JONAH 4:10-11: “But the LORD asked, “You cared about a vine plant that you neither worked on nor cultivated? A vine plant that grew up overnight and died overnight? 11) So why shouldn’t I be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 human beings who do not know their right hand from their left, as well as a lot of livestock?” (ISV)
OBSERVATION: Do I have a heart for souls? The story of Jonah brings this question front and center. Jonah was called by the Lord to go to Nineveh, the Capital of Assyria, and the impending enemy of the Northern Kingdom. He was not called to go there on a leisure trip, but for a defined and divine purpose. Jonah was called to go to Nineveh to call the Assyrian Capital to repentance.
When we think about the story of Jonah, we usually focus on the aspect of his running away from God, being swallowed by a great fish, and then coming to repentance in the belly of this fish. However, I think one of the most telling aspects of the story of Jonah is his reaction to the vine that gave him shade. Even though Jonah repented, went to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s message – he was not happy with the outcome. The king, and the people of Nineveh repented. This made Jonah furious!
- “Greatly displeased, Jonah flew into a rage. 2) So he prayed to the LORD, “LORD, isn’t this what I said while I was still in my home country? That’s why I fled previously to Tarshish, because I knew you’re a compassionate God, slow to anger, overflowing with gracious love, and reluctant to send trouble. 3) Therefore, LORD, please kill me, because it’s better for me to die than to live!” Jonah 4:1-3, ISV
Completely bent out of shape, Jonah made a shelter to rest under. He was throwing himself a pity party. What did the Lord do in response to Jonah’s attitude? The Lord caused a vine to grow up and give him shade. This pleased Jonah, as it afforded him personal comfort. But at dawn the Lord allowed a worm to destroy the vine. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head, and he quickly returned to his mood of self loathing and despair. Jonah cared more about a simple vine then he did about the repentance of over 120,000 people, and the protection of multitudes of livestock.
This morning on my way to the airport a squirrel started to run across the road. There was not much traffic, so I stepped on my brakes and honked my horn. The squirrel stopped in his tracks, and ran the other way to safety. I yelled at him for being so stupid, and then I patted myself on the back for saving a squirrel. I was so proud of myself I even posted this on Facebook. Some of my pastor friends kidded me, saying – “I didn’t know squirrels had souls.” Then it hit me – they don’t! And as I read the story of Jonah on the plane as I flew to Nashville, I wondered – do I care more about squirrels than I do about the souls of men?
I am not simply using this story to be cute. I am dead serious with this question. The vine in Jonah’s story could be anything. For a pastor it could be his or her church, or position. For all of us it could be our jobs, our family, our possessions – all the things that take up most of our attention. And, truth be told, if we were asked to give up something in order to see thousands of souls saved – would we? Or, would we catch the next train to Tarshish? This really has me searching my heart this morning.
I want to be captivated for souls! I want to give my life to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I want to be willing to give up whatever the Lord requires so that His heart becomes my heart. And I don’t want to pick and choose the harvest field that I feel comfortable in. I want to enter the harvest field that He calls me to (even if it is my Nineveh!).
I think we all could agree – it is easier to obey the Lord than to be swallowed by a giant fish. That fish could be anything in our life that tries to consume us. Jesus called each one of us to go and make disciples of all nations. The Great Commission is the call of every believer, not just the call of the pastor, evangelist, apostle, prophet, or teacher. It is a call to put on our “Good News Shoes” and be ready to give a defense to anyone who calls into question the hope that is within us. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through our lives in faith and boldness. A life, a community, a city, our world – stand in the balance waiting for someone to tell them the Good News!
- “But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells ⌊the Good News⌋? How can people tell the Good News if no one sends them? As Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who announce the Good News.” Romans 10:14-15 GW
Lord, fill me anew with Your Spirit today. Give me a renewed boldness and passion for the lost. Let my heart be captured by the things that capture Your heart. Set me free from the things that try to consume my time, my attention, and my obedience.
In Jesus Name!
(If you would like to read more about the “GOOD NEWS”, please go to iTunes, Barnesandnoble.com, or Smashwords.com, and download the free Ebook – “GOOD NEWS – The Gospel of Jesus Christ from Genesis to Revelation”. For easy searching simply type – Kirk L. Zehnder – in the search bar.)