The Jonah Commission – An Introduction
God has ignited a growing burden and urgency among His people regarding the state of our nation and its capital. We are increasingly feeling God’s touch and inspiration to put first things first, celebrate the Gospel of God, then advance the saving of many lives through the bold preaching of that Gospel. The answer to all our numerous ills as a nation is a rediscovery of the Gospel, and a growing commission to share and preach it, wherever God leads us.
Great promises and prophecies hang over us for this coming year, as a historic central London church, and we want to receive and move in all that God is calling and equipping us to achieve together. Our heart-burden is to make Christ known, and win many people to saving faith in him. But things like busyness, indifference, low expectancy, selfishness, lack of urgency, and fear of man can hinder or delay our faithful actions to make Jesus known. Perhaps the greatest factor is our suspicion that genuine revival is impossible in a city like London, and a nation like Britain today. The Book of Jonah is designed to make us all think again!
It’s been said, “Don’t curse the darkness. Instead, light a candle.” That could be an accurate summary of the message of Jonah. This is one of the best-known narrative histories in the Bible. Everything in it is designed to stir the curiosity of the unwary reader who is unprepared for the impact it can make upon all of our lives. Few books have anything like its power to penetrate and possess the preacher or keen Christian, with its haunting questions and disturbing imagery that prick and penetrate our thick skins and hardened hearts, then enter our central nervous system. It opens up many shocking realities for us, all designed to break open our secure, sleepy, and comfortably domesticated environment, then enlarge the horizons of our personal vision and faith. Among other things Jonah tells us that:
– God is affected deeply by human sin. He is not indifferent to it (like the false theoretical gods of the philosophers and liberal theologians). He is not indulgent with it (like the dirty gods of pagan religions). He is incensed by it (as the true God of the Bible and the whole world, who speaks truthfully through his prophets).
– God has the power to wipe out whole cities whenever he chooses, on any fixed date in the calendar he selects– ‘Yet forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed’ (Jonah 3:4)! He often chastens nations through bad rulers, economic chaos, natural disaster, foreign invasion, terrorist attacks, plagues of diseases, war, and abandonment to self-destruction amid moral chaos and community breakdown.
– God is in complete sovereign control of everything, from the tiniest microcosm of a human cell, to the complex macrocosm of his universe. He controls all things – from worms to whales, from wayward prophets to lawless inner cities. He is at work in the small, as well as in the great. He can work in us too.
– He can do anything he wants whenever he wants, all on his own and without our help. But he rarely bypasses human agency for all the really important things that he wants to see happen among the lives he chooses to bless and transform.
– God’s Word is not like a helpless puff of air, soon forgotten –for in the right mouth, and spoken in the right form, through the right lips, it can change the destiny of rulers, people, and nations.
Who knows? Maybe God will do his powerful work in the lives of each one of us also! Maybe every single one of us, along with many other people, will soon be impacted profoundly by all that God shows us through his reluctant yet enormously effective messenger, Jonah.
Each daily reading deals with a section of the book of Jonah, and finishes with a prompt to prayer or action. It starts slowly in the first few verses, then gathers momentum, so do be patient as you move into the heart of this remarkable Old Testament narrative. It will surprise and undo you, and then help to put you back together again.