While Jonah may or may not be the first Minor Prophet chronologically, he's the first in our new series, "The Message of the Twelve: A Journey Through the Minor Prophets." This Sunday, we'll be looking at the Book of Jonah, but not from the perspective, "check out the dude who ran from God and got swallowed by a big fish." Instead, we'll look at the message that he carried hundreds of miles to a foreign people called the Ninivites.
When Jonah finally arrived at Ninevah, he preached a single-sentence sermon, or at least that's all the Bible recounts. "Yet forty days," called out Jonah, "and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (Jonah 3:4). That sure doesn't seem like much of a message, but it's so much more than one sentence.
First, his message was one of truth, and the people knew what to do with the truth. They prayed and fasted and repented. Clearly, God was already preparing the hearts of the Ninitives.
Second, God sent his messenger on an 800-mile journey (one way) because God desired to save the Ninivites.
Third, Jonah 3:10 shows the readers that the bigger message was that God was calling people to salvation. While Jonah may not have wanted to see his enemies saved, God wanted otherwise. The message of their destruction was a statement of truth and a message of the hope and salvation of the Lord.
Fourth, Jonah's message is the same message the Bible proclaims to us today. It might not be that physical destruction is coming in 40 days, but apart from Jesus, we are already facing God's wrath. Jesus preached the same message because it's the message of the Bible. It's the gospel.
In Mark 1:15, Jesus says the Kingdom of God is near so people should repent. In Luke 5:23 Jesus says he has come not for those who are getting all the rules completed and EXPECT that they have earned salvation, but for the sick sinners who need the help of the Great Physician. Luke 13:1-5 tells us of the consequences should we not repent. (I think we know what would have happened to Ninevah if they wouldn't have believed Jonah's message and then repented; just as we are aware, down deep, that the same is true of Jesus' message and us today.)
And finally, Jonah's message shows us that the Gospel is a message for the world, not just a special people, special nation, or a particular race. It is a message of hope, even though it speaks of frightful things. It's a message of salvation from those frightful things and into God's wonderful family. Luke 24:46-47 tells us that the message or repentance must be preached to all nations and it's our job as followers of Jesus to take that message anywhere God calls us to go.
We'll be talking more about Jonah on Sunday. Like Jonah, I'll have to express that we are facing spiritual destruction without Jesus. That's not a popular message in our culture, and nobody wants to think about what that destruction looks like (the Bible calls it hell), but it's true, and it's coming. But the good news of Jesus Christ is that he came to save those who repent and believe from that destruction. That's true too, and it's a beautiful message of hope! (Hear this message of hope and learn how to join God's family in salvation here.)
I pray you might join us on Sunday as we pray and worship together, as well as hear from God's Word. We meet at 10 am for corporate prayer and communion, and then at 11 am for our worship service and message. See you Sunday!
For the Kingdom!
Pastor Bryan Catherman