The prophet Elisha was Jonah’s predecessor, and it’s likely that Jonah had been a member of Elisha’s school of the prophets. So why the interest in this OT prophet. Because along with being the only person in the Bible to be swallowed by a large fish and live to tell about it, Jonah was the first missionary to be sent by God to a foreign nation.
Jonah was what we could call an isolationist. He believed that salvation was for the Jews, and for the Jews only. As such, Jonah was thrown into a theological conundrum and personal crisis when given this command from God, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2).
The Book of Jonah tells how he resisted the call of God, and how God turned him around by way of a large fish. So Jonah went to Nineveh and did what the Lord commanded. Jonah’s message is the shortest sermon recorded in the Bible, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” That’s it. Noah preached for one-hundred years and no one except his family responded. Jonah preached a one-sentence message for forty days to Nineveh and everyone responded!
Jonah might be the only missionary in history who became angry because people responded to the message in repentance. The end of the book closes with Jonah getting an attitude adjustment. It also reveals the heart of God for lost people.
The Great Commission doesn’t start with us. It doesn’t even start with the lost. It starts with the heart of God that does not want anyone to perish, but all to repent (2 Peter 3:9). Jonah might have thought, “If I don’t care, why should God?” The truth is, “Because God cares, so should we.”
April is missions month at River of Life. Having just celebrated the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, how appropriate that our focus now turns to the command given to the women at the empty tomb, “But go tell…” (Mark 16:7). Our missions theme is Every Tribe, Every Nation.
Just as the Lord’s mission is our mission (John 20:21), His passion should be our passion. I pray that God will birth a passion in our hearts for reaching the lost — everyone (Rev. 7:9), everywhere (Romans 15:20), and every way (1 Cor. 9:22).
Pastor Todd Weston