Of the stories in the Scriptures, one that delighted my little heart when I was younger was the story of the Run Away Prophet Jonah. Emphasis is most of the time laid on the part of the story that teaches God’s omnipresence and the inability of man to run away from God. Whenever, it is said that a person tries to “outsmart” God, people, i mean Christians, are usually quick to say “REMEMBER JONAH”. I however, believe that like any other Scripture, God has many things to say to our generation other than the fact of his omnipresence. Indeed, we cannot run away from God and a journey for such purpose is sure to end in futility. I find a very important lesson from the very last lesson the Lord taught the Prophet Jonah- the one about the Vine.
Jonah had finally, obeyed God to preach to the teeming masses of Nineveh. His initial reluctance is understandable though. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, a sworn enemy of Israel who was to invade the latter and in fact crush it in 720BC. God, no doubt, was aware of this future for His chosen race yet He was concerned about the people of Nineveh. For Jonah, it would be better for these people to perish in their ignorance than for them to repent, be saved and then continue to constitute nuisance for the people of Israel.
After Jonah’s message of doom to the people of Nineveh, one that resembles what we hear today. A message that emphasizes the heat of hell than the paradise of God’s presence. The message of Jonah like the ones we hear today, does not emphasize God’s love and His way out for man’s slavery of sin but preaches the doom that awaits the refusal to accept the God-given chance to live. They preach the first part of the Words of Hope in Rom. 6:23 and ignore the rest. Preachers of such message do not make it clear that we cannot believe God and accept Him into our lives for the fear of hell and still expect to stand when he makes demand for our service and unequalled to love to Him. What results from these messages is that the Christians we have are people who would gladly renounce Christ if they discovered there was no hell!
Contrary to Jonah’s expectation, the people of Nineveh were responsive to the message and the Lord’s mercy prevails over judgement. This reconciliation does not make Jonah happy and the Lord teaches him a lesson from it. Jonah complains that the Lord was too merciful and that he was reluctant, at first, for that reason. The lesson of the Vine and how much concern Jonah showed for it after it died is a lesson for the church today. How sadly we have shifted our attention from that which concerns God to that which concerns Us. How sadly, like Jonah, we run about preaching and teaching a gospel strange to the Bible and which the Apostles never taught. And how sadly, we want God to concern Himself not with what is His heartbeat but what is ours. Like Jonah we want the Vine to live and The People to die. We want to kill the babies and save the trees!
We want to prosper and have all that the luxury worldliness has to offer neglecting God’s desire to reconcile all men to Himself.
The message that we now preach is one that makes us feel at home here on earth when it is God’s desire to prepare us for our eternal stay with Him.
Like Jonah, we forget that we really do not have control over the things that we run after and that God’s desire should be our desires too.
Let us therefore, stop being conformed to this World. Let us put on a garment of delight in God’s own concern for the salvation of men and the building of an eternal temple not made with hands but with lives in conformity to the likeness of Christ. Let us come back to Purpose. Let us come back to Worship, Fellowship, Mission, Discipleship and Service! For these are all that matters!