Waverly