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.