Jonah 4:1-2 This is why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. It was not because he was afraid for his life. It was not because the journey was too difficult. It was because the Lord is Merciful! Jonah had no love in his heart for his enemies. Jonah wanted the judgment of God to fall on them. Jonah wanted them to finally realize in their destruction that they were wrong and that Israel served the living God. I have seen people so filled with anger at their enemies that they would curse them. When I see that, I know that these people don’t know what they are saying or doing. Forgive them Lord for they don’t know. Matthew 25:41 the judgment that will fall on rebellious men and women is a judgment that was created for the devil and his fellow fallen angels. Satan and the fallen angels are spirit beings that require a special place of torment for them to be punished. How horrible it will be for any man or woman to find themselves there forever. The reality of eternity should move our hearts toward mercy for everyone, even our enemies.
What an amazing statement that Jonah makes about the mercy of God. That is the same God who revealed himself to Moses in the cleft of the Rock, a God of mercy. It seems that while the prophets were often called to warn God’s people, and even today there is a warning going out to the church yet, there is always a need deep in the heart of the prophet to realize God’s mercy. His warnings always carry the promise of mercy. Even in John’s vision in Revelation in his letters to the churches, there is with the warning, room for repentance.
I find myself often wondering if the church today has become the prophet, Jonah. Do we know the love of God? And do we know the eternal destiny of souls? Do we have a commission from Jesus to go? Are we running from the Lord or are we running toward the mission? A prime example of the church running from its mission in America is the anger and divisive attitudes toward politics in the American church. The Bible tells us to pray for those in authority and Paul wrote that while the Romans were ruling and they were persecuting the church. But Paul says to pray for them!!! In American churches I think that if Christians are praying, they are praying for those they disagree with to be removed from office, not to turn to righteousness. I think it might even disturb some Christians if some of the politicians repented and turned to Jesus. That may sound extreme, but I really do think that many Christians are running from their prophetic responsibility to pray for their leaders. This message should be preached in America where the church has become so lukewarm, but the problem seems to always be in some measure in all of us. And I felt the Lord prompt my heart to preach this here, in this nation (in West Africa). In fact, this is, I believe, the prophetic message that the Lord has sent me here to share. Luke 6:27-28 is a prophetic word to you. Your understanding must be Matthew 5:10-12, you are a very blessed people, and your example will shine far beyond this nation. I know that the Lord desires to use the church here in this nation (in Western Africa) as a shining light to other nations of God’s faithfulness and His power to save!!!
Even in his anger at the Lord, Jonah prayed to God. He doesn’t have it in him anymore to run from God. And God is still dealing with his heart. God prepares a lesson for Jonah by providing a shade tree that relieves Jonah from the sun, but then God prepares a worm to destroy the plant and that makes Jonah even angrier than before. Why did God go to the trouble of preparing this lesson for Jonah? Because even though Jonah had repented and obeyed, his heart still did not belong to God in this matter. God wants our hearts, not just our obedience. So, God points out to Jonah that he didn’t plant the tree. It was God who created the plant and who owned the rights to the plant. And if God chooses to destroy the plant that’s His business, but Jonah had claimed ownership of the plant. And Jonah wanted the plant to live for his own purpose. But God turns the whole story on Jonah and points out that it was just a plant and yet Nineveh which also belongs to God has 120,000 babies living there and Jonah is more concerned about the plant than about the souls. Jonah’s relationship with God for that short time was focused on his blessings, not on the purpose of God.
When God decides to go on a mission, He provides everything necessary. And everything on the mission is Holy and everything is anointed, and God prepares us in the same way as He did the provisions in our story in Jonah. There is a strong message today that many need to hear, and it’s this, “Do not despise the times of preparation for the times of separation!” As we look at the life of Paul we see a whole lot happening in his life, before and even after his conversion leading up to the point that God said, “separate Barnabas and Saul for work that I have called them to.” I remember early in my own ministry, while I was pastoring a church in Illinois, when a man prophesied to me that while God loved our church and all that we were doing, God was really more interested in preparing me as a vessel He could use. I was offended. After all, I was already in ministry and pastoring a church. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that even though I was already in ministry, I really wasn’t ready for what God had called me to be. Many people feel like failures because they have had to step back from what they thought God had called them to and many are frustrated because they feel stuck in something other than what God has called them to. My counsel to you is to use the time your in to prepare for the time you’re called to. Don’t become impatient and attempt to shortcut God’s time of preparation. Recognize it for what it is and give yourself fully to serve God faithfully in the moment. God is using it for His glorious purpose in His chosen time.
Many years ago, the Lord spoke to my heart 3 words. In English, they are all related to one another, but the lesson will apply whether it is the same in your language or not. The 3 words were vision, provision, and revision. Many pastors are familiar with vision. Vision is what the Lord puts in your heart as His purpose for your life. It is what you know God has called you to do. I want you to think about it as a journey. God says to you plant a church and win souls and train them to be strong saints and so you begin the journey with the people. Provisions are the things you will need along the journey. You need to know the Word of God and you need faith and you need favor. Maybe you need a well and a building. The temptation is to make a list of all the things that we know we will need and try to find a way to get those things.
