When a man feels called to the full time pastoral ministry, he might be fully convinced in his heart that God requires him in His Vineyard. Yet personally, the call might be strong but that does not necessary mean it is God’s call. People around him need to identify his spiritual gifts, character and personality leaning towards full time ministry or perhaps not. Then there needs to be the Church Leadership who identify or don’t identify a call. These steps are extremely necessary because there are times when feelings, desire and passion might be just that … and misinterpreted as a call. It might be that God is calling the person into lay ministry of some sort and not fulltime ministry. Whilst studying for the ministry a fellow believer in our Church believed he was called into full time ministry. He applied to study and was accepted. He resigned his job and sold his house. He completed the three year course and was appointed as a pastor in charge of a local Church. After a suitable period he was made a deacon after which he was ordained as a presbyter. After a few years and a change of Church, he landed up in the province he came from a very hurt man. He found secular work, started a lay ministry and became active in his home Church … yet remained hurt … tending to blame everyone and everything for his demise as a fulltime pastor. He was excellent in the ministry he started. He had a support group and a prayer group. The ministry did well and he did well in his home church as a lay worker. Sadly he was not cut out to be a pastor. He was a good man, faithful, hardworking and with a heart for the lost … but pastoral ministry was not for him. What happened? Personally I feel his desire and passion for lost souls was interpreted as a call to ministry. If only this was found out before he embarked upon his studies and fulltime ministry because it could have prevented much pain, heartache and trauma for him and his family. Although mistakes are made, many could be prevented if proper procedures are in place. When we look backwards through the years to Israel and the prophets, we find that a call then was very different to today. No humans tested the call because the call was directly from God into the heart and mind of the man. Although there were false prophets who appointed themselves, the authentic prophet, called by God knew without a doubt that God has chosen and appointed him for the office. So did the people. It was a scary office because the prophet went to the people and told them what God had to say to them and about them. At times they needed to go to the king with serious rebukes from God. Some, like Jonah did not want the office … but when God called and set the man apart his only response was to submit and serve. With these things in mind … we return to Jonah:
Jnh 1:1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish . He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
1) God’s Word came to Jonah. We are not told any more about him being set apart for the prophetic ministry other than … The word of the LORD came to Jonah. He might have been a prophet before this or this might have been the call … we don’t know, but God, in some way impressed upon Jonah’s heart what He required of him.
2) God’s Word said … “go”:
Jnh 1:2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh.”
(1) This is strange because prophets were normally sent to their own people. Nineveh was not part of Israel! Nineveh was in northern Mesopotamia, on the east banks of the Tigris River. She was the capital of the powerful ancient Assyrian empire. She was one of the greatest cities of that day, affluent and a trade center. Her modern name is Mosul in Iraq. Her greatness and importance as an important city was significant to God because we read
Jnh 3:3 Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days
Jnh 4:11 “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
Cities and Capital Cities are important places. Normally great numbers of people will be found there because work opportunities are more available. Look at the cities in our country. Looking for work, people flock there from all over. Numbers mean a stronger economy … but the likelihood of more crime and immorality as well. We need good Church Plants to happen in cities. Often cities host colleges and universities producing future leaders. Government personal are to be found there too. Then there are many businesses, banks and industry. All these shout out for evangelism. God knew this when His Word came to Jonah!
(2) The word “go” ought to read “arise”. The word “arise” does not only mean getting to your feet. It actual means responding as quickly as possible to a matter that is urgent.
3) Arise and preach. The urgent matter that required immediate attention was preaching God’s Word to the people of Nineveh … preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me. How confrontational! Jonah was not to preach to the people but against the people. He was to take God’s Word to the people, telling them what God had to say about them! Remember God is Sovereign. The World is His for He made it:
Ps 24:1 The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
This tells us that all nations are accountable to God for whatever they do as a state and as a people. Sin and immorality will be dealt with by God. “Their wickedness” must be understood to mean the sin of both the state with its political and military leaders, those who owned the businesses and all the citizens. The more people, the more the sin potential, the more the immorality, the more the rebellion and defiance against God. In our day this says we need urgency to reach cities for Jesus. Mostly reaching cities is for a Church or a denomination … and maybe this is where we get it wrong. Another problem we face is planting Churches in suburbs because the chances of economic survival normally comes from the middleclass people. Perhaps as individual believers we need to spend more time in prayer, asking God how to reach our cities for Him.
Our Father, as in Jonah’s day, so in our day, our cities are full of all sorts of wickedness. Show us ways to we can reach cities for Jesus. Amen.