Jonah, the prophet of God, lived around 790 B.C. In the Book of Jonah found in the Bible, we learn of God’s command to His prophet to go to the City of Nineveh, a great city, and “…and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). However, Jonah refused to obey God and tried to flee from the presence of God.
He went to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. A great storm came upon them in the boat. Jonah was pointed out to be the curse and was cast overboard; he was swallowed up by a great fish that had been prepared by God for this purpose. Jonah cried out to God, and God saved him by having the fish to vomit up Jonah. Jonah had been three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. Jonah then went and preached God’s Judgment to the City of Nineveh; commanding them to repent and turn from their wickedness, and turn to God and Righteousness. The king of Nineveh and the people called a fast; they repented of their sins and turned to God; and God spared them.
In Chapter 4:1-11, the prophet Jonah was displeased with God showing Nineveh mercy in not judging them. Jonah was so displeased, he asked God to take his life. Jonah went outside the city and waited to see what God would do. Verse 6 says, “And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.”
However the next day, God prepared a worm that smote the gourd, and it withered and died. That day, God sent a vehement east wind “and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live” (verse 8). Then in verse 9, God asked Jonah: Why are you so angry for the gourd? Jonah replied: yes, I am greatly angry. The Lord said to Jonah, “Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: (11) And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore (120,000) thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (verses 10-11).
The gourd was used of God to reveal to Jonah his internal spiritual problem. Jonah got really angry at the dying of the gourd, of which he had nothing to do with, its coming into existence; nothing to do with its growth or its death. And yet he got mad at God for sparing the entire 120,000 population of Nineveh and its cattle. The difference being, the gourd helped him even though it was but a plant; but the sparing of Nineveh brought glory to God and it saved people that were not Jews.
Note some of Jonah’s problems:
- He was a servant of God, but evidently was not fully surrendered and submitted to God to carry out God’s will. Jonah wanted his way, not God’s will to be done in Nineveh.
- Jonah was a respecter of persons. The Jews were God’s special chosen people of all the earth, the firstborn, and the wife of the firstborn. Jonah evidently did not want the Salvation of the Lord to include any but the Jews.
- Jonah was selfish and walked in pride. He cared more for his bodily comfort than he did the Salvation of the heathen.
Jonah’s spiritual condition seems to be synonymous with 99 percent of so-called Christians today.
First, we are God’s servants only as long as His will goes along with our will. When His will is contrary to what we think, we say, “Oh no God, I am not going to do this” or “God I don’t have time to do that” or “My body is my body; I will put in it and put on it what I please and carry it where I please” etc.
Secondly, we say, “God, we are your people; that other race should not hear the Gospel. They are where they belong. I am not going to invite them to our church. They really don’t deserve to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am not going to their neighborhood, because I am not like them.”
Thirdly, we say, “Christ, we did not sign up if it is going to bring on any physical discomfort. We can’t give up our expensive homes, cars, and lands to go out in the highways and byways to spread the Good News to the heathen. God, we have it, we’ve got it (that is, Salvation). And who else needs it? We’ve got what we need.”
This is a sad commentary on much of the Christian community in America. Most churches that believe in missions give large sums of money for someone else to go and spread the Word of God to people who are “not” like us. But, what about the individual’s responsibility to spread God’s Word? Many say, “Let the preachers do it.” And the preachers are saying, “Let the missionary do it.” And God says, “You do it.”
(Acts 1:8) “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
(Matthew 25:35-40) “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: (36) Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. (37) Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? (38) When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? (39) Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? (40) And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
(Luke 10:30-37) “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (31) And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. (32) And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (33) But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (34) And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (35) And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. (36) Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? (37) And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Note especially verse 33, “But a certain Samaritan…”)
(2 Corinthians 5:14-20) “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: (15) And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (16) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. (17) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (18) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (20) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” (Paul was speaking to the Church at Corinth; to all of them, not just to the pastor of the church.)
The commission was give to the Apostles and the Church (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). But the church is made up of many; not just the pastor, but many members. We all are to be witnesses of the testimony of Jesus Christ.
But many are like Jonah, they love the gourd more than the Salvation of Nineveh.