“In the charge given him, Jonah had been entrusted with a heavy responsibility; yet He who had bidden him go was able to sustain His servant and grant him success. Had the prophet obeyed unquestioningly, he would have been spared many bitter experiences, and would have been blessed abundantly.
Image © Stan Myers from GoodSalt.com
Yet in the hour of Jonah’s despair the Lord did not desert him. Through a series of trials and strange providences, the prophet’s confidence in God and in His infinite power to save was to be revived.” — Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 266.
“Thousands can be reached in the most simple and humble way. The most intellectual, those who are looked upon as the world’s most gifted men and women, are often refreshed by the simple words of one who loves God, and who can speak of that love as naturally as the worldling speaks of the things that interest him most deeply.” — Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 232.
- A “prophet of God” who is upset that the people God called him to witness to accepted salvation? How are we to understand this attitude on the part of Jonah? What a powerful example of God’s patience with His people, even when they act contrary to the light they have!
- Jonah’s story seems to suggest that God is not only in the business of saving wayward people but also very interested in transforming His followers. How can we get a “new heart” and a “new spirit” even if we already know the Lord and the truth for this time? What is the difference between knowing truth and being transformed by it?
- Read the book of Jude again. What is the essential message of the book, and why is that message relevant to us as a church today?
- How does the experience of working for the salvation of others do us so much spiritual good, as well?
- Whatever good reasons Jonah had, or thought he had, for not wanting to go to Nineveh, God had shown him how wrong he actually had been. What attitude might we have toward others that could reflect the same wrong attitude that Jonah displayed?
I underestimated the strength of Jonah's unwillingness to go to Nineveh until I did a bit of research. While it is unclear exactly where Tarshish was, there is strong evidence that it was on the coast of Spain outside the Mediterranean. Essentially that was the end of the world in those days. And it would have cost an arm and a leg. He didn't just go down to the local jetty and ask for a ticket to Tarshish, reach into his pocket for a bit of loose change and walk up the gangplank. He probably had to invest his life's savings in the venture. Clearly Jonah knew what he was up to. It was his mid-life crisis, change of life decision.
Yet God called him back. He was persistent. He had a job for Jonah to do.
Randy Pausch, the innovative, inspirational, Computer Science lecturer, gave a lecture entitled, "The Last Lecture", just 6 weeks before he died of pancreatic cancer. In it he tells the story of his high school football days. He was feeling pretty discouraged because the head coach had been on his case for the whole training session. "Do it this way!", "Faster, you idiot!" ... On the way back to the changing rooms one of the assistant coaches fell into step beside him.
He said, "Coach Jones was pretty tough on you today!"
Randy responded, "Yeah! I just wish he would stop yelling at me."
The assistant coach said, "No, it's good that he is yelling at you!"
"Why is that?"
"If he is shouting at you it means he still believes you are worth it. It's when he stops yelling that you have to start worrying!"
I am thankful for a persistent God!
The book of Jonah ends with God inviting Jonah to consider things from His (God's) 'higher' perspective (Isaiah 55:8,9). From that higher perspective, God sees that the Ninevites "don't know their right hand from their left" (Jonah 4:11). This phrase is a metaphor to mean the Ninevites didn't know right from wrong. That is a pretty interesting (or rather, mind-blowing) 'diagnosis' considering the reputation for the cruelty of the Assyrians in battle.
But while man looks on the outward appearance, God is looking far deeper underneath to the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). And God sees something in the heart of the Ninevites that is still capable of responding to His desire that none perish (2 Peter 3:9).
The depth of God's desire to save absolutely everyone who is willing - no matter what they have previously done - testifies to the depth of His compassion towards us. Compassion's strength lies in (a) its understanding of the dilemma the 'fallen/broken' person is in and correspondingly (b) the awakened empathy for the person in that fallenness/brokenness.
Contemplating the concluding verses of Jonah led my mind to a similar expression uttered by Jesus when He was the innocent victim of cruel treatment on the cross - Father forgive them, for they don't know their right hand from their left (paraphrase mine: Luke 23:34).
God was inviting Jonah to be open to adopting this same attitude of compassion towards others - especially the most seemingly undeserving. And God is inviting us to adopt the same. It is the thief (the invader) who seeks exclusively to steal, kill and destroy. It is God who (similarly exclusively) desires that none perish but instead, via repentance, be reunited back to abundant life once again through receiving a new heart and right spirit (John 10:10; 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:3-6: Ezekiel 36:26).
Phil; it’s my understanding that the saying they don’t know their right hand from their left is a Jewish idiom for children under four years old…Royce
Thanks Royce. I am/was not aware of this - though even if it is the case, metaphorically it portrays the same essential point: an immaturity of awareness (as per Kohlberg's 'stages' of moral reasoning theory).
"...the Ninevites didn't know right from wrong."
Yet they knew exactly what to repent of. Was this knowledge gained from Jonah's preaching? That would be my guess. So the gospel can only work where there is a knowledge of the law which has been trampled upon. Without this understanding, one would feel no need to repent.
