“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:1–2, NIV84)
Today we begin a series of devotions on the book of Jonah. There is much to be discovered in this short little book. I pray, as we learn more about the heart of Jonah, we also learn more about our own hearts. But most importantly, I pray that we learn more about the heart of God.
So, the word of the Lord came to Jonah. This is the sign of a profound calling. The Word of God comes to Jonah in such a way that he knows that God wants him to speak on His behalf. This is the call of every pastor. We are compelled by God to proclaim to the world around us what we hear from God. Jonah was such a man. He had received such a call. But there was something very unique about Jonah’s call. He was one of the rare prophets called to proclaim a message in a foreign land. Indeed, he was the first global evangelist. Most prophets were called to do their preaching within the nations of Judah and Israel. Jonah was sent by God to Nineveh. Nineveh was a powerful city within the powerful country of Assyria. They were a wicked and ruthless people. In war, they would perform some of the most heinous acts upon their captors. In normal life, they were hedonistic and cruel. It is to this group of people that Jonah was called to go and preach. And what is the message he was to convey to the great city of Nineveh? Their wickedness had gotten so bad that it had reached God and He was now going to act. Jonah was called to preach “against” the people of the city of Nineveh. He was called to speak words of impending doom and judgment coming from the hand of God.
So what if we were Jonah? What if the Lord was calling us to preach a similar message to a nation or people in our world today? Alongside God’s call would come all of our own thoughts and feelings about God’s nature, and the people we were called to speak to. We would have our theological bent, our political preferences, our moral and social inclinations all rising to the surface as we contemplate the call of God to “Go!” So why is any of that important? We will learn very soon that Jonah ran into some real problems separating His thoughts and feelings from the objective call he received from God. In the end, Jonah was being asked to understand the heart and will of God and to be obedient to his call. Is it any different in our lives today? You don’t have to be a pastor or teacher to have the call of God on your heart. We each have been commissioned by God to be ambassadors and witnesses to the faith we have in Jesus. As we look out at the world that God is asking us to witness to, like Jonah, we too may have difficulty separating our thoughts and feelings about God and the people He has called us to witness to. It is so important in these moments that our understanding of God’s heart is clear and correct. As we will learn from the life of Jonah, a false understanding of the heart of God will destroy the message and the messenger.
May our witness of Jesus be unblemished by our personal thoughts and feelings, and may it be a simple reflection of the heart of God.