"The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good." Likewise, the Lord sent Jonah to mingle among the Ninevites as one who desired their good. We know the story, the Lord accomplished His purpose in spite of Jonah's refusal. Will we be like Jonah or Jesus? Following is a previously published commentary.
The Man That Came From God
In 1958, a small town Pennsylvania church pastor – David Wilkerson - was emotionally moved as he read a copy of LIFE magazine that featured details of the upcoming trial of 7 teenaged members from the Coney Island (New York) based 'Egyptian Dragons' street gang. The seven boys had brutally attacked and murdered an innocent 15-year-old polio victim named Michael Farmer in Highbridge Park, leading to one of the most publicized gang murder trials of 1950's New York. He later wrote that as he felt the Holy Spirit move him with compassion, he was drawn to go to New York in February 1958 to preach to them. After being unable to secure visitation rights to visit the 'Dragon' gang members in jail, Wilkerson was detained while attempting to rush past security and police to gain an audience with the judge on the case. The press photographed the skinny preacher as court officers physically detained him; and by the next day, the picture would make the front page of more than one New York daily.
After this much-publicized incident, the young Pastor thought he had blown away his chances. But, the Lord had other plans. When Pastor Wilkerson returned to New York, his face is recognized everywhere. God used this unusual circumstance to open the doors. As a result of this incident, Pastor David Wilkerson became accepted by New York's toughest and most bloodthirsty street gangs as the preacher arrested for trying to help other gang members. You could argue that gang members accepted Pastor Wilkinson as the man God sent to help them.
Jonah is also called by God to go to Nineveh. We know the story. He tried to escape. But, God, in His providence, ordained circumstances to get Jonah back on track. We know that a big fish swallowed Jonah and took Jonah to the shores of Nineveh, where the fish regurgitated Jonah out into dry land (Jonah 2: 10). Any preacher would say, "Who would listen to a man that has spent three days in the stomach of a big fish." Imagine how Jonah looked. Seaweed all around him. He was probably pale and discolored from exposure to the acid in the fish's stomach. He probably smelled like fish. Let us read Ellen White's narration of the events:
Once more the servant of God was entrusted with the commission to warn Nineveh. "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." This time he did not stop to question or doubt, but obeyed unhesitatingly. He "arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord." Jonah 3:1-3.
As Jonah entered the great city, he began at once to "cry against" it as he had been bidden. Lifting up his voice in warning, he declared, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." From street to street he went, all the while sounding this terrible note of warning.
God's message was not given in vain. The warning rang through the streets of the godless city, and was passed from lip to lip, until all the inhabitants had heard the startling pronouncement. The Spirit of God pressed the message home to the heart, and caused multitudes