I also believe what Jesus taught on this matter(John 16:8).
Absolutely the Holy Spirit is behind all true conviction (John 16:8) - but the degree of knowledge accompanying that conviction varies greatly according to an individual's life context.
God 'accommodates' and 'adapts' to where each person or people-group are at in order to reach them and then grow them from there. Thus, reflected across scripture, we see a broad 'spectrum' of points at which God connects with humans. For example, we have Jesus via Moses teaching emerging Israel "an eye for an eye", yet later teaching Jewish and Gentile listeners "not eye for eye, but turn the other cheek" - a deeper level of knowledge and development. Similarly we have Jonah's relatively straight-forward statement of fact to the Ninevites that with Spirit-conviction resulted in simple/basic - though nevertheless genuine - initial repentance as a prelude to apparent subsequent further development and restoration across time - compared with Peter's more elaborated post-Penticost speech that resulted in more 'knowledgable' repentance.
I note the Ellen White quotation that Shirley DeBeer has included in her comment below. I also note your further comment below.
Jesus did not teach that "and eye for an eye" was wrong, but that individuals were misapplying it in daily life. It remains the proper and just manner in dealing with civil cases, but should not define the individual Christian character of being vindictive or vengeful over every perceived insult. In this Jesus was encouraging mercy, grace, long-suffering...etc, but in a civil conviction of wrongdoing, eye for an eye is proper, and helps to check evil in a fallen world, and this was the context in which Moses gave it.
God's adapting is not to come down to the level of fallen humanity, but to raise fallen humanity up to the level of God's Standard of 10 definitions of sin/righteousness, or, the "good, acceptable, and perfect will of God"(Ps 40:8). This is the basic level which all, including children, may easily comprehend, and shows the necessity of teaching the law and gospel together. Separated, they have no power to save.
A question that came to my mind this week is - Why did the LORD at this time in particular send a message to this wicked city? Although the LORD didn't destroy it then, a time was coming when it would be destroyed.
When I read the above link to the writings of Ellen White I discovered that
Yet Nineveh, wicked though it had become, was not wholly given over to evil. He who “beholdeth all the sons of men” (Psalm 33:13) and “seeth every precious thing” (Job 28:10) perceived in that city many who were reaching out after something better and higher, and who, if granted opportunity to learn of the living God, would put away their evil deeds and worship Him. And so in His wisdom God revealed Himself to them in an unmistakable manner, to lead them, if possible, to repentance.
Like the LORD sent angels to lead Lot out of Sodom before He destroyed it.
Like the message of the 4th Angel to many in our day about the fall of Babylon:
Then I heard another voice calling from heaven, “Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her"
Are we like Jonah reluctant to announce the 3 Angels message to the wicked cities of the world? Are we upset that He is giving them a little more time to repent?
yes, there are so many Adventists who pray for the soon coming of Jesus, but really we should be praying for more people to come to know the truth!
Did the fear of destruction bring them to the Lord? Well the Holy Spirit had been working on their hearts before Jonah's message, actually God's message, Jonah 3:2, warning of what would happen if they did not repent.
"The Spirit of God pressed the message home to every heart and caused multitudes to tremble because of their sins and to repent in deep humiliation." PK 270.
"So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them." KJV — Jonah 3:5.
Does God accept us if we turn to Him out of fear and trembling? Yes! In the process if we stick with the Lord our fear is converted to service out of love. Why yes that is what being born of the Spirit and the water is all about. John 3:5.
What's in the Ninevites inhabitants experience for us? Christ said, be ye also ready for the time of My return will come at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:44.
Another lesson learned is that helping others with their salvation, helps us as much. It solidifies our faith in God, and confirms James information that faith by itself without works is dead. James 2:17.
If we are working for our Master, we are not working for our Salvation, rather working for our master. Doing for others plays an integral part in coming away from Babylon the Great, by not taking part in her sins. When we keep our minds on helping others, it helps keep our minds on Him. Thus sin becomes rubbish by that miraculous transformation of being born again. Prayer of wash me and I shall be whiter than snow, create in me a clean heart, is answered. Psalms 51:7,10.
Amen to a persistent God. Thank-you God for your longsuffering and persistence.
I think fully internalizing and so 'knowing' the Truth of God, speaking about it in the way of 'speaking of things that interest us most deeply', is an ongoing process. Jonah's example shows the new nature's heart and new spirit growing continuously; at its very core is God's love and forgiveness becoming ours.
...... 'men and women are often refreshed by the simple words of one who loves God - who can speak of that love as naturally as the 'spiritually uninspired' speaks of the things that interest him most deeply.'
I paraphrased Ellen White's comment a bit to express thoughts I contemplated for a while. Why are so many of us who have for years, some from childhood, studied the Word of God, still not able to comfortably speak of its Truth and Light using 'simple' (their own) words when explaining Scripture's spiritual Truth? Could it be that the Gospel Truth has not fully convinced/reached their heart and mind, or have they chosen to keep the simple form of faith, the faith of a child, not being able to answer 'why' or 'how'?
