God has called us. This statement is unquestionable. As believers, God has a mandate on our lives, that he expects us to fulfill. This call is always related to the great commission. God longs to save souls, and we as his co-labourers are always involved.
Jonah received such a call from God. He could have been a lay prophet or a vocational prophet, scripture does not indicate his profession. Most likely he was like many of you who have a regular job, but are also involved in ministry. Upon receiving the missional mandate – to proclaim a message of impending judgement to Nineveh, he fled. Not towards Nineveh, but away. He fled because he was afraid of the Ninevites who were from Assyria, and enemies of Israel. These were known to be brutal and very menacing in disposition. He fled because he feared God. Ultimately he fled because he was selfish.
This problem of selfishness pertains not just to Jonah in his day, but also to us in ours. Our modern world is rampant with self-idolatry. Believer and unbeliever alike, are found to focus on themselves, instead of others. Many of us are concerned with our families, our jobs, our wellbeing, etc. As believers we often spiritualize our selfishness. Spending oodles of time devoting to spiritual edification which limits our time with the poor.
Jonah eventually makes it to his destination, and delivers God’s judgement to Nineveh. As he awaits God’s blast of destruction, prophesied by Jonah to arrive in 40 days, he is grossly disappointed. The Ninevites believe the message, repent of their sins, and find God’s favour and forgiveness. Our friend, Jonah is surprisingly discouraged. Possibly partially because of the cultural hatred of the Assyrians, and also to preserve the accuracy of his prophetic word, Jonah opposes God’s mercy upon the Ninevites.
Though he doesn’t see it this way, Jonah exposes his selfish heart. He is more worried about fulfilling personal agendas than God’s desire.
God in order to expose Jonah’s heart allows a tree to grow in the hot desert sun overnight. Jonah finds refuge under this tree, but God causes it to die suddenly. Thus Jonah, exposed to the elements, combined with his frustration at God finds himself depressed to the point of death. Upon inquiry, Jonah reveals to God his frustration about the death of the tree. God uses this as a hook, and reveals Jonah’s carnal preferential treatment for a tree rather than 120,000 human lives hanging in the balance at Nineveh. Selfishness to the uttermost, thus again is abundant in Jonah visage.
Before throwing stones at Jonah, think about yourself. What discourages or destabilizes you? Is it trivial issues, or life and death affairs?
Granted life brings its challenges often warranting emotional responses, but surely these pale in significance when it comes to the salvation of souls. You may have cried over a job loss, a relationship break down, or harsh words of rejection. However have you shed a tear for your lost loved one? Does the fear of hell grip you, or is it a dull consciousness in your mentality?.
While judging Jonah for being selfish, let’s remember to judge ourselves. For we often get sucked into the vortex of life’s forces, while ignoring the spiritual reality of the fate of the lost of this world.
Lord, may we share your burden for the doomed of this world. Bring the tears of Christ to our hearts. Let selfishness away from our hearts. Open our eyes to spiritual reality, that your call for the lost may forever be our one desire, and the cry of our heart.
– Pastor Olu Jegede