God Calls Jonah to Missions
Jonah 1:1-3: "Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah
Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city,
and cry against it
But Jonah rose up to flee
from the presence of the Lord."
Jonah 3:2-5: "Arise, go on to Nineveh
and preach unto it to preaching that I bid thee.
So Jonah arose, and went on to Nineveh
So the people of Nineveh believed God."
Sir George Adam Smith had this to say on the Book of Jonah.
He said: "This is the tragedy of the book of Jonah, that a book which is made the means
of one of the most sublime revelations of truth in the Old Testament should be known
to most only for its connection with a whale."
That is a tragedy.
Many books in the Bible have been mishandled and abused, but none has suffered
such misuse as this book of the prophet Jonah.
Most all of the attention has been concentrated on the story of the whale,
as if that were the central message in the book.
Therefore, the real meaning and purpose of the book has been entirely overlooked.
This book of Jonah is one of the most important concerning missions in all the Old Testament.
Of all the Old Testament books it is the one that comes nearest in spirit to the New Testament.
For in the book of Jonah, God appears not simply as the God of the Jews,
but as the God of the whole world.
Here we see the universal love of God.
Here we get the truth asserted that the Gentiles were susceptible to, and would accept,
the Word of God.
When you read from the 15th verse of the first chapter to the opening verse of the third chapter,
you will see that the central purpose of the book is very clear.
The central lesson of the book is not that it is impossible to flee from the presence of the Lord
or that disobedience inevitably meets with punishment though that lesson is taught clearly.
The purpose of the book is to illustrate God's love for the Gentiles and their need of His word.
In fact, the book of Jonah is the great missionary book of the Old Testament.
We will look at three truths that are presented here.
First, God's love and compassion reaches out to all people.
Second, all people are capable of receiving that love and responding to it.
Third, people who themselves enjoy the knowledge of God are often strangely
and amazingly unwilling to share it with others.
The first truth that is emphasized is that God's love and compassion reaches out to all people.
That is the great revelation of the book of Jonah.
The Jew had been brought up to believe that he had exclusive rights to God.
He had been brought up to believe that he was the prime favorite of heaven
and that his people were God's peculiar people.
The people outside Judaism -- the people of Egypt and Assyria and Babylon,
people who had often oppressed the people of Israel -- were not only the enemies of the Jews,
they were also seen as the enemies of God and their end was to be destruction and perdition.
The discovery that Jonah made under the guidance of God's Spirit was that these heathen nations
were the objects of the love of God and that the knowledge of God had been committed to Israel,
but not as a selfish possession, but was given so that Israel might proclaim this truth
to an ignorant and perishing world.
All of this is implied in the opening sentences of this prophecy:
"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is, before me."
Nineveh was the center of the brutal kingdom of Assyria that had broken Jewish independence
and deported and outraged its people.
It's wickedness was great.
There was no doubt about that.
God knew that, but God had pity and compassion on Nineveh.
The Ninevites were dear to God, and He would save them from their impending doom.
"Go to Nineveh," God said, "that great city, and cry against it."
All the loving compassions of the Lord are in that verse.
The wickedness of Nineveh was great.
If ever a people deserved the punishment of God, the Ninevites did,
but God has pity and compassion even for them.
The pity that yearns over Nineveh is a pity that includes all of the inhabitants of Nineveh.
The love that pours itself on Nineveh is a love that extends to the lost
and the last and the very least.
We must start with the fact that God's love is a universal love.
His redemption is a universal redemption.
God sent His Son to die for all mankind, and His mercy and compassion goes out to all people.
That is so easily said, and yet so difficult to realize.
It is one of those great commonplaces of religion that, just because it is a commonplace,
is so difficult to get it into our consciousness.
If something could only stab our spirits wide awake that we might realize this truth,
the missionary problem would be solved.
Listen, it is simple and clear: God loves everybody.
God gave His Son to die for everybody.
He wants to save everybody.
The people of India and China, and Africa and all of the islands -- they are all children of God
God will still save all of the lost in America.
All mankind is His heart and His compassion reach out to them.
This is the supreme motive for missions.
There are other worthy motives for missions, but this is the supreme motive.
In my younger days, I remember the words: "Christ or chaos."
There is no other alternative.
Chaos is the inevitable possibility unless the world receives Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
We must get back to that supreme motive if our missions is ever to become a passion with us.
Our real motive should be that God loves all people, and gave Jesus to die for them.
As God gave a mission to Jonah, He has also a mission to us to go into all the world
and preach the gospel.
God said to Jonah: "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it
the preaching that I bid thee."
In this we see the love of God for His lost children, and God's yearning desire
to save His perishing children.
All of America is our Nineveh.
India is our Nineveh.
China is our Nineveh.
Africa is our Nineveh.
All of the nations of the earth are our Nineveh.
God has commanded us to go to Nineveh and preach the preaching that He has committed to us.
God has commanded us to go and proclaim this message: "God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,
but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
God is not pleased with us when we refuse to go.
We must have that great compelling motive for missionary work.
That motive is "The love of Christ constraineth me."
It's not the challenge of the world that is our motive although it is a good one.
It's not the miseries of men that motivates us although it is a good motive.
Our motive is the love of Christ.
That is the supreme motive.
The second great truth that the book of Jonah illustrates and emphasizes is
that all men are capable of receiving God's love and responding to it.
"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it," God said to Jonah.
But Jonah did not want to go.
This is not because he thought that his message was beyond the comprehension of the Ninevites.
And it was not because he thought that they would reject it.
