By Ryan Shaw
The book of Jonah is critical to the body of Christ today. It is a powerful little book which, if rightly engaged with, has the capacity to impact and transform our lives in a multitude of areas.
God is preparing His Bride to reap a massive global harvest of peoples from every tribe, tongue, and nation under heaven. To do so our hearts must be delivered from wrong ways of thinking about God, ourselves and these peoples. The book of Jonah is an ‘onramp’ to align our hearts rightly with God’s own in this pivotal hour of the Church’s history globally.
First, it is critical to give up distracting concerns about the fish itself. The book of Jonah has become minimized to a debate of how big the fish might have been, how Jonah survived in the belly of a whale for three days and if the story every really happened or is mere symbolism.
The primary purposes of the book have been overlooked and missed as a result. This book is more than a children’s “big fish” story. We want to get past the Sunday school notions and discern the powerful message the Lord wants to impart through it.
Jonah’s account confronts our prejudice, racism and bigotry, inviting us to feel and see what God feels and sees concerning hostile people groups. The book of Jonah is the Holy Spirit’s scalpel to remove our wrong ways of viewing God, His church and the world.
Second, one Bible teacher has called the book of Jonah, “the Test Book of the Bible.” Jonah challenges our faith and calls us to either believe or doubt all that is in it.
She goes on to say, “Our attitude toward the book of Jonah reveals our attitude toward God and His Word!”
Everything in the book demands we believe in the Supernatural God and trust His Word literally and implicitly. On such belief and trust every person either stands or falls. One who does not believe in a miracle-working God misses the focus of the book.
God does intervene in human affairs, He does manipulate nature, He does great things that the mind cannot comprehend (sustaining an individual to live in a fish for three days) in order to teach one man about His heart.
This is the very delight of God. He ever seeks to teach us more about Himself and His ways. This often includes mind blowing acts that confirm His involvement with us in dramatic ways.
Third, we find in the book of Jonah a clear presentation of the two highest priorities in the heart of God.
- God is ever seeking to form His people into the likeness of His precious Son, Jesus.
- He is in passionate pursuit of accomplishing His purpose of restoring a broken and hurting world.
The Father loves the Son more than anything and seeks to form Jesus’ likeness more and more into His bride on earth, the body of Jesus Christ.
God’s ministry to a person is as important as His ministry through that person. He often does this through adversity. In the book of Jonah, God is concerned as much with the change He wants to bring to Jonah as the change He wants to bring to Nineveh.
The second of the two fold purposes, first laid out through His covenant with Abraham, is to bless all people groups through the people of God.
In the book of Jonah, God has mercy upon Nineveh because they responded to His message in spite of God’s flawed vessel. This was a whole city that did not know its left hand from its right. This meant they had no understanding of the Living God or His ways of salvation and restoration.
Much of the world today could be categorized in this group. They are blindly living for self with no idea of what is to come or the accountability they will one day be required to face before the throne of God.
They have no idea of the life that was intended for them to live before the foundations of this world. The fall brought complete confusion to what life is about. Through the cross and resurrection restoration to God’s initial plan for life can again be realized.
Fourth, during the reign of Jeroboam II, Israel possessed a growing perverse attitude concerning Jehovah. She thought God created her for Him alone and that God’s perspective toward outsiders was only hatred, contempt and hostility.
In Jonah, we find a representation of the common attitude of pride surrounding being God’s chosen people. Vicariously our own attitudes toward other cultures are challenged and God calls us to receive the importation of the Holy Spirit that aligns our heart with God’s white-hot Message Bearer passions!
Fifth, the book of Jonah is meant to teach us today the inclusiveness of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ and to rebuke our tendency of being an exclusive people.
We find much about the character of God in the book of Jonah. We see His immense compassion toward peoples outside Israel and His special dealings with those who call upon His name. We also find His great passion to bring about “the impossible” by moving in power and literally seeing an entire unreached city brought to repentance.
We are called to dream big through this book, turn from small hopes and welcome the Spirit of God to cultivate within us a global vision of hearts turning en masse and being found in Jesus Christ.
A global harvest of incredible proportions is coming as we near the end of the current age. This is a promise from God and is meant to provide us with encouragement and confidence in the midst of our present circumstances.