I am currently preaching through the Book of Jonah. There are many lessons to be found in preaching through this book, ones that you do not necessarily discover simply from reading it. This was true of the latest sermon for me, one which was on Jonah's second call. In Jonah 3:1-2 we read: "Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you' ". What do we learn from this?
We learn that God's purposes do not change? The LORD had called Jonah in 1:1-2 and that purpose did not change. It was Jonah who had to change. What were the Lord's purposes as revealed in this book?
1. God's purpose was to use Jonah
2. God's purpose was for Jonah to preach to Nineveh
3. God's purpose was that he would only preach the message that he was given
4. God's purpose was to save Nineveh.
We read the following in Jonah 3:4-5 "Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, 'Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!' And the people of Nineveh believed God".
The main point that I would like to draw out is this. Jonah was a preacher and the means that God uses to bring forth salvation is primarily the means of preaching. Mission agencies, mission theologies, certain church groups and others often want to downplay this means of God. It is God's permanent purpose in the time of Jonah and now, to send trained men to preach the message of God. How often do we hear from Christian leaders about the uniqueness of 21st Century culture as if we are somehow living in a unique culture? Some people talk often that people today cannot listen to sermons, or that we are living in a post-Christian culture and so forth. Their conclusions often end up with the wrong outcomes. This is often to conclude that we must try "new methods" but often it leads to neglecting the necessity for preaching, by men who are called, equipped and sent by God.
God's purposes have not changed! It is by the foolishness of preaching that some are saved. Any missionary endeavour which fails to give preaching the primacy will not produce the fruit which God requires. We have no authority to deviate from the Lord's prescribed methods. If there was ever a potentially godless and hostile audience, it was Nineveh, the capital city of the barbaric Assyrians. Jonah was a preacher. Amos was a preacher, as were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi and Haggai. What more shall I say of Peter, Paul and of course the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to the apostle Paul:
"For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe" 1 Cor. 1:21. Let us make sure that we never concede to people who choose the wisdom of this world and in doing so they "drum down" the necessity for public, declaratory preaching for the salvation of sinners.