“Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” Jonah 1:3
In the previous article we noted how Nehemiah wept and mourned, prayed and fasted with concern for the glory of God. Jonah is quite different and unfortunately is typical of many Christians.
Jonah had been commanded by God to go and warn the Ninevites that judgment was pending. Though not stated in the first two verses the book reveals that Jonah’s message was intended to include a call to repentance.
In Jonah’s view the Ninevites were worthy of damnation. He seems to lack any practical concept of mercy but he knew enough theory to know that God is merciful (4:2). The Ninevites had been cruel and evil toward Israel, perhaps even to members of his own family, and he did not want God to show mercy to them. When God did show mercy to them “it displeased Jonah” (4:1). Actually that seems an understatement when one considers his actions.
Is it possible that our lack of concern for the lost in our society is because we consider them worthy of God’s wrath? Is it because they have in some way harmed or hurt us and we desire revenge? Are we excluding ourselves from the Great Commission on the grounds of hatred, anger or retribution? God forbid! Were we not also just as they are and still would be apart from Christ in us and the enabling of the Holy Spirit?
If God was able to bring a nation possibly more evil than our society to repentance and faith by means of a rebellious prophet surely He is able to draw people to Himself in our society through us.
Notice that refusing to be obedient to the Lord involves departing the presence of the Lord, going down hill, paying a price (1:3) and loss of joy and even depression (4:3-4, 9). The principle applies to Christians today just as to Jonah. Disobedience separates us from the special presence of the Lord, it will quickly lead to loss of joy and greater sin, and there will be an awful spiritual cost. Instead of gold, silver and precious stones to offer to Jesus Christ there will be the ashes of wood, hay and stubble (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
Will we acknowledge that this is probably true of us and do nothing about it or will we receive it and confess our sin of disobedience and actively join in the Great Commission?