Summary: An exploration of the sin of Jonah in running away and how it relates to us.
You Can Run But You Can’t Hide
Rosemount Missionary Church
Dirty dishes are probably the greatest test for any serious and dedicated homemaker. After you have probably slaved all day getting the place in order or had to work outside the home and then had to prepare that sumptuous meal; finally you were able to sit down to eat and it felt good. Then you remember - the dirty dishes. Perhaps it is not a problem if you have a dishwasher: mechanical or human (spouse or children). But if you have to do them, especially those pots - it’s a test of anyone’s dedication to duty.
No matter how well you enjoy your job; there comes a time when your feelings of goodwill and natural enthusiasm to do your work are not enough. There are days when you don’t feel up to it. When you feel like calling in sick, taking the day off. And sometimes you might be able to get away with it; but many times the importance of the task, simply demands that you do it - whether you feel like it or not.
The story of Jonah is that kind of story. It tells about one man’s failure to do what he should. His task was to warn a whole nation of the impending wrath of God because of their sinful ways. But he chose not to do so. But probably even more revealing than his inattention to duty, is the fact that it is most likely that it is he himself who is responsible for writing the story. So he admits to his own failings. Jonah’s problem is our problem. He was given a task, it depended on him; BUT he abandoned the ship (so to speak), he abdicated his responsibility, he was absent from duty.
Ø Jonah’s sin is not our sin – we have passed the stage of excluding people on the basis of class, colour, educational status or nationality. Those up there or down there; haves and have-nots; the in and the out. We can’t identify anyone we don’t want to preach to. So then, what is the relevance of the text to us?
Ø We are concerned about Growth – we define growth as simply the creation of more persons or groups like us – expanding our numbers and filling out our buildings. Yet growth should more properly be defined as the impact of gospel in creating change in lives made better, fuller and more meaningful. Making us more civilized
Ø So as means to growth we engage in the evangelism from which Jonah runs away. But for many, evangelism is simply an exercise in marketing. Telling the benefits of our church so more people will join. Evangelism is about reaching new people and with the transforming message of the gospel. Evangelism helps us as much as it helps those who accept. It increases our numbers [baptism and statistics]; but to be thoroughly meaningful, it must lead to incorporating the newly baptized as brethren – teach brotherhood.
Ø From the story of Jonah, we are confronted with one temptation that we would do well to ignore. We must resist the temptation to be comfortable with our answers to people of the world about this world. To be so smug in the correctness of our message that we fail to engage in thoroughgoing and disciplined thinking though of the meaning of our faith. We are driven by the fear of change – fear of new vulnerability.
Ø Hence we must move from evangelism – ethical development. That is, move from simply throwing out the net to teaching those who would come, to embrace a new lifestyle; training them to become civilized; socializing them to conform to the image of Christ – and all of this issuing from an understanding of the Gospel.
Ø Giving something – daring to break new ground – jealous for God
In running away from responsibility, be careful of your motivation. Why it is that you choose not do what it is you are supposed to do? Why did Jonah run away? We only get a hint of his motive in 4:2. He did not want the people of Nineveh to repent having been warned of the impending danger. What was his motivation?
1. He sat in judgment of them and found them undeserving. Heathen and wicked.
2. Only instance of a prophet being sent to a heathen nation. Not only for the sins of Nineveh but also for the shame of Israel. A heathen city would hear the gospel once from a stranger and repent yet Israel would hear it repeatedly and not turn away from their sin.
3. Jealous for the prerogatives of his country - not willing that the Assyrians should share in the honour of divine revelation and forgiveness. Nationalism gone mad.