Monday, July 16, 2018

Jonah's Warning Message

There are many lessons from the book of Jonah. The book of Jonah is a prophecy about Christ and a sign of His Messiahship (Matthew 12:39-40, Luke 11:29-30). This is emphasized in a sermon given by Mr. Dexter Wakefield. Mr. Wakefield also pointed out something I had not noticed before. When Jonah fled from God the first time God told him to give a warning message to Nineveh, and the ship he was on was threatened with destruction, Jonah told the men to throw him overboard (Jonah 1:10-12). As Jonah being in the fish and in the sea three days and nights was prophecy about Christ being in the grave three days and nights, so it is also symbolic that, just as the death of Christ reconciles us to God, so the men on the ship were saved after they threw Jonah overboard - the sea became calm for them (Jonah 1:14-16).

Here is a link to Mr. Wakefield's sermon:

There are many lessons for us in the book of Jonah. Mr. Wakefield concentrated on the sign of Jonah being fulfilled in Christ and gave historical background to help explain why the Ninevites were so wicked and why they took God's warning from Jonah seriously.

I would like to cover an additional lesson from Jonah.

One lesson is the need for the Church of God to deliver God's warning message to the nations.

Today the Church of God is scattered into many fellowships. Some of these fellowships make little or no effort to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning of the punishment of the great tribulation to come upon the nations of Israel if they do not repent. They say that this is not the time because the Church needs to first concentrate on overcoming and drawing closer to God before we preach to the public.

They say that the Church of God has problems and we must get our act together. We must reconcile with the Father more than we have in the past before we preach to others. We need to be spiritually healed. They say, God will not bring members into the Church if we are not setting a good example for them. The Church is in such bad shape today that God will not call new members into the Church until we overcome our problems and draw closer to God and set a better example. Only then will God bless the preaching of the gospel to bring in new members.

Whether they mention the "beam in the eye" analogy that Christ gave or not, it is likely that many of them have it in mind when they teach that this is not the time for the Church to preach to the public. "And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" (Matthew 7:3-5).

This point of view may seem to make sense until you look deeper. You have to look at all the scriptures on a subject and let the Bible interpret the Bible.

The fallacy in this way of thinking is the idea that we are doing the correcting when we deliver God's warning message to the people. If that were the case, then indeed the "beam in the eye" principle would apply. We would need to get the beam out of our own eye so we can see clearly to get the speck out of our brother's eye.

But that is not the case. We are not correcting the public. It is not our message. God is correcting the public, through us. It is God's message of correction. We are only the delivery man delivering the message from God.

And God is more than qualified to correct the world for its sins. God has no beam in His eye that He has to remove to see clearly how to correct the world.

And He commands us to deliver His message (Proverbs 24:11-12, Ezekiel 3:4, 17-21, Matthew 10:5-7, Matthew 28:19-20, Matthew 10:27).

Does God use those who have faults to deliver His corrective message? Yes. Jonah is proof of that.

If there was an example of an Old Testament prophet of God who needed to be spiritually healed, who had character and spiritual problems, who needed to seek a greater reconciliation with God, it was Jonah.

Jonah did not have a right attitude towards God. He disrespected God's authority. God gave him a job to do and he ran from it (Jonah 1:1-3). Later, after God punished him and brought him to repentance, he delivered the message he was told to deliver. But still, his attitude was not right. His preaching brought about a great repentance, and God spared Nineveh as a result, but Jonah was displeased by that (Jonah 3:4-10, 4:1-4). How far his mind was from God's mind! How unlike God was His thinking. He did not have love for his neighbors, the Ninevites. He was angry towards God because of God's mercy.

Later, because a plant died, Jonah was angry towards God, angry enough to die (Jonah 4:6-9).

Those are pretty serious spiritual problems. Jonah certainly had a beam in his eye that prevented him from seeing things clearly.

But God saw things clearly, and God saw that the Ninevites needed a warning message. And God commanded Jonah to preach God's message exactly as God framed the message. "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you" (Jonah 3:2). God knew what the Ninevites needed to hear even if Jonah did not.

And the message got results. Nineveh repented.

Jonah's spiritual problems and bad attitude did not prevent the message he delivered from God from getting good results. The people repented.

If God did not intend those who have serious spiritual problems to deliver His warning messages to those who need it, He would not have used Jonah to deliver a warning to Nineveh.

The fact that the Church has spiritual problems is NOT an excuse to disobey God's commands to preach the gospel to the world and a warning message to Israel.

In fact, refusing to obey God's command to warn the wicked is itself a spiritual problem that needs to be corrected.

Jonah's reluctance to deliver God's warning to Nineveh may be a prophecy of the Church of God's reluctance to deliver God's warning to the nations of Israel today.

There is one more example of one who was unrighteous that God used to preach the gospel. That example is Judas.

Judas was not clean in God's sight (John 13:10-11). He was a thief (John 12:4-6). He betrayed Christ and later committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-5). Christ said he would have been better off if he had never been born (Mark 14:18-21). You can't get much worse than that.

Yet, Christ used Judas as an apostle. He was called an apostle (Matthew 10:1-4). Judas, along with the other eleven apostles, preached the gospel, cast out demons, healed the sick, and baptized (Matthew 10:5-9, John 4:1-2). Some of the 120 who received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost may have been baptized by Judas. Judas was apparently just as effective as the other apostles in preaching the gospel and performing miracles, because they didn't know that he was the one to betray Christ. They had to ask Christ who the betrayer was (John 13:21-26). Judas seemed to be the same as all the apostles.

Now, how could Christ have used Judas, a man with a beam in his eye, to correct and teach the world? The answer is that the message Judas preached was not Judas's message - it was Christ's message, and Christ received it from the Father. Judas and the other apostles (and they had faults too, though not as serious as Judas's) only delivered God's message, not their own, just as Jonah was commanded to deliver God's message, not his own.

I don't disagree with those that say that the Church of God has problems. But we still need to deliver God's message to the public as He commands us. We won't draw closer to God, be reconciled with the Father, and be spiritually healed by running away from our responsibilities as Jonah tried to do.

Does that mean that our spiritual condition has no effect on the success of our efforts to preach the gospel and the warning message? No, I am not saying that. The more we obey God, the closer we are to God, the more God will bless us and bless our efforts to preach the gospel and the warning. Drawing closer to God, being reconciled with the Father, being spiritually healed, overcoming our sins - all of these things help us be successful in delivering God's message to the world.

It is the Philadelphians who are promised an open door, not Laodiceans.

But we have to do both at the same time. We have to obey God by delivering His message to the world even while we learn and develop the habit of obeying him in other ways. We cannot deliberately postpone or reject obedience to God's commands to warn the world and expect to be spiritually healed that way.

Those Church of God groups that want a closer relationship with God, but are not preaching the gospel, need to start preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world as best they can, even while they draw closer to God in other ways at the same time. And members who want to draw closer to God need to support a fellowship that is delivering God's message to the world, not just to the Church of God.