Most of us know the story of Jonah from our Sunday School days. Alongside David and Goliath, Moses and the 10 Commandments, and the birth of Jesus, it is one of the “ripping yarns” that grip children’s imagination as they hear the adventures of Bible heroes.
Have you ever wondered, “Why did God include them in his word? What might he have been saying when the stories were written and what truths might they tell us today?” These are good questions, for if we don’t ask, they will forever be just exciting children’s stories, of little relevance to us in later years. But the Bible is God’s word telling us about him and what his plans are for his creation. If we dig a little deeper, we might find just why Jonah’s story exists and what God might be saying to us today?
I call Jonah the “reluctant missionary”. It seems that never has a person made such effort to not do what God asked him to do. God said, “Go east”; Jonah went west. God said, “Warn your enemies of judgement.” Finally Jonah obeyed, but his heart wasn’t in it. The Assyrians were Israel’s dreaded enemy. Surely, they did not deserve God’s grace. They were beyond redemption. Jonah was not happy but he preached as God directed. He wanted the Assyrians wiped out. But that wasn’t God’s plan and…nothing seemed to happen: the city did not burn. However, something had happened: 120,000 people repented of their wrongdoings and turned to God. And God forgave them!
You may have known some bad people, considered beyond redemption. But are they? Amazingly, God’s love reaches even to the most wicked. But who will tell them they can accept his forgiveness and be free? Are you a “reluctant missionary?