This message was preached by Steve Oliver at the Region Beyond gathering of churches in Mumbai March 2013
This story of Jonah is not about a big fish, it is about a big God. The cities of the world are filled with needy people, Godless people. God commissioned Jonah to go to Nineveh to take God’s message to them.
We too are a commissioned people. Jesus said, preach the Good News to all nations so everyone will come to know. This is our commission.
Now Jonah gets this commission and runs the other way. A majority of the churches are doing the same thing.
So to answer the question we asked at the beginning- “Why did Jonah run?’.
There are four main reasons.
1. He did not understand the heart of God for cities: If he did, he would have said, “I see it. I will go!” We need to get God’s view of the cities. The darker the city, in terms of sin, the more powerful the Gospel is, because the Gospel turns the cities upside down. This should encourage us. We can go anywhere and preach the Gospel with expectation.
2. As these were not his people: The people of Nineveh were of a different culture, they were not Israelites, they were Assyrians, they were crude and shameless, etc. and Jonah says- ‘NO WAY!’ Now everyone presumes that his/her culture is the best in the world. But a lack of understanding of our culture will stop us from taking the Gospel to places. Father God sent His son to gather people together to become a totally different culture- to be a kingdom people. When we see the heart of God for cities, we can ignore our own culture and see beyond to see the good things in other cultures- to be one new man in Jesus Christ!
3. Fear of leaving what he was used to: Fear has a way of crippling us. We can get caught up in our culture and fear engaging with new people. In this way, we end up holding ground, instead of taking ground till Jesus Christ comes back.
4. He had a lack of reproductive grace: Just like the Ninevites, Jonah was also rescued from an unholy life. But instead of realizing that, he looked at the Ninevites as someone who deserves God’s wrath. We should realize that we are rescued people and that it is our responsibility to rescue others. We have received grace so that we can show grace. If we have freely received, we need to freely give.
Matthew 18: 21-35- the parable of the King and an unforgiving Debtor .These things held Jonah back.
God’s heart for the cities:
Jonah gets so cross with God for protecting the people of Nineveh, but God’s heart for the city is revealed in the end when God says, “and should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left- and much livestock?”
When Jesus saw the hardness of the hearts of Jerusalem, he wept. God seized Nineveh in their lost state. He has compassion on them. That is God’s heart. We are here today because God reached out to you, saved you and now, he wants that you see with His eyes. We need to be a voice to our city and for that we need to ask God, “Give me eyes, that are Your eyes. Give me ears that are Your ears. Give me a heart that is Your heart!” God never stops, so we can’t either. Come with me to the cities of the world- to Bujumbura, to Sri Lanka, to Malaysia, to Lahore. How can we not go to the cities, knowing that one day the heaven will open and Jesus Christ will come?