Sunday, October 2, 2011

"A funny thing happened on the way to Nineveh"

Reference Scripture: Jonah Chapter 1 – 4

In this Bible Study of the Prophet Jonah today I wanted to bring into light a few pointers on what not to do when God sends you to the mission field. By using the example of Jonah, we will see he was God's disgruntle missionary.

Jonah was experienced with God and no new comer to God's works. We can attest to this according to II Kings 14: 23, 24, and 25, which reads:

“In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. He restored the coast (borders) of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher.” II Kings 14:23-25 KJV

Jonah was a sign from God to the nation of Israel. Jonah was the man God had chosen for this particular time to preach in the accepted hour. As Mathew Henry has said and I quote;

“Thus God, in the darkest and most degenerate ages of the church, raised up some to be burning and shining lights in it; to their own age, by their preaching and living, and a few by their writings, to reflect light upon us in the last times.” {Unquote.}

This prophesy came to pass by the word of God through Jonah but for Jonah other assignments came from God who decided to move Jonah out of his comfort zone. God arranged it for Jonah to deliver a message to the Assyrian city of Nineveh. This is where Jonah ran into serious trouble with himself and God. Jonah was discovered to have no compassion for the people and was discovered to be a bigot. He considered that God's grace and mercy was not fit for these people and was a big waste of time and effort. Jonah eventually showed signs of being ashamed of his calling and was rebellious to God's desires of mercy for this people.

"But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry." Jonah 4:1 KJV

Cause and effect: How did Jonah end up in the belly of a great fish?

"They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy." Jonah 2:8

I have listed some reasons for his disdain. It seems Jonah changed his mind somewhere along the way to run from God according to verse 1:3:

“But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” Jonah 1:3 KJV

The question is why? Maybe Jonah was afraid for his life or maybe hated these Gentile beasts, but never-the-less, returned to God's command with obedience and repentance. We can read chapter 2 verses 1-10 and see in the prayer when Jonah prayed he received sound wisdom when apprehended by God. The LORD is serious when He employs one of His children into service. Whether we like it or not is irrelevant, the job that we are assigned to has deep spiritual meaning from God and to us it is our job to gain wisdom and knowledge of the task at hand. Most certainly, when we are given an assignment from God it becomes a test of obedience and trust in the LORD to perform His will for both the sent and the receiver. In my experiences with the LORD, God’s volition most always seems to serve a dual purpose for the experience at hand in which everyone benefits.

Evidently, in Jonah's mind, he shamefully began listening and agreeing with Satan. Jonah was so hardheaded he had to be told twice as we can read in chapter 3 verses 1- 10. Jonah was found disagreeing and arguing with an authority figure, Almighty God. How many times have we been caught disagreeing with the LORD in our plight of misunderstanding of His will for our lives? What are you going to tell God, He doesn’t know what He is doing? Or maybe He doesn’t understand the circumstances? It was also evident Jonah was rebellious to sound wisdom by turn a deaf ear to the LORD. Maybe Jonah was saying to himself; these people are so pagan there is no hope for them. These people are not worth the trouble. These people are going to get what they deserve. But, with a little more time to pass he began to think; there must be a better way, pausing and searching his heart. This way of life isn't for me. Jonah no doubt was dissatisfied and contemptible with current condition.

Jonah, disgruntle and under protest;

"And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." Jonah 3:4 KJV

At this point Jonah was proud to deliver this message of coming destruction because he wanted the prophesy to come to pass on this wicked people.

"And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." Jonah 3:10 KJV

God is no respecter of persons, this is a biblical fact. It would do us well if we would consider that the Grace that was offered to us is offered to all when God deems so. God's unmerited favour is a free gift and God gives it where and when He wills it. God deemed it was time to offer it to Nineveh. What we sometimes fail to see with our spiritual eyesight is that God has a purpose for all people of the earth. That purpose is to come to the saving knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ. In Jonah’s day, the promise of the coming Messiah wasn’t known but by very few and most of the time only Jehovah God was in the forefront of being known as Almighty God. It wasn’t evident to Jonah that God had paved the way for him to enter into Nineveh. We can see this by the way the people received the Word of God from the prophet’s mouth. After Jonah was through delivering the message God gave him to deliver how did the people receive it? They didn’t throw tomatoes and cabbages at him did they? They didn’t run him out of town on a rail did they? No, it was quite the opposite. The people of Nineveh were immediately struck with the fear of God in their hearts and decided the best thing they could do to avoid this looming destruction was to too adhere to every word of the Prophet.

Let’s face the truth. Only God could do that and that was the preparation of the people for the sake of God’s GRACE towards them. Sometimes, people have to be put in the position to listen to sound reason from God. This is why it takes time and distance so God can do His works behind the scenes and away from the naked eye. Little do we understand that God is always working on our behalf and to our benefit? This is the wonderful love and grace God bestows to His children every single day we live. Then when we least expect it, we are surprised to learn just what it was that the LORD was doing for us. Just like a loving parent doing something special for their child, God sends us His personal blessings for us to see that God really does care for us and He loves us with an unconditional love, an agape love. God did the very same thing to the City of Nineveh. By sending Jonah, His handpicked prophet to them so they too could have the experience of God’s grace and love. As the story of Jonah goes on in chapter four we can see that when the people of the city turned and repented, God revealed His Grace by sparing the people and by establishing the fact that there is a God that everyone will have to face one day. The true and living God, Jehovah. False god’s can never conjure up the fear in a man’s heart the way Jehovah God can and does. And it is for a very good reason this happens this way. Jehovah God wants everyone in the world to know Him and get a reasonable understanding of Him so they can have a relationship with the living God and experience what millions of others have experienced, love and grace from the Creator, one and only God of the universe, Jehovah.

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