In the prophetic book of Jonah, we read these words:

"Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.' But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. he went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord." (Jonah 1:1-3)

It is said that first impressions are lasting impressions. The first impression we receive of the prophet Jonah is in no wise pleasant. As soon as we meet him in the pages of the sacred text, we are repulsed by his repugnant response to God's revelation. God reveals to Jonah his sacred assignment: " Go to Ninevah." Jonah, however, is reluctant to comply with what God requires of him, and resolves to make arrangements to travel in another direction.

His actions tempt us to question the authenticity of his call. How could one claim to be a prophet of God, and yet blatantly disregrad the word of God? How could one claim to be a messenger of the Lord, but refuse to communicate the message of the Lord to those for whom it is designed? How can one who claims to be a prophet of God be trusted to faithfully communicate the word of God to others when he has no regard for that very same word himself?

Certainly, Jonah's response to God's revelation creates some issues of distrust about his authenticity as a prophet of God. It's almost hard to fathom that a real prophet of God would have a problem with complying with God's orders and directives. I think that if Jonah were a contemporary pastor, and it were public knowledge that he had issues with obeying what God told him to do, the God-fearing saints in his congregation would either put him out of the church or move their membership to another church. Who wants to listen to a preacher speak the words of God when it is clear that that preacher himself has no respect for the word that God speaks to him? How can a preacher be trusted to hear God for others when he has problems hearing God for himself?

God issued a divine order to Jonah: "Arise, go to Nineveh." Now, to be fair to Jonah; his issue was not so much with God and His word. He didn't have a problem with all of God's word. To be sure, He loved the Torah. He found prophetic pleasure and spiritual satisfaction in reading what God said in the Law. Jonah's problem was with the word God spoke to him! He took issue with the place and the people to whom God wanted Him to go and preach.

This is instructive. It says to us that we will not always like the assignment in ministry that God gives us. We may not personally like the people we have to minister to, and we may not like the place we have to minister in.

God does not necessarily consider our personal preferences when He gives us our assignment. Yet, we must be willing to yield to His leading, and go where He sends us. All too often, however, we respond to the word of the Lord to us, as Jonah responded to the word of the Lord to him: we fail to comply with it because it does not please us; it does not suit our personal preferences.

I recall reading a line in the book "The God Chasers" where the author said that he only accepts engagements to minister at churches where God is present. I take issue with such thinking. In the first place, the Bible teaches that God is everywhere. In the second place, the places where the presence of God may not be strongly felt because of the presence of sin, or a lack of spiritual fervor and zeal among the people are the places where ministry is most needed. And if we really have the presence of God in our lives, we ought to take Him there and introduce them to HIM! They may not do church as we prefer. Thay may not give love offerings as we prefer. They may not put you up in acceptable accomodations as we prefer. They may not shout and dance as we prefer. Thay may not even say "Amen" as we prefer. But if God sends us there, its best for us to go there and do what He orders. We can save ourselves from some misery, if we go. We can save ourselves from some storms, if we go. We can save ourselves from some humiliation and heartache, if we go.

In fact, I must remind you that the Lord has issued to us---not just preachers, but all His saints--- a word of "Go" also. "Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

Will you get up and go where He has sent you? It may be a hard place, but go. It may be a sinful and wicked place, but go. It may be a crooked place, but go. It may be a backward place, but go. It may be an economically impoverished place, but go. It may be a rebellious place, but go. It may be an unpopular place, but go. It may be a small place, but go. Get up and go where God sends you.

If you go, He'll go with you.
If you go, He'll take care of you.
If you go, He'll open doors for you that no man can close.
If you go, He'll make ways for you that no man block.
If you go, He'll put bread on your table, shoes on your feet, and clothes on your back.

Go where He sends you.

I hear the words of the hymn echoing in the chambers of my soul...

It may not be on the mountain's height
Or over the stormy sea,
It may not be at the battle's front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if by a still, small voice he calls
To paths I do not know,
I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine,
I'll go where You want me to go.
I'll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
O'er mountain or plain or sea;
I'll say what You want me to say, dear Lord, I'll be what You want me to be.

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Comment by Pastor T. A. Smith Sr on July 6, 2009 at 9:02pm
Tara, thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog, and to share your thoughts.

Jonah's resistance to going to Nineveh was not because he didn't think they would change. It was really about him believing that they would change, and that God would extend them mercy rather than judgment. Jonah didn't want God to spare them; He wanted God to unleash His divine wrath on them because they were such a cruel and barbaric people. Some theologians believe that perhaps some of Jonah's own loved ones had been victimized by the cruelty of the Ninevites, and therefore he had a deep-seated hostility against them.
Comment by Tara Robinson on July 6, 2009 at 8:14pm
Pastor I agree with what said about Jonah but i would like to also add God was teaching Jonah about forgiveness and judging. Jonah had a hard time because he judged the people based on what he knew and in spite of his rebellion against God the lord forgave him he needed to show Jonah that it wasn't about him but God will being done. I to find it fascinating that God would still chose to use Jonah in spite of his unbelief that a change would occur.
Comment by Eric Hancock on July 6, 2009 at 5:06pm
PREACH...PREACH
Comment by Pastor T. A. Smith Sr on July 6, 2009 at 1:43pm
Greetings Patricia,
Bless your heart! You are very right. Jonah had serious heart issues. He hated the people of Nineveh because of the cruelty they wrought upon other peoples, and even his own, perhaps. Yet I find it most intriguing that God, knowing the state of his heart, elected to use him anyway, and even blessed his ministry among the Ninevites. They repented of their evil. It strongly suggests that the fruits of our labors for the Lord don't have as much to do with our efforts as much as it has to do with God's purposes and plan. Although we should strive to maintain a pure heart before the Lord, and love our neighbors, even when we fail to do so, God's word will accomplish the end He ordains.
I appreciate your testimony. It is often the case that God has to nearly kill us before we can be messengers of new life! May you do great exploits for the kingdom as you continue to go where He sends you.

Taking Care of God's Business,
T. A. Smith

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