Monday, 5 October 2009

The Jonah Syndrome

The Jonah Syndrome

And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. Jonah 3:10 KJV

We are called to be lights in the world, to preach the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are called to not only to evangelize but to disciple the nations. Not just carry around Bibles, or wear silver crosses on their necks. We are called to change the planet, with our actions prayers and the light of the gospel. Not by apathetic programs or formulas, but with renewed minds and spirit filled hearts. We are to shine brighter than the darkness. However there seems to be a disease, calloused cancerous wasting virus creeping through the church. It is a mentality so contrary to the gospel and the Word, yet so comfortable in fallen human nature. A condition obsessed with hiding our lamps under our beds. A disorder devoid of love, hope, faith and action. A way of life that should never be tolerated in the Body of Christ. It is “an obsession with destruction.”

And there is no better description of this than in the Book of Jonah. Jonah? Yes Jonah, I’m not talking about the 3`days in the belly of the fish, but the voyage to Nineveh. Now before I get ahead of myself we should go to the beginning of the story

1Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. Jonah 1:1-3 KJV

Now for those who don’t know Nineveh was at the time the capital of the Assyrian Empire the Greatest at this time. There where anywhere from 120 000 to 350 000 (depending on the interpretation of 4:11) This was the “center of the world” in Jonah’s day, home of idols and false gods and the jewel of the First major empire. God reached out to Jonah to go and cry out to this people to call them on their wickedness These uncircumcised heathens with no covenant relationship with God. A thought that was so uncomprehendable to Jonah that he got on a boat and went the wrong way to Tarshish (modern southern Spain). He refused to go to this people, a people who in his mind “didn’t want or deserve God” This is the first stage of this mentality I am speaking of, this wasting disease in the church. For generations the western European church has played the part of Jonah, unwilling to go east to our modern Nineveh’s of the Muslim and Hindu worlds (you can count the Sikhs in British Columbia in this group as well) “These people don’t want God” so they can die without Him. “They have different colored skin and eat different food, they can never receive the gospel”. Why bother with them, they’ll get what’s coming to them in the end?

I’m going to skip over the part with the fish for now. Let me fast forward to when Jonah entered the city. He only made it through a third of the city before the all people began to repent even the king himself dressed in sackcloth.

4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. 6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? Jonah 3:4-9 KJV
Jonah went into the city calling out judgment and destruction on the thousands and thousand of citizens. And something unexpected happened, they listened. They fasted, dressed in sackcloth and prayed that maybe God would spare us. The unworthy, undeserving heathens had received the words of God and accepted them. And they acted immediately. They didn’t wait the forty days that Jonah was crying out they acted on day one. Maybe there is something to be learned here, that maybe they will listen, maybe they will repent and accept God and Jesus.

Now Jonah after seeing the reaction of the people of Nineveh their immediate response entered into the second stage of this “virus”
10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. 1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. 2 And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil Jonah 3:10-4:2 KJV
and again in the message Bible
God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn't do. Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, "God! I knew it — when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That's why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness! Jonah 3:10 – 4:2 msg

Jonah didn’t rejoice and the idea of the people repenting, it infuriated him, he never wanted them to repent he wanted them to burn to die in God’s wrath with hellfire and brimstone. Jonah knew about God but didn’t want to accept his heart, he didn’t want to accept the fact of someone outside of his people outside of the covenant receiving God’s Mercy. What if the Muslims where saved, would they challenge our pride with their devotion and zeal, much like Stephen did to the Pharisees. What if India was saved and discipled, are we as westerners afraid of being shamed by their actions. What about the Sikhs in BC or the Native tribes or the Inuit’s, are we just hoarding God to ourselves? What is it in use that automatically writes off other cultures and labels them unsaveable. The “revival” here in Nineveh has not dies after thousands of years, the oldest Christian congregation in the world is in the lands near ancient Nineveh in modern IRAQ. Perhaps it is our empirical pride that we in the west are the only light, have we forgotten the source of the light Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, the one who if is not praised will cause the rocks themselves to cry out.

Now we enter the third and final stage of this wicked cancer. After all of this Jonah, went outside of the city and waited for God to destroy them

So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. Jonah 4:5 KJV

Jonah was getting his front row seat for the “fireworks” God even gave him a tree to shade him so he could “cool off” (pun intended!!) Jonah sat there all day and night. How many times have we called for judgment on the wicked? How many times have we begged God to kill the “wicked” We especially in our generation are obsessed with calling down fire and brimstone, on other nations on fellow Christians on California. We have our pouting fits when we don’t like what we see and immediately run to God for judgment. What if God did listen to us, what if he did throw California into the ocean and killed millions of people and believers. Unlikely since God wouldn’t destroy Sodom with Lot still in it. No we can’t take the easy way out, if we want change we have to pray not for death, but for peace, love, salvation and the power of the Holy Spirit, for revival and revolution. Because if god held to his character if he did start smiting people we would be the first on the list (see Rev 2&3)

Back to Jonah in the following morning he got up and God killed the tree
7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, " Death is better to me than life." 9 Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." 10 Then the Lord said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" Jonah 4:7-11 NASB
The prophet Jonah cared more about the shady tree, the tree that made him comfortable so he could sit and wait for judgment than he did about the people of Nineveh. Jonah didn’t work at the tree he didn’t plant it it’s only purpose was to make him comfortable then God took the comfort away and brought that scorching wind to get his attention. God wanted these people of Nineveh to come to him, to call out to him to save them. And Jonah fought him all the way, yet the more he fought the more God was at work.

Lets look at the great fish for a moment before we close. Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of the fish. All the while Jonah was crying and praying the fish was all the while brining Jonah back the where he was suppose to go in the first place. Don’t fall victim to this wasting disease in the body. Pray with all your hearts for the nations to be redeemed and discipled. Don’t label any person, group or nation as unsaveable, unworthy or not worth the effort. The greatest persecutors often end up being the greatest followers