Summary: We are to share God's passion for reaching the nations.
Title: Why Care?
Text: Jonah 4:1-11
Truth: We are to share God’s passion for reaching the nations.
Aim: I want believers to express this passion by praying for missionaries and giving to
Life Question: Why should I care whether others hear God’s message of salvation?
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Frodo, the young hobbit, has been given the burden of bearing the one ring of power. The ring has the power of plunging Middle Earth into the darkness and terror that is just beginning to spread. With a fellowship of different characters, he is determined to destroy the ring by throwing it into the volcano from which it was forged. He will be going into enemy territory where the people are monsters of cruelty and pure evil. It is a frightening road ahead and he laments to Gandalf the Wise that the burden of the ring ever came to him in the first place:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf. “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Frodo and his friends, though reluctantly, begin their frightening journey with their great burden. Despite severe testing they keep moving forward because failure means the doom of Middle Earth. The Bible contains many stories like this. Noah spent one hundred years faithfully building the ark to save the human family. Abraham was a pilgrim all his life in order to create a family and find a land that God would use to eventually bring forth the Savior. The ultimate example is Jesus who would not be turned from going to the cross in order to bring salvation. Stories like these are what we are expecting when God calls the prophet Jonah to take the message of salvation to the cruel Ninevites. We could not be more wrong.
The book of Jonah is a book of surprises. For example, other books of the Old Testament have prophets speaking a word of judgment against the surrounding pagan nations but Jonah actually travels to the judged nation. Often Old Testament prophets are revealed as less than perfect but are still seen as the noble messengers of God; this is not the case with Jonah. He is not shown in a favorable light. Moses and Jeremiah were reluctant and shrank back from their assignments, but Jonah is not even hesitant. He flatly refuses to go. Pagan sailors show more compassion for Jonah than he shows for an entire population that will soon experience the judgment of God on their city like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jonah is saved from drowning by being swallowed by a great fish. He travels submarine style back to where he was supposed to be. This cranky prophet is used by God to bring the greatest revival recorded in Scripture to some of the hardest sinners in Scripture.
What is the point of the book of Jonah? Why did God include it in the Bible? That is a question you should ask of every book in the Bible. Until you have answered that question you are not ready to properly interpret anything in this precious book.
The story of Jonah was written to Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon. The people who surrounded them saw them as enemies. It must have been easy to believe the whole world hated them and, therefore, they felt justified to hate the whole world. The natural reaction would be to gather in their group to protect themselves. The book of Jonah challenges God’s people to rise above their hatred of others and see the world through the eyes of their Creator God. The only thing that equals God’s power to churn the seas is His love for His creation. God hates nothing He has made. He yearns to restore it to Himself.
Why do we care about two billion people who live and die and have never even heard the name of Jesus? Why do we offer gospel tracts along with candy on Halloween? The simple answer is because God cares about them. Because His Spirit lives in us, we share His passion to reach the nations.
Jonah, by contrast rather than by example, gives us reasons why we are to share God’s passion to reach the nations. Why should we want to reach the nations? I want to answer that by discussing three topics: God’s love, God’s people, and the lost world. First, God’s love is bigger than our borders.
I. GOD’S LOVE: BIGGER THAN OUR BORDERS (Jonah 4:1-3)
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious. (2) He prayed to the Lord: "Please, Lord, isn't this what I said while I was still in my own country? That's why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster. (3) And now, Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."