Dr. Kevin Oberlin, Global Connections Coordinator
Jonah, a book that foreshadows New Testament evangelism, is a favorite among God’s people. Maybe that’s because the book demonstrates not only God’s sovereignty, but also His great mercy. In fact, these two major themes run throughout the book.
A brief survey demonstrates divine sovereignty: God appointed Jonah (1:1, 3:1), sent a wind (1:4), rescued Jonah (2:6, 9), commanded a fish (2:10), appointed a plant (4:6), appointed a worm (4:7) and sent a scorching east wind (4:8). Jonah was unable to escape God, even when he tried to flee from the Lord’s presence (1:3, 1:10). In fact, there was nowhere—not even Sheol—that God did not hear Jonah’s voice (2:2).
The second major theme is God’s mercy or compassion. Jonah knew that God is “gracious and compassionate…slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindess, and one who relents concerning calamity” (4:2, NASB). If Jonah knew this about God, why was he so resistant? After all, God not only spared the mariners (1:14) and the city of Nineveh (3:10), but also Jonah himself (1:17)!
The climax of the narrative for Jonah was not when God spared his life, but when He mercifully revealed to the wayward missionary his depraved way (4:10-11). By his own bitterness, Jonah demonstrated that he himself deserved judgment. After all, chosen people are no less culpable for their rebellion. Jonah didn’t deserve mercy. To him, mercy was good when it involved his own lot, but not Nineveh, a huge city filled with “more than 120,000 persons who [did] not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals” (4:11).
The lesson Jonah learned is for all of God’s people—for you and for me. We can easily take the tender mercies of a sovereign God for granted by claiming exclusive rights to what God Himself initiated. Jonah must have learned the lesson, because he wrote of his own failures for Israel’s (and our) benefit.
How is God teaching you of His sovereignty and compassion for all people? It is so easy for any believer to take God’s sovereign mercies for granted. Believers today may attempt to claim exclusive rights to God’s love and compassion, but we would all do much better to learn the missionary lesson from Jonah.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.