It was because he had an uneasy feeling that they might repent.
Jonah was a hard and bitter Jew, and he did not want them to repent.
He preferred to see them as the objects of God's wrath, rather than the recipients of His grace.
And what he feared came to pass.
The second time God's summons came to him, "Arise, go one to Nineveh
Then Jonah went, however unwillingly, and preached to the multitudes of the city,
"the people of Nineveh believed God." (Verse five)
They repented, and God forgave them their sin.
Nineveh, wicked Nineveh, repented!
Nineveh responded to the call of God.
The great and blessed truth that this symbolizes teaches us that none are to be shut out
from hearing the gospel message.
There are no unreasonables or impossibles.
Every Nineveh can repent!
They've come from the north and the south and the East and the West
and have sat down in the kingdom of God.
The people who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb
are of every nation, tribe, tongue, and condition.
Everywhere the gospel is preached there is the power of God to reach the hearts of men.
"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city."
That call came to William Carey.
His Nineveh was India.
India was a country with an ancient religion and an old civilization.
To many it seemed to be a hopeless enterprise.
In India their ancient religion had a firm grip upon the hearts of the people
and their lives.
But Indian hearts responded to the preaching of William Carey and his successors.
From those worshiping Hinduism, Christ gathered His converts.
In that unchanging East there was demonstrated God's power to turn the hearts of men to Him.
"Go to Nineveh, that great city."
That mission came to the ears of Robert Morrison.
His Nineveh was China.
It seemed to be a foolish adventure for China had a civilization older than the Christian.
But Chinese hearts turned and responded to the preaching of the gospel.
In China, God gathered His converts and martyrs.
"Go to Nineveh, that great city."
That call came to Robert Moffat.
His Nineveh was Africa.
A dark, benighted, degraded Africa.
It seemed to be a desperate undertaking to go and seek to evangelize Africa
because the people were so sunken and degraded.
But Moffat went.
He went and preached in his Nineveh, and the heart of the African responded.
In Africa, Christ gathered His church.
Moffat told the story of Africaner.
Afrikaner was a robber chief in South Africa.
He was the plague and peril of the white settlers in that land.
He was an untamed and brutal savage.
Scoffers would tell Moffat that he needed to convert Afrikaner,
and then many would believe in missions.
Moffat went preached the gospel to the robber chief.
His brutal heart was touched.
He gave up his savagery, and then started to accompany Moffat to the Cape,
and in his right mind.
Nineveh had repented!
Nineveh had believed God!
That brutal savage was converted into a meek follower of Jesus demonstrating the power of God
to reach into the most vile and the most degraded and brutalized heart and redeem it.
That is why we must not omit any class of people, any tribe of people or any nationality
from our mission to evangelize.
There are no impossibles and there are no unreachables.
We must hear the call of God to go and tell and as we go the love of Christ will sustain us.
We must undertake our mission with this faith that there is something in every soul
that cries out for Christ and will respond to Him when He calls to them.
There are people so stubborn and sunken that this faculty is destroyed in them.
Nineveh -- every Nineveh -- can repent and believe.
The third truth should not surprise us.
This truth is that often Christians are so amazingly slow to witness to those lost without Jesus
and to share the gospel message with them.
Jonah was a reluctant preacher.
Remember, when the call first came to him, he fled to Tarshish.
He did not want to preach at Nineveh.
He did not want to give it a chance to repent.
He would rather have seen Nineveh destroyed than be saved.
So he ran!
This has its parallel in the life and experience of the church today.
Many are still reluctant preachers.
It is true that many among us still turn a deaf ear to God's command,
"Arise, go unto Nineveh...and preach unto it to preaching that I bid thee."
The sad truth is that we do not go ourselves nor have we done anything to help to send others.
Nineveh, that great city, could perish for all we do to help save it.
Our unwillingness to heed the clear command of God to go really springs from indifference.
We have no concern at all for the condition of Nineveh.
We are not troubled that vast sections of our worlds populations live without
any knowledge of Christ.
We are interested in the political situation in India.
With concerned about the trade imbalance in China.
We get excited when we have a good trade agreement with Japan.
The fact is that the people of China, India and Japan are ignorance of God's grace to us
and to all the world.
That fact has never cost us a night's sleep or given us a minute of concern.
It is possible that this indifference springs from a lack of religious experience
-- that is, a failure to realize what the Christian salvation really means for ourselves.
We are not filled, as the apostle Paul was, with a sense of adoring wonder and gratitude
for the grace of God in saving us.
Not many know what it is to say in a kind of adoring amazement,
"The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
Christians and a church that is lost its sense of wonder at God's amazing love in Christ is
bound to be a cold, lethargic, indifferent church.
And that is our deepest need today.
We need to regain the wonder of God's redeeming love.
We need to realize how precious it was what God did for us when He gave
His Son to die for us on the cross of Calvary.
The Christian faith is not a new morality, it is a redemption.
Christian faith is not a philosophy, it is a salvation.
It is the person who knows what redemption and salvation really means.
It is a person who knows himself or herself to be redeemed and saved by the grace of God,
and who will be eager to share the gospel with those who desperately need it.
We need to remember what a wonderful enriched redemptive experience
that we have had in Christ.
That is what will warm our hearts and loosen our tongues.
And when the church gets its heart warmed and its tongues loosed there will be no rebellious
and wicked Nineveh left.
Every Nineveh will repent and believe, and God will be abundantly satisfied!
-- Much of the sermon was developed from the resources of Joseph Parker (1830-1902)
who was one of England's most popular preachers and who was largely self-educated.