I want to spend the next few weeks studying the book of Jonah. I don’t have space in these devotionals to provide lots of commentary, so I would encourage you to check out the sermons: ww.paultripp.com/jonah.
Today we’ll look at the first three verses: “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
Why did Jonah run from God? Some commentators would argue that we have no clear explanation, but I believe that Scripture interprets Scripture, and in Chapter 4, we get a window onto Jonah’s heart: Jonah ran from God because Jonah didn’t share the heart of God.
There are three areas of divergence between the heart that motivated God and the heart that motivated Jonah.
First – Jonah didn’t share God’s grief. God looked at Nineveh and was deeply broken. How could creation live in such opposition to the original plan? Sin robs people and families and cultures of what was meant to be beautiful.
The Church of Jesus Christ should be the saddest community on earth. We should look at our neighbors and grieve over the people missing out on God’s best for their life. But like Jonah, we’re often too selfish to care.
Second – Jonah didn’t share God’s zeal. God’s grief never results in passive lamenting; it results in zealous action. From the moment sin entered the world, God was crafting a plan to deliver his creation from bondage. Sending Jonah to Nineveh was part of this zealous plan for worldwide redemption.
The Church of Jesus Christ should be the most active community on earth, zealous to love our neighbors and reach the lost. God’s plan is that those living around you would hear the Gospel of salvation, through you. But like Jonah, we’re often too passive to care.
Third – Jonah didn’t share God’s grace. God sent a prophet to Nineveh, not to condemn, but to save. Yes, he would expose their sin in the process, but “the Lord is patient … not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
The Church of Jesus Christ should be the most forgiving community on earth. We’re more like our lost neighbors than unlike them, so how hypocritical is it for us to lead with the law instead of grace? But like Jonah, we’re often too self-righteous to care.
Jonah failed to share the heart of God, and as a result, he failed to care for the lost. If you want have an effective ministry and reach those far from God, start with your heart. Programs and strategies are important, but they’re useless without a heart filled with grief, zeal, and grace.
Let’s not be too hard on Jonah; every day we run away from the call of God. But don’t be too hard on yourself, either. Jonah is included in Scripture because we do fail and we do run, only to be rescued by God’s grace once again. This prophet’s testimony gives hope to selfish, lazy, and hypocritical rebels like me and you.
Paul David Tripp
- How did you run from God’s call on your life this week?
- Think of a moment when you failed to share God’s grief. How would you have responded differently sharing his heart?
- Think of a moment when you failed to share God’s zeal. How would you have responded differently sharing his heart?
- Think of a moment when you failed to share God’s grace. How would you have responded differently sharing his heart?
- How does the Lord’s response to Jonah give you hope for your daily struggles?