If you completed your reading of the book of Jonah after chapter three, you would assume that Jonah would go down in history as one of the greatest missionaries of all time. After all, these eight words, “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” were the cause of words like “fast…sackcloth…cry mightily unto the LORD…turn every one from his evil way.” These were the words of a mighty revival! Chapter three concludes with this thought: “And God saw their works, that they turned form their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”
If one could walk a mile in the old prophet’s shoes, you would think the reaction would be to linger in the city and to speak of all that God wanted to do through their lives and city. Instead, Jonah sets up a lawn chair on the eastern side of the city and hopes that their “salvation doesn’t stick.” He hoped that they would turn from the Lord to their sin and into the arms of God’s righteous indignation.
Why would a man do the Lord’s will and have chapter four as the sad conclusion of his calling?
Because Jonah’s Evangelism was thus:
1. Forced cooperation. After three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, Jonah was spewed out on shore and now believed that God meant business about the Great Commission. He learned that God’s will left undone never changes.
World evangelism is still the will of God. Jonah evangelism comes to visitation, passes out tracts, leads people to Christ, prepares four sermons a week, not because a person loves the Lord Jesus but rather fears only the consequences of disobedience.
2. Fake compassion. We learn from chapter four and verse eleven that God cared more about the cattle of Nineveh than Jonah cared for the people of that city. Jonah pitied more the perishing gourd than he did perishing eternal souls on their way to a Christless eternity in Hell. He went preaching judgment and judgment only. In his heart, however, he knew that the Lord would forgive them if they turned to Him. Jonah says in verse two of chapter four, “I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.”
Jonah knew that God would be gracious; he just left the caring up to God. Did he truly care about the 120,000 children in that city who were without Christ? No. You see, it is possible to be some-what obedient in the work of the Great Commission and express no genuine love for those whom we seek to reach.
3. False Christianity. It is false Christianity because his behavior is not like his Lord’s. Jonah was willing to let the city go to Hell, but God was so willing to forgive the city that He sent His only begotten Son to pay the penalty of Nineveh’s sin. His behavior is wicked, selfish, vindictive, and proves a deadly blind nationalism working in his heart. In my years of ministry, I too have seen “Christian” people unwilling to accept others of different colors, creeds and cultures. This is not the Spirit of our Lord, who said, “Come unto me ALL ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Chapter three says to us, “Man looks on the outward appearance.” “What a prophet!” we may extol. However, chapter four of Jonah says to us, “God looketh on the heart,” and when God looked on his heart, he found much to be reproved.
Jonah evangelism will never win the world to Jesus Christ, but supreme love for the Saviour (John 14:12), sincere love for the world (Romans 10:1) and Spirit-filled living will get the job done. In our evangelistic enterprises, are we more like JONAH or the LORD JESUS? It is ours to decide.