This summer I am teaching the young adults at Nansemond River Baptist Church about the “Mission of God” (Missio Dei for those of you who enjoy dead languages). After a brief introduction discussing a Biblical Theology of mission (don’t worry, if “teenagers” can learn trigonometry they can learn Biblical Theology) we are spending the next few weeks in the beautiful book of Jonah. The other night I taught through the first chapter of Jonah.
I don’t want to reproduce the entire discussion but God has really been working in my heart as I study this book. Here are a few takeaways from Jonah 1.
1. Jonah was a faithful prophet as long as God acted like he expected. Jonah, in this story, is not just running away from serving God, he’s running away from serving God where it is hard. This is a hard lesson for me to learn. Jonah hated the Ninevites; they are the sworn enemies of his people. For Jonah, the Ninevites did not deserve a chance to repent. He was nervous that God might actually save them. The questions I ask myself are sometimes hard to answer: Where is it hard for me to serve God? Who are the people that I feel don’t deserve the love and forgiveness of God? Do I value my national loyalties more than the souls of the lost persons around the world? Are their groups of people who I don’t want to hear the gospel? Would I go to a hard place like Iran, Iraq or Indonesia to share the gospel or am I content to see these people die and spend eternity in hell?
2. God sent, pursued, and saved His messenger but the messenger was never the point, it was always about the message.
3. The point of Jonah is not about a whale, it’s about the God of the whale. It’s about a God who rescued a messenger so He could rescue an entire people. The story of Jonah is not about how much God loved Jonah, though He surely did; it’s about how much He loved the Ninevites. The book of Jonah is about an upside-down God showing love and compassion to the last people on earth anyone ever expected.
4. God does not just want to save you, He wants to use you. When God confronts you with the needs of the world around you, it’s not just about Him pursuing you; He is pursuing the lost world through you. When God calls you it is because He loves the world. When He rescues you it is so that you might bring rescue to the world!