The book of Jonah applies to our personal lives as well as to the whole church. On the personal level, it impels us to see our own struggle with God. What has God called us to be or do that puts us into a contest of wills with Him? What challenges of obedience or call to ministry have set us running away from Him? Where are we now? Are we in a Tarshish of sinful escape or in a Nineveh of obedience? Further, Jonah has a challenging message for the contemporary church. Often we rather stay in the holy huddle of our Christian fellowship than go out to do energetic evangelism and costly mission. Our congregations are either in mission or they are still a mission field.
This book also blows away our selfish exclusivism and judgmentalism about the pagan world around us. The gospel is not our exclusive possession and enjoyment. Evangelism and missions are not an aspect of a well-rounded program of the church. They are the reason for all we do in worship, education and fellowship.
Churches, like individuals, can run away from God. It happens when traditions and church polity become more important than our calling. We can get too engrossed in our own programs, buildings and budgets that we fail to see the hundreds, thousands, and millions who do not know Christ in our cities and villages. We dare not run away from the call of the city that is as great to God as Nineveh of old. It is good to ask, ‘Where are we as a congregation?’ Are we still wrestling with God about the call? Are we trying to appease God and sooth our conscience so we can keep our agenda intact? The real question is: ‘Do we love the people of Nineveh or whatever city God may send us?’
What a refreshing picture we have of obedience in Isaiah’s response when he answered the call of God! After having seen the King of glory and confessed his sins, he responded unreservedly to God’s call, ‘Here am I; send me!’ There is no short cut to doing the will of God. It will demand our soul, our life, our all. Isaiah not only answered God’s call, but he was also prepared to lay down his life to serve the King, high and lifted up in His majestic glory. For in carrying out God’s plan for missions, he will have to focus on being faithful to the task rather than the results. However, the reward and blessings of God will always accompany those who do His bidding.
Are you a Jonah or an Isaiah? Can God count on you to share the good news of God’s grace to those around you? Will you lay aside your own selfish plans and excuses to serve the King of Kings?
I pray that both the congregation and individual members will respond like Isaiah, “Here am I; send me.”
Rev. Mark Tay