The glory of GOD is His greatness and honour. Everything that happens occurs only for GOD. All things exist and happen in order to give the greatness, majesty and glory to GOD (Rom 11:36; 1 Cor 10:31). Man alone, is just a sideshow, though he is relevant to GOD.
GOD’s plan had been for the gospel to reach the Assyrians in their wickedness and violence, in order for them to repent. The gospel did reach them and they repented throughout the kingdom with fasting and sackcloth, from monarch to beast. There is joy in heaven over even a single act of repentance (Luke 15:7) let alone of a whole nation. This happened despite Jonah’s ethnic antagonism, spiritual jealousy, coldness of heart, and manipulation of GOD. Nothing happened to glorify man or the devil. John Piper has said that the enemies of GOD do not frustrate His decrees: they instead execute them for Him (Gen 50:20).
When we refuse GOD’s call and assume that we can flee from His presence, sin is in us (1:3). We cannot buy sleep from the will of GOD and hope to flee from His presence (1:3,5&6). Jonah lost his relationship with GOD as he let bitterness towards the Assyrians obstruct his ministry from day one. He later excused his own disobedience (4:2). Jonah considered salvation as something for GOD alone to deal with. He felt that he really had nothing to do with it. Jonah separated himself from GOD in this respect (Isa 59:2). This was sin.
Jonah’s sin of ethnic prejudice was evident when he admitted to GOD that he knew the Assyrians would have been saved without his own preaching (4:2). He seemed secretly angry with GOD for that outcome. GOD had warned the Israelites through Amos & Hosea (another contemporary of Jonah’s) not to be arrogant when Israel regained her security along her borders. GOD would then send them into exile beyond Damascus (Amos 5:27, 7:8, 8:2; Hosea 9:3, 10:6 &7, 11:5). Assyria was always feared to be the place for this, given the frequent appearance of its armies near Israel’s frontiers. Also, Assyria’s cruelty and torture were legendary.
Nahum was another of Jonah’s contemporaries. Nahum preached that Nineveh would be destroyed (this was to happen around 130 to 150 years later). Jonah possibly felt that his immediate mission to Nineveh would therefore have been a wasted effort. He would have left his comfort zone for no valid reason.
Jonah was obsessed by small things like the death of a plant (4:10) but failed to exercise compassion for people who could not tell right from wrong. Oswald Chambers says that Jonah lacked a vision for GOD. GOD did not discriminate against the Assyrians. Jonah did, refusing at first to preach to them. He could not accept that GOD could, and eventually did, forgive the heathen. Jonah was a loveless prophet. Love is the crux of GOD’s relationship with man. Jonah failed the acid test of loving those that he had been sent to preach repentance to (Matt 22:36-40; John 3:16 &17; 1 Cor 13:13).
After Nineveh’s repentance, Jonah went outside the city to see what would have happened to the Assyrians, instead of rejoicing with them over their salvation. This revealed that he did not want to have anything to do with their redemption in the first instance. He preferred their destruction rather than their redemption. A bitter spiritual jealousy seemed to have engulfed him to the end.
Jonah’s temper seemed to have mastered him during the sea storm, the destruction of the shady plant by a worm, the scorching wind, and the heat. He expressed to GOD a preference for death in the midst of these trials (4:3, 8 & 9).
Sin is also present when we fail to call on GOD in time of need. Our guilt stops us from doing this. GOD alone has appointed events (1:6). We know our sin readily and will give an account of it, particularly in times of peril (1:12). Neither can we hope to reverse the will of GOD by our own efforts (1:13).
Sin arises when we have our own model of accommodating GOD. The heathen have a faith based on how they should deal with GOD, rather than on how GOD has dealt with them. But that model would never stand up when GOD puts it to the test (1:10).
Lessons from the Book of Jonah
- Spreading the gospel effectively depends solely on GOD’s direction and not on man’s perspective. The Holy Spirit is GOD’s agency for the spread of the gospel;
- Our absence of a distinct vision for GOD leads to a wasted life of petty pursuits, and possibly working against Him;
- Race, class and any social distinctions could obstruct the spread of the gospel. These divisive factors very likely generate interpersonal antagonism and conflict. They distract our focus from spreading GOD’s message. They should be dismissed totally if they cannot be worked with. No ethnic group must be looked down upon as all communities are saddled with distinct weaknesses;
- The gospel is also meant to be proclaimed to our worst enemies, through us being vessels of the Holy Spirit .We have the treasure though we are not the treasure(2 Cor 4:7);
- GOD is ever-ready to forgive us after repentance. Repentance is not an option. The sinner lives on borrowed time. GOD is ready to withdraw his protection from the unrepentant sinner;
- GOD presides over nature to bring about His own agenda. All events, no matter how trivial, are within GOD’s sovereign plan in order that He may be glorified;
- We should avoid the error of passing judgement on GOD’s sovereignty from our humanistic perspective. God is never on trial—man is;
- Sin is any act that causes us to be separated from the presence and plan of GOD;
- Bitterness if unchecked, gives rise to disobedience and anger towards GOD.A foul nature results and manipulative tendencies arise. This is of no use in the spread of GOD’s word;
- Our faith in Christ is the badge we carry: we must be ever ready to testify this to the unbeliever, whether in a storm or in another country;
- GOD answers fervent prayer made in distress;
- The love for GOD is our spiritual compass: without this, all else wrecks havoc when living in the will of GOD;
- Charles Spurgeon said that the loss to Jonah was:
- The presence and enjoyment of GOD’s love;
- The absence of peace of mind;
- Everything that he could draw on for future comfort
- His time
NOTE: Tony Dibble worships at Endeavour Christian Gathering (ECG), in Perth, Western Australia. Prior to this, he was attending the Church of Our Holy Saviour (COHS), in Labuan, East Malaysia. When in Kuala Lumpur, he worships and preaches at Faith Oasis Fellowship (FOF) Subang Jaya, Selangor.
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