Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lessons from Jonah and Roy Holladay Post

Mr. Roy Holladay of United Church of God posted about lessons from the book of Jonah regarding the Church's work of preaching the gospel and a warning message to the public. You can read his post here:

I thought the post is good, and it helps to show why the Church of God needs to have zeal for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

God planned a punishment for Nineveh, but was determined that Nineveh would have a warning first, and sent Jonah to deliver the warning. Jonah refused at first, but God was determined to give Nineveh a warning before He punished them. God made sure that the warning was delivered, and Nineveh BELIEVED the message and repented, so God withheld the punishment He had planned for them (Jonah chapters 1 through 3).

Why was God determined to get a warning message out to Nineveh? The answer becomes clear in Jonah 4:11: "And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?"

God's motive was love. He loved the people of Nineveh. Jonah didn't, but God did.

God hasn't changed. He is still a God of love. That is why God wants a warning message to go out to all Israel in our time. And if we love God and love our neighbors, we should be filled with zeal to get that message out to the nations who need to hear it.

"You shall love your neigbhor as yourself," is one of the two great commandments (Leviticus 19:17-19, Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:29-31). An application of this law is given in Proverbs 24:11: "Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter." The only way we can save and "hold back" those in our nations who are stumbling to the slaughter because of their sins is to warn them.

Teaching is an act of love, an act of kindness and mercy. When John the Baptist questioned if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus told John's disciples to tell John, "The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them" (Matthew 11:5). What does preaching the gospel to the poor have in common with healing the blind, the lame, the deaf, and the lepers, and raising the dead? They are all acts of mercy and compassion.

One of the applications of God's law of love is that we do to others as we want done to us: "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12). Do we want to be warned and taught? Are we glad that God warned us and preached the gospel to us through the sacrifices of others before us so we can know the truth? Are we glad to have the truth we have because of Mr. Armstrong's zeal and the zeal of the membership of the Church of God in Mr. Armstrong's day, to get the gospel out over radio, TV, and magazine publishing? If so, we should likewise sacrifice so others can have that same truth. But if not, if we do not appreciate God's truth, God is able to take it from us.

Suppose you were driving on a dark, winding road. There is a stalled car up ahead, and it could cause an accident. Would you not want someone to put up flares so you can be warned and slow down and avoid a crash that might injure or kill you and your loved ones? Would the person putting up the flares be showing love to you, his neighbor? Or suppose you live in an apartment and the building is on fire while you are sleeping. Would you not want someone to knock on the door to warn you and your family to get out?

Giving a warning to those who need it is an act of love.

Notice Jesus' compassion towards the crowds, and how He expressed that compassion: "And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things" (Mark 6:34). Jesus expressed love and compassion towards the people by teaching them.

Preaching the gospel to the world as a witness, giving the Ezekiel warning, "public proclamation" as it is called, is an expression of love towards our neighbors and a fulfilling of the second great commandment.

But it also shows love towards God.

Giving a warning message to all Israel before the tribulation begins glorifies God's name because it demonstrates His fairness in giving a warning while there is still time to repent. As I point out in my website, Preaching the Gospel, when the tribulation begins, our people will not be able to blame God, saying, "we never had a warning." They will remember our message, and they will know that God was fair to give them a warning, which they did not heed. That will make it easier for them to accept responsibility, saying, "I should have listened," rather than blame God, saying, "I never had a chance." Accepting responsibility for their choices is a first step towards repentance.

In chapter four of my book, I give many quotes of Holocaust survivors who went through the Nazi concentration camps, and in many cases those who believed in God lost faith in God because they could not understand why God would allow it. Our people could react the same way in the tribulation if they do not hear a message explaining what will happen, why it will happen, and what they need to do.

The Church of God needs to be on fire with zeal, motivated by love towards God and love towards neighbor, to make sacrifices and to go all out to preach God's truth to the public. In this matter, Mr. Holladay is right.

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Responsibility of a Watchman, Chapter 3

The Ezekiel Warning, Chapter 3

Why the Gospel Must Still Be Preached to the World, Chapter 4

Is the Church Commissioned to Preach the Gospel to the World?, Chapter 5

The Effect of the Holocaust, Chapter 4

The Two Witnesses and God's Fairness, Chapter 4