..A Magazine for all Christians · Nº 21 · May - June 2003

INDEX

The figure of Jonah is not only that of a reluctant prophet in Israel’s history. It is also a parable that contains many wonderful lessons for today’s Christians.

The duty of a prophet

David Vidal S.
Synthesis of a message shared in the Rucacura Conference (Chile) in January 2003.

In these days, the Lord has been placing a burden in my heart to make a call to the church. There are three reasons as to why I believe firmly that I should speak this word. First, because I believe that God’s heart beats for this word. Second, because, although before we were not a people, today we are the people of God. And third, because God has sent us to do work.

Brothers and sisters, we have God’s testimony, we have His promises, we have His grace, and we have Christ Himself. But there is a world that is being lost, a world that is heading toward the cliff. The church is rising, it is seeing more and more of Christ, a new man is being lifted up! It is the moment for that new man to go and look for the lost. Brothers and sisters, this call is urgent.

The prophet that runs

The Lord Jesus made mention of Jonah; he was a clear sign for Israel. Jonah is the official representative of what was the blind and legalistic Israel. It is the figure of a people who had the testimony in their hand, but kept everything for themselves.

Jonah is surprising. When studying this book, we will realize how similar he is to us. “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it: for their wickedness has come up before Me.

The first detail that we find is that it is the Word of God. It is not that Jonah had a feeling. It is not the church that has a feeling about leaving the world. It is God’s heart that is moving the church.

Jonah rose, but he doesn’t get up to do God’s will, but rather to escape from His presence. Nineveh was a big city. The people from Nineveh were Israel’s worst enemies. It was like today sending a North American to evangelize Al-Qaeda: “Go to the Muslims there, to Al-Qaeda, and try to locate Bin Laden, and take him Jesus Christ’s message.”

In his blindness, Jonah will have said: “Nineveh! And if they convert? No, no, no! I cannot go to Nineveh.” And he also met with a surprise: a ship leaving for Tarshish! A ship like this could not be found on just any day of the week. They took a long time, six or eight months, to prepare a load. But that day, the ship was there! And not only the ship, but also the money to pay the ship.

How terrible it is that we have the resources and are investing them in things that are not the will of God! How terrible it is that we have the possibilities and every time God calls us, we run away! Jonah could have felt in his heart: “perhaps God changed His mind. He put a ship in front of me, and the money. He has Amos to send to Nineveh.”

God’s “but”

In verse 4 we notice something: “But...” How blessed are God’s “buts”. When I am changing His will, when I am straying, he says: “But.” God had something prepared for Jonah. When he wants something with you, you won’t win. Thank you, Lord! Win me, Lord! My flesh wants to escape... Win me; give a “but” to my life!

But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had laid down, and was fast asleep.” (1:4-5). The man of testimony was sleeping, while the world comes to an end, while everything is bad!

We say: “How good it is that society is more corrupt, because the Lord is coming!” Oh, brother, be careful! There are men and women who suffer, there are entire families that lie in ruins! Who will go? Or will we sleep, like Jonah, while others perish? Who will take this word of the mystery of His will to them? Were we perhaps not once like them? Oh, blessed Lord may that scent of refuse never depart from me, may I never forget where you brought me from, not so that I might remain bitter, but that I might say: “Only by your grace, only by your mercy am I standing!” We who at one time were not people, are now people of God!

Those who have been at sea know how difficult it is for a sailor to become afraid. But when God intends to do something, He lifts the sea, He lifts the wind; He does what He has to do. He won’t lose; He won’t leave things as they are!

So the sailors began to pray. There were men of all nations crying out to their gods, but the only one who had the true God was sleeping. Doesn’t that resemble me? I have that problem: “Oh, how wonderful were such and such a brother’s words. What did you think about what this brother said?” But I still keep it to myself, while everybody is saying: “Somebody speak to us!” When people on TV look to witches, they don’t do it to be fashionable, but because they have not known the light of the gospel! Oh, help us, Lord! When we see so much banality, it is because the devil has blinded the eyes of understanding, so that the light doesn’t shine forth. The world doesn’t play; the world kills, it destroys, it consumes. But Jesus Christ is life, and eternal life.

Then they said to him: Please tell us! For whos cause is this upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country, and of what people are you? And he said to them: I am Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (v. 8-9). A religious man is more dangerous than an atheist: a man who sings and speaks inside a temple, but lives differently in his own house. “I am Hebrew!” Do you know what the word Hebrew means? Wandering! Do you know what Jonah means? Dove messenger! What irony, a dove that escapes, that hides, that sleeps while it has to give the message! And, when they ask him, he brings out his glittering titles: “Wait a moment, I am Hebrew!” Do you have the testimony and do you keep it? Do you have the testimony and are you quiet? Do you have the testimony and do you fall asleep?

They said to him: What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us? – for the sea was growing more tempestuous” (v. 11). How I resemble Jonah! When I am outside God’s will, the anguish comes, the sea begins to get rough. And I cry out: Save me, Lord! But, He tells me: “I won’t save you, I want to take you toward my will. I lifted the sea, and I lifted the wind, so that you return to my will.” Blessed is the Lord!

The men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous” (v. 13).

How many times we have wanted to bring some brother to the shore, removing him from God’s hand. But the sea becomes fiercer. Do you know what you should do? Leave him! Leave him; because if he belongs to God, if he has the testimony of God, he won’t die. He will lose everything, but Christ will remain standing! So, if you are going through some situation, think for a moment: Lord, why did the sea rise? Is it my doing? Are you taking me a little further out? Am I being an obstacle for your will?

