Jonah the son of Amittai of Gathhepher was a prophet of Israel who foretold the restoration of the ancient boundaries of the kingdom of Israel, a prophecy fulfilled in 2 Kings 14:25–27, very early in the reign of Jeroboam II. For months now, the Lord has been leading me to deeply study the Old Testament book that bears this prophet’s name. Let there be no doubt, Jonah was an angry, bitter and bigoted man.
If you recall, Jonah was called by God to preach to the Ninevites. Nineveh is first mentioned in the Bible as a city that Nimrod built in Genesis 10:11. We don’t hear of Nineveh again until the days of Jonah when it was Assyria’s populous and flourishing capital city. We can’t be certain about the population of Nineveh during Jonah’s day, but God does say in Jonah 4:11:
“And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”
It’s generally understood that young children and infants are those that can’t “discern between their right hand and their left hand.” Sixscore thousand is 120,000. Now if the city had 120,000 infants and young children, how large was the entire population? Some estimates place the entire population during Jonah’s time at 600,000 to 1,000,000 people. The prophet Nahum later foretells the city’s ruin and utter desolation; and Zephaniah also predicts its destruction and the fall of the Assyrian empire. Jonah was told to go and preach to these people before their destruction was foretold.
Jonah’s response to God’s direction was to run and hide. He tried to get as far away from God as he could. Even if you’ve never read the Bible for yourself, you’ve probably heard of the story of Jonah and the whale. Ultimately, Jonah ended up in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights before repenting and telling God He would obey. The fish spit him out on dry land and Jonah went and preached to the Ninevites. The city turned away from their sins and people got saved! And Jonah’s response? He got angry because the people were believing his message.
There are many Christians today who are modern-day Jonah’s. I’m not sure about the anger and bigotry part, but I am certain about the running and hiding part. Political correctness has been so drummed into our minds that we are gripped with fear whenever God presents us with an opportunity to share our faith.
Twice in a former job, I was led directly by a prompting of the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel with a young woman who worked for me. Our policy at work forbade us from initiating a conversation about our faith unless the other person asked us a question, then we were free to answer. As a person with seven direct reports, I feared the consequences of a potential job loss or disciplinary action if I brought up the topic of someone’s salvation. As a result, I ran from God’s direction. Little did I know that just a few weeks later this young woman would leave work before lunch not feeling well and die at home at the age of 33. I was devastated that I disobeyed God.
I might not have spent time in the belly of a fish, but I may have been the last chance for this young woman to hear a clear Gospel presentation. I purposed in my heart right then and there that I would never disobey God again when He gives me an opportunity to present the Gospel.
I want to encourage you today not to be a modern-day Jonah. Don’t run and hide when God gives you an opportunity to share your faith. And please, don’t let the fear of political correctness cloud your judgment and turn you away from obedience to God. The ramifications may be eternal.