Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh” (Jonah 1:1-2).
God spoke plainly to Jonah and instructed him to visit the capital city of Israel’s enemies with a message of repentance and, ultimately, grace. Yet Jonah refused. Why did Jonah — and why do we still today, as recipients of the Great Commission — disobey God?
We might summarize Jonah’s problems as flowing from: 1) his character (and that of national Israel’s) which was proud and selfish; 2) the character of Nineveh’s inhabitants, because they were capital to the wicked nation of Assyria and Jonah felt they did not deserve God’s revelation or correction; and 3) God’s character, which Jonah knew to be compassionate and merciful, even to the point of forgiving repenting Gentiles. Jonah did not want the unpopular job of preaching repentance to Israel’s undeserving enemies, recognizing that God might then have mercy on them.
Jonah did not want the unpopular job of preaching repentance to Israel’s undeserving enemies, recognizing that God might then have mercy on them.
Likewise, if we are not going into all the world to preach the gospel, as Jesus has plainly instructed us (Matthew 28:19-20), then we doubtless have one or more of these problems ourselves!
Perhaps we are too proud and selfish to make ourselves uncomfortable for the sake of others. No matter how much we declare a gospel of grace, we often feel down deep as though we are better than the unbelievers around us.
Or (closely related) we simply don’t feel that the dirty sinners we see on the street corner, or in the corner office at our workplace, are worthy of God’s message. They seem too happy in sin, or have made too many mistakes, or (like Ninevah for Jonah) have hurt us too much personally to deserve the gospel message.
A reluctance to share the gospel with others always has at its heart some problem with the character of God.
And, frankly, a reluctance to share the gospel with others always has at its heart some problem with the character of God. Either we don’t believe God is strong enough to convert others, or we don’t want him to convert others, or we don’t think his glory is important enough to convert others.
The lesson Jonah learned, then, is good for all of us, isn’t it? Truly, salvation belongs to the Lord!