When a man escapes from the will of God everything around him goes wrong. Not only he himself has problems: his house, his children, his work, everything.

Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said: ‘We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You” (v. 14). It is like Jesus’ prayer. Brothers and sisters, through Jesus’ innocent blood, we had life; through Jesus’ death, we, who worshipped other gods, had eternal life. Yes, the Father tossed One to the sea, to the tomb, so that you and I might have life! Hallelujah! Blessed death that brought me life! Blessed anguish that brought me joy! “No sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah”, says the Lord.

So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly….” They all converted! The ship that was idolatrous came to find God. “...and offered sacrifices to the Lord, and took vows.

Experiencing death

But the Lord...” Another but. It has not finished. Are you in the water? God will take hold of you and will take you still further out. God had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah for three days. Jonah’s arrogance and stubbornness is incredible; that only on the third day did he pray to the Lord. He didn’t pray the first day, nor the second. The algae drowned him. Only on the third day, when he couldn’t take any more did he cry out to God.

No man can evangelize if he doesn’t first experience death. No man can take a testimony to the world if he hasn’t first experienced the cross, the anguish, the affliction, and God’s treatment. For that reason we read in chapter 2 the prayer that Jonah makes. “The waters surrounded me even to my soul... I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever...” But, what does it say? “Yet you have brought my life up from the pit.” Do you want to take Christ’s testimony? There must be a cross in-between, there has to be God’s treatment in-between.

Look at what verse 9 says: “But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving: I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. So the Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”

Everything obeyed God: the sea, the sailors, the wind, the fish, the worm. The only one that didn’t obey Him was Jonah! What irony! And he was the only one that had a testimony to give!

When he arrived at Nineveh, he began to preach. I imagine Jonah preaching unwillingly: he didn’t want people to get saved. How did Nineveh repent so quickly, when Israel, having seen the same Lord, never want to hear Him? What signs there are in the book of Jonah! It says that the king issued a decree, so that all the men of Nineveh, all the women, and all the children humbled themselves before the God of heaven, so that He might relent His anger.

The world is crying out. The world is crying out! All those who are around us: your family, your parents, your brother, all cry out. They don’t understand it, but they cry out, without knowing it. And the only ones who have the testimony to give are you and I.

The most terrible thing happened: Nineveh repented, and the Lord relented His anger, but Jonah got angry with God! “Why did you send me, if you were going to save them? Why such a fuss, if you were prepared in your heart to save them?” Have you not thought in this way? “Why give such a test, if at the end they will come all the same?”

A testimony to give

No, God sends you, Church; each one of us! Not a renowned evangelist walking out to the arena filled with lights, with a colorful tie and a special suit. No, no, no! You, brother, who don’t know how to read or write, nor preach; you have something more important than education, you have Christ Himself to give! Yes, it may well be that others will come as well, but God sends you!

Who is your Nineveh? Your family, your son. Young men and women, is it your university friends? Who is your Nineveh? Wherever the Lord sends you with the testimony. Listen, church! This is God’s moment, who raised up a man, a body here among us! It is a man who is raised up! You have the testimony. It is not necessary to go to a seminar to study evangelism...

Some years ago, a brother came to Colina (a city in Chile) to teach evangelism to us. He is a very well-known man. Today he is more than eighty years old.

– Do you want to study evangelism?

– Yes!

And we all take out a notebook and pencil. He went up to the front and said:

– Do you have a Bible?

– Yes!

– Right, lets go to the square, and you will speak to one person, who happens to pass by.
He stopped in front of the bakery, and shouted:

– Who knows the Bread that after eating will never hunger?

And the people turned in the other direction... And I told him:

– Please, we are making fools of ourselves...!

– I have that bread, and He calls Himself Christ!

He always walked along with a notebook... “Ah, next week I have go to see that man at the garage.” While the man was changing the wheel to the car, he told him: “How important it is to change bad things, eh?” And to the lift attendant he began by saying: “All that goes up, some day must come down...”

One day he went to my house... He asked me:

– Do your neighbors know Christ?

– …

So he took the Scriptures, and immediately went out the door...

– Hello, neighbor, did you know that there is a pastor living next door?

The neighbor told him:

– Well, I’m Catholic.

– But I didn’t ask you that. Did you know?

– Yes, I knew...

– And has he spoken to you about Christ?

– Eh... Yes, the truth...

– But, did he speak to you of the true Christ? Do you want to know Him?

– It’s just that, as I told you, I’m Catholic...

– I’m not Catholic, but I want to speak to you about Christ...

Brothers and sisters, I don’t need to study to give Christ’s testimony to the world. I only need more of Christ.

Not like Jonah

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly and he became angry... And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery.” The Scriptures say that he went to bed to the east of Nineveh, because it was from the east that God’s judgments came. He was thinking: “God won’t save them. This society will die, this world will be lost.”

Christ is coming, brothers and sisters, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t preach! We should not use Christ’s coming as an escapism. We should use it as a testimony. The Lord is coming! The testimony is shining out more and more strongly. “Who will go for us? Brother, the Lord is calling your heart, your life.

On the following day, God sent a small worm. It is another irony, brothers; a small worm that damages the plant. And, do you know what Jonah does? He gets angry, he is irritated. God wanted to say to him: “That is not how I work. I don’t want to destroy.” Jonah had not worked for the plant, he had not done anything for it, and yet, he wanted it, because it gave him satisfaction.

God did not create humanity so that it would be lost. Our history as children of God doesn’t end with destruction, it ends with salvation! How will the history of your relatives end?

What will you do, church?

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