If you've ever heard of Jonah, I assume it is because he was swallowed by a big fish. But there's more to him than just that.
Jonah was one of God's prophets, specifically during the Assyrian Empire. Assyria harassed Israel for the past 50 years, but by the time Jonah came to the scene Israel was enjoying a military comeback (2 Kings 14:25). Jonah, along with the prophets before him, called Israel to turn from their faithlessness to faithfully walking with God.
"He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah."
So Jonah enjoyed quite the successful ministry in Israel, so one would expect this successful prophet to be sent to Nineveh. But Jonah did not want to go - at all.
Assyria, to put it kindly, was not one of the good guys. Violence was their way of life, and they were proud of it. Historians tell us they flayed their enemies, putting their corpses on pikes around conquered cities.
And they attacked Israel, conquering towns and cities. It is no wonder Jonah ran the other way. He hated them, believing that being an Israelite is better and more deserving of God's love.
This is where we see Jonah hated the heart of God. God loves. This is why he sent his son, Jesus, and it is why Jesus sends his people into the world (Jn. 3:16; 17:18). This has always been God's design. Even in the beginning, God created his people to be a blessing to the world (Gen. 12:3). In other words, God loves THROUGH his people. God loves us so that he can love others. Later, in an intimate back-and-forth with God, we see Jonah saying: "I did not want to come to Nineveh because I know your heart. I know you'll save them, for you are gracious and kind" (Jonah 4:3).
This raises two very crucial questions for us. We are a church committed to being an open door to all those who are curious in the way of Jesus. It is our job to love others well so that they too can know the love of God.
So here are the two questions:
- What prevents you from loving others?
There are many manifestations of pride throughout our culture, even within our heart: politics, class, ethnicity, age, generation, income, education, where you live, etc. What is it that prevents you from loving others?
- Who is God sending you to?
God has put people in your life to love so that they can know the love of God. Who are they?