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Jonah: An Example of Divine Mission and Divine Rebuke

The prophet Jonah provides a clear example of one who honors God with his lips while his heart is far from Him (Matt 15:8; Isaiah 29:13). He makes it clear that God’s blessing is meant to be shared with others…not hoarded for oneself. Those who reject God’s mission—and the purpose of His blessing—will experience God’s divine rebuke. Jonah provides us with the warning of hoarding the Gospel to ourselves. This short essay will look at three aspects of the book of Jonah: 1) a life worthy of the calling; 2) the mission of God throughout the Bible; 3) applications for today.


A Life Worthy of the Calling


Jonah provides several insights into a life that is worthy—and unworthy—of the Christians call. The first is that believers must trust and, because of that trust, obey God. This book juxtaposes the believer, Jonah, against unbelievers. It is the unbelievers, however, who exhibit trust in God (Jonah 1:6), fear the LORD (1:16), repent (3:5, 8), and spread the word (3:6) while Jonah, on the other hand, runs away from God (1:3), lists his special position as a Hebrew (1:9), and compares himself with others who “forsake their hope” (2:8). Despite the LORD’s continued prodding—Jonah never repents (4:10).


The second insight that Jonah teaches is that believers must repent of their self-centeredness and live a life worthy of their calling. God’s anger was brought about by two primary sins: the failure to love Him above all else (idolatry) and their failure to love their neighbors (social-justice). God will accomplish his purposes. He offers us the privilege of getting to be a part of this glorious work. Jonah seems to do whatever he can to sabotage the message that God has given him to deliver. God uses this half-hearted—even resentful—attempt to accomplish His sovereign purposes anyway! The “word reach the king of Nineveh” (Jonah 3:5) and the king tells everyone to repent (3:8)…and the LORD relents (3:10)! The believer must turn away from the love of themselves to love God and their neighbor wholeheartedly.


The third insight is that believers must develop a heart that has compassion on their enemies. Jonah was called by God and given multiple chances. For God to ask Jonah to share the blessing with others—that wasn’t his to begin with—wasn’t unreasonable. Those who are called by God are humbled by their call and will develop a heart of gratitude and compassion for others who are in the same lost position they once were.


The Mission of God throughout the Bible


The Old and New Testaments are replete with God’s purposes of salvation.

Anyone who is saved has been saved to glorify God. They glorify God by doing what He says. Jesus sums up what God says by giving two commands: Love God and love your neighbor (Matt 22:36-37). This is the twin-love of God. These two can’t be separated. In a culture where the term “social-justice” is polarizing, Christians can give the example of Christ…and proclaim Christ. Christ loved even His enemies! One of the best ways that we love our neighbor—and our enemy—is by sharing the good news with them (Eph 2:8-10).


God tells Abram in Genesis 12 that he will be blessed so that he will bless all other nations (Gen 12:3). Psalm 67 tells us that God’s favor upon us is so that “your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations” (Psalm 67:1-3). It is remarkable how consistent this message is across the Bible.


In Luke 18, Jesus tells us the story of the Pharisee thanking God that he’s not like the tax collector, while the tax collector cries out for mercy and is saved. Jesus condemns the man to “outer darkness” who buries what he has been given rather than investing it in other people (Matt 25:25-30). In Revelation 3, Jesus says that those who are lukewarm—who receive the blessing but don’t reciprocate the heart of the One that blesses—will be spewed out of His mouth (or in Jonah’s case, the fish’s mouth). The mission of God is clear: Believers are blessed so that they will “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).


Applications for Today


The question God asks Jonah at the end of the book is why he valued his own temporary comfort more than the lives of other people. Do we value the eternity of our enemies more than we value our temporary comforts? When we find ourselves filled with gratitude for God’s blessing, we must ask ourselves for what purpose His blessing this has come to us. We must recognize that we are not the termination point of His blessing. The blessing is for His glory, not our comfort.


Conclusion


Jonah is an example of the divine mission and divine rebuke of those who acknowledge God with their lips while their hearts are far from Him…and far from their neighbors. God blesses us so that we can love Him and love our neighbor with what we have received from Him. We are to be heralds, not hoarders. He is the One who is to receive the glory. He receives glory when we obey. John tells us that “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This is the message of Jonah. This is the message of the Bible. This is the message of God.

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