I want to stop there and point out a couple of things. First, in the vision, the Lord never shows us in detail exactly where He is taking us. We may have a broad idea, but never the exact details. Why do I say this? Because we walk by faith and not by sight. The Lord wants us to grow in faith on the journey. So, the church may be going along wonderful and all of a sudden there’s trouble in the congregation. The Lord is stretching our faith to trust Him to make peace and renew the passion in the people. We need revival so we turn to Him. Secondly, in provision the Lord wants us to grow in faith and so He makes sure our provisions run out. That may sound strange, but I’ve seen this happen over and over with ministry. We try in our own power to make sure everything is just right, and that we have everything we need to be a strong church and a good pastor. But God always brings us to a place where our strength runs out and we have to turn to Him and trust Him instead of our own strength.
He showed me this in a dream during the season that He was dealing with my heart on this. In the dream, I knew I needed to cross a desert, and I knew that it would take 2 days. I went out and bought all the supplies I thought I would need to last me 2 days. As I was crossing the desert, I could see a mountain range that seemed close. I knew the Lord wanted me to go to the mountain and I knew He would meet with me there. On the first day of my journey, there was a windstorm, and I couldn’t travel so I had to ration my supplies. The next day I continued, but the heat was so bad and with my rations low I had to stop traveling during the day and realized I would have to travel at night so it would be cooler. Now I really had to ration my supplies so that I wouldn’t run out. I remember in the dream crying out to God reminding Him that I was doing this for Him. I started out traveling at night and finally felt like I was making good time until the sun came up and then I realized I had been traveling in the wrong direction during the night. In the dream, I realized that I did not have enough provisions to make it back where I started, and I didn’t have enough to get where I needed to go. I was not going to survive. In the dream, the Lord suddenly appeared and said, “I am your provision, look to Me and not your own strength”. In the dream, I continued my journey and it ended up taking weeks and yet somehow every day the Lord fed me and provided water. Finally, I reached the mountains. And then came another challenge, the Lord was directing me that I needed a revision.
That was the 3rd word that the Lord gave me, and He told me that it is the hardest lesson for any leader, revision. Very often in our struggle to maintain faith we hold so strongly onto the vision that the Lord has given us that we will not allow Him to adjust it. Like I said earlier, the vision is never with exact detail, but we tend to begin to fill in the details and before long the details become the vision. That’s what the Pharisees did with the Law. Originally the Law didn’t answer all the specific questions, so Moses had to sit in judgment over all the questions. Later Moses added the elders to that process, but eventually, the Pharisees just decided to fill in the details and so they came up with answers to every question that anyone might have about the Law. And they made those additions to God’s Law as important as the original Law that God gave. Sometimes we do the same thing with the vision God gives us. We decide all the details of the vision and then we fight with God and man to make sure it is fulfilled in every detail or else we’re like Jonah, angry with God. What the Lord wants us to do with vision is walk by faith and not by sight and allow Him to speak fresh words of instruction to us. He brings us a revision, or He brings us a fresh vision with more details.
At the end of my dream, I had finally arrived at the mountain that the Lord had shown me, but now I could see a path that led up to the top of the mountain. It led to a small cave, and it was there that the Lord met with me. From the mouth of the cave, I could see all the way back to where I had come, and I realized that my site would never have been strong enough when I started to see this cave. There are always new things that we never would have imagined, that the Lord wants us to discover in our walk with Him and in our work for Him in ministry. We must stay flexible and willing to adjust our vision to His present will for us. One of the signs of wisdom from above that is spoken about in James 3:17 is that we have a heart that is willing to be reasoned with. It means that we must be willing to have our thoughts about the will of God for our lives adjusted by others who we trust. We must be extremely careful to discern if we are faithful to God or just stubborn.
In the story of Jonah, there were several things that the Lord prepared to bring to pass His purpose. He prepared a great wind and storm. He created a fish. He created a small tree. But one thing I find interesting is that He prepared a worm. Any time my heart becomes proud because the Lord uses me for something, I am reminded that the Lord anointed a worm to kill a tree so that a prophet would change his heart. Certainly, the Lord wanted to save the people of Nineveh, but the Lord also wanted to work on His prophet to make him more useful. We don’t know if Jonah ever learned the lesson, but we know that the Lord prepares His servants.
A wise man once told me during a time when the church I was pastoring was struggling, the Lord is as interested in making a man of God out of you as He is saving the church. I was young and without wisdom at the time. I believe the experience changed me into another man and I have observed over the years that it is true that often God is doing what He is doing so that He can make a man of God that He can use for His glory. What is God doing in your heart and life today that will make you into the man of God He can use for His glory?
Oh, by the way, in a short time, Nineveh turned back to its sin, and God sent prophets again. I once did an entire message entitled, Beware of Nahum If you find time, you can read the book of Nahum and you will realize that the entire book is a prophecy by Nahum against Nineveh. Also, at about the same time as Nahum, God spoke to Zephaniah in Zephaniah 2:13; and also, in Ezekiel 31 which was about 30-60 years after Jonah, God spoke the final judgment on Nineveh. And Nineveh was destroyed by the Babylonians not long after Nahum, Zephaniah and Ezekiel prophesied. God has a way of taking care of His enemies without our help and often without our understanding. Our responsibility is to obey and to obey with a loyal heart, trusting that the Lord in His wisdom knows how to accomplish righteousness. My prayers are with you and my heart deeply desires that the Glory of God be seen shining brightly in the nation of Burkina Faso. You are truly the greatly beloved of God.