The Cloud of Witnesses
Former title Lessons From the People of the Bible
Lesson 4: Jonah – Successful Missionary
Jonah was a callous, selfish and heartless person. He acted childishly and was a pathetic example of humanity. He was protective and demanding and thought he had a monopoly on God. He got upset with God because He ‘changed His mind.’ He sulked, not so much because his message was proved wrong, but that God had kept to His character and relented.
He moaned that he went off to Tarshish because he knew God would not punish the Ninevites. “I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (v 2). (Why do you have to be that way? Why can’t you just kill these evil people – they deserve it?) “Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live”(v 3).
What a pathetic little man Jonah really was. “But the Lord replied, ‘Have you any right to be angry?’ ”(v 4)
Then we read about the issue with the vine or gourd, which grew up and gave Jonah shade to revive him and the worm that came along and destroyed it with the help of the sun and wind. Jonah carried on in his self-indulgent, self-pitying way. Because he then felt faint, he said, “It would be better for me to die than live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do” he said, “I am angry enough to die”(v 8 – 9).
Man! Has this guy got an attitude problem, or what? Self-centred, bitter and chauvinistic. He doesn’t care a ‘fig’ about anyone else. They can go to Hell as far as he is concerned – he is more interested in his own comfort. In fact, he was interested only in himself and his own needs.
What a detestable little man Jonah really was.
Hello! Hello! Have you looked in a mirror recently? I have deliberately ‘exposed’ Jonah, to try to show what is at the bottom and root of his character and attitudes. Why? Because we are the same. God has given us Jonah to be a mirror. To show us what we are so often like. God wants us to change.
He wants us to become like Jesus, not Jonah. Someone who gives himself/herself for the benefit of others. The ‘Good News’ is not for us to keep to ourselves. It is for us to give away to those who desperately need it.
Stop wanting the Church to meet just your needs and start giving the ‘Good News’ to those who are on their way to Hell. Without God and without hope in this world (see Ephesians 2: 12).
‘Throw Jonah overboard’ and become more like Jesus.
You see, God is passionate in His love for people who don’t know Him – even those who reject Him and carry on living in disobedience and rebellion. His love engulfs each one. And just as it took a miracle for us to become a Christian, God has a miracle ready for them. Sometimes He needs to be able to use us in order to release it.
Jonah would say to us today...
God is passionate about the people who don’t know Him. If you want to experience the highest joys there are in life, spend your life introducing people to Jesus.
Father, please forgive me for keeping the Good News of Your salvation to myself. Give me a glimpse of Your aching heart and release in me that same longing to see more and more people set free by You. Amen.
Luke 4:14-21; John 3:1-21; Romans 10:1-17.
Who are the people you are praying for to become Christians?
What are you ‘doing’ about it?
Have you experienced the joy that comes through leading someone to Christ?