We all know the story of Jonah being swallowed by the large fish (usually called a whale). It’s a child’s tale and usually it is trivialized. I am not doing that. It is a true story with huge implications and amazing miracles. In Jonah chapter one, he runs from God. That’s right. As if he could! J He does not want to share God’s heart for the Assyrians; in fact he doesn’t want to share God’s heart for anyone who isn’t from his home country. But God insists. Jonah is sleeping in the hold of a ship heading for the far outreaches of the civilized world when God sends a storm to fetch him back. In the process God saves a boatload of lost men whom he uses to teach Jonah about caring for the lost. Here’s how he does it: First, he terrifies the men on the ship. These were men used to rough weather but as the ship began to tear apart they began to look to their gods. They discovered Jonah who worshiped the Lord of heaven who made the sea and dry land. They couldn’t believe he cared so little about pleasing his God. They didn’t want to throw him overboard. In the end they worshiped Jonah’s God even though he didn’t want to. God is trying to teach Jonah to care for others as much as these pagan sailors cared about him. God is trying to reach Jonah to worship him and obey him like these pagan sailors were doing around him. It should have made Jonah ashamed. But even after three days and nights in the belly of a big fish we don’t know if he really gets it. In fact at the end of the book – we still don’t know if Jonah gets it. Do you?
This true story reminds us of God’s heart for every people of the world. It has always taken purpose, faith and sacrifice to reach those who haven’t yet heard or responded to the gospel of Christ. Even God set out with purpose and sacrifice to reach the lost human race on earth. He became a Man; healing and truth flowed from him; he died on a cross for the sins of the world so that the lost could find their way home to God. As those who have already believed no one is excluded from catching God’s heart for those who have yet to hear of his redeeming love. He calls us to share his heart – by going, sending and/or interceding on behalf of the lost. Perhaps we need a faith exploding experience like Jonah went through; an experience that blows the doors off of our little world of petty concerns and self-absorption!