You see, if we listen to Jesus, then we know that God really likes fishing. Want some proof? OK, let's remind ourselves of a couple of things:
- What did Jesus' first four apostles do for a living? ... They were fishermen!
- What did Jesus use to feed more than 5,000 people at a picnic? ... He used 5 loaves and 2 fish!
- How did Jesus come up with the Temple tax money? ... He had his followers catch a fish with money in its mouth!
- Plus, what did Jesus twice help Peter and the apostles do after long nights with no success? ... Helped them catch a boatload of fish!
Now the greatest fish story in the Bible is probably the short prophetic book we call Jonah. This is a carefully and beautifully written and organized book that tells the story of Jonah, a prophet in Northern Israel during a time of relative prosperity and freedom under King Jeroboam II.
As God was using the prophets Amos and Hosea to confront and warn Israel about their impending punishment at the hands of the Assyrians, Jonah was asked to preach God's truth to the Assyrians in the city of Nineveh so they could change their hearts and be saved!
The message of Jonah involves Act 1, with three scenes, then Act 2, with three corresponding scenes to Act 1, and then Act 3 which brings home God's point to Jonah and to us all!
|Act 1||Act 2|
God sends Jonah to preach to Nineveh and Jonah runs the opposite direction (Jonah 1:1-3).
God re-sends Jonah to preach to Nineveh, which he does (Jonah 3:1-3).
Pagan sailors display compassion and godliness to Jonah through tough times, asking for forgiveness (Jonah 1:4-16).
The pagan people repent, turn to God, and ask for forgiveness for their sins (Jonah 3:4-10).
God sends a huge fish to save Jonah and bring him back to land, leading to Jonah's gratefulness (Jonah 1:17-2:10).
God saves Nineveh, but Jonah is angry at God's display of grace for the people (Jonah 4:1-4).
So what are we doing to demonstrate that concern and share God's grace?God confronts Jonah about the preciousness of each person that is lost, something far more important than our own comfort (Jonah 4:5-11).
We often get lost in the fish part of the story, but the real issue is about our hearts - your heart and my heart. This simple book places a mirror before us and asks us to look at ourselves. It asks us to look down into our hearts and ask a critical question: Do I want my enemies to be saved and brought into my spiritual family more than others would like to see them defeated?
We know the politically correct answer and we often mouth it. So let's ask us some questions to help us check that answer with the facts of our lives:
- Do I pray for my enemies (personal and national) to be saved or to be defeated?
- Do I give my money to help with efforts to take the good news of Jesus to the lost world, especially to places where Christianity is hated or opposed?
- Do I go to people and places out of my comfort zone to share the good news of Jesus?
- Do I encourage my children and my grandchildren to reach out to people who are out of their comfort zone?
- Do I personally know people who are from countries and cultures that are opposed to Christian faith, and do I interact with them on a regular basis?
The book of Jonah ends with a question. Our answer to the question will determine whether or not we have heard Jesus' call to bring light to the dark side of the mountain to those who are lost in darkness.
[God asked] "And should I not have concern for the great city Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left — and also many animals?" (Jonah 4:11 TNIV).
Bottom line, the best way for followers of Jesus to disarm those who hold them as enemies is pretty clear: share the grace of Jesus with them! You see, the greatest desire of God is for us to celebrate with him when the lost of every language, tribe, people, and culture are saved and join together in praise of Jesus (Revelation 7:9-12)!
So shouldn't we have concern for the great cities and countries of our age, no matter how they feel about us and our culture, our countries, and our Christ?
So what are we doing to demonstrate that concern and share God's grace?
* We will define a God-story as a time in our life, or the life of another, when God's work intersected that life and demonstrated God's grace, presence, salvation, or love.