Yes, faith is a simple concept, being applied by little children who love their heavenly Father and follow His Truth. Though, many more layers of spiritual Truth are waiting for the older believer in age and faith to be uncovered; helping faith grow strong and speak to our fellow man using our own 'simple words' in loving acceptance of the seeker's curiosity.
Some Christians can quote Scripture passages from memory, some know the exact spot where a verse is located, know chapter and verse and quickly go to read it should someone ask a related question. Does this mean the person who can find chapter and verse knows the deeper spiritual Truth of God's Word, its Truth so important that we changed how we live our daily lives? Is it 'fear' or loving 'understanding' which causes us to walk this new Path of Life?
I find *how* Phil writes his comments very helpful. He uses his own, simple words to explain/uncover/reveal complex concepts of the deeper meaning of God's loving, saving Grace and Mercy. Maybe not everyone is interested or excited about gaining a deeper understanding. When it comes to having a conversation with our uninspired fellow man, though, we want to be able to explain the *'adhesive' - the spirit - that holds Scripture's words together and weaves them into the cloth used to fashion the mantle of our Salvation*; explaining to them their life-renewing meaning used in space/place and time - God's loving Mercy and Grace which forms our love, forgiveness, and full acceptance of our fellow man as a child of God, able to become the son or daughter of our heavenly Father.
From a certain perspective, the story of Jonah seems tragic due to his knowledge, ability, and experience, while his attitude reveals a character out of harmony with God's. Yet, this unconverted messenger is able to somehow lead an entire city of wicked heathen to repentance and faith. (Keep in mind that repentance isn't just saying "sorry!", it is actually turning away from sin and going in a right direction through the obedience of faith[Dan 4:27]. Anything less than this would be continuing on the same path which would have been overthrown at the end of the 40 days.) With more than 120,000 converts, this amazing result through Jonah's preaching is many times greater than Pentecost, which took place in a city which boasted of possessing the truth.
So how did this unconverted prophet have such success? Well, perhaps we see here an example of the stones crying out? This would be defined as having a knowledge of "truth" while being void of the experience. This success also reveals the involvement and "power of God"[Rom 1:16] to reach sinners through messengers who themselves may be lost, which the apostle Paul was earnest to avoid(1 Cor 9:27).
We don't know if Jonah eventually repented himself, but God was doing all He could to help him gain that victory.
Could it be that Laodicea is simply a church with many Jonahs?
Robert - If you would, please take a moment to reconsider your statements and let me know if you can see it differently:
- depicting Jonah as an 'unconverted' messenger. What is it that God overlooked to convert in His messenger Jonah?
- stating that Jonah, though 'unconverted', is able to somehow "lead an entire city of wicked heathen to repentance and faith." Who does the convicting, leading to repentance and faith and converting the living soul; Jonah does?
- comparing the result of the 'repentance' of the people of Nineveh to the Power of the Holy Spirit falling on all faithful followers of Jesus assembled in the Upper Room; filling them with power to go out and preach the Gospel of Christ to all nations. Did the Ninevits do likewise?
- asking: 'how did this 'unconverted' prophet have such success"? - comparing the Ninevites' repentance to possibly 'stones crying out - "having the knowledge of 'Truth' while being void of the experience." God's Truth reached/spoke to the heart of those who believed Jonah's message that there is a God in heaven in control of their life - they responded by faith and changed their ways - an experience!
- You note 'this success' (Nineveh's repentance) also reveals the involvement and "power of God". Can spiritual success come in any other way?
- Last but not least, you consider the 'church at Laodicea might simply be a church with many Jonahs.'
Rev.3:14-16KJV: "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the *beginning* of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
- Jonah was very hot - hot under his collar - not fueled entirely by the spiritual conviction that God is right all the time. He hoped that God would show some deference to his preference. Jonah is the example of the faithful - a work in progress!
Brigitte, were James and John converted when they asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to consume those Samaritans whom they felt had slighted Jesus? Was Balaam converted when blessing Israel? Does a prophet who travels far in the opposite direction act like one converted? Does the closing of this story sound like a converted worker for the Lord? The story ends without telling us if Jonah ever had a change of heart. He may have, but that remains to be told. I for one hope he did. What a story that would be!
Even in his state of disregard for the city of Nineveh, Jonah gave the message they needed to hear that would lead them to repent sincerely. They needed a rude awakening.
Regarding the "stones crying out", that was in reference to Jonah, not the repenting Ninevites. It is obvious that Jonah had "Truth", but can you honestly believe he had the experience of Truth? Yes, he was willing to die, but he'd rather die than be any part of saving that city.
Don't confuse the hot that Jesus wished to find in Laodicea with the hot anger of Jonah who wished to see the more than 120,000 Assyrians in flames, and being extremely disappointed that they weren't. He had more concern for a gourd than all those sons and daughters of Adam which God had promised to redeem(Gen 3:15).
How many Jonahs are in the Seventh-day Adventist Church??
Obie, the only honest and absolute answer is whether or not I am a Jonah. We are to "examine yourselves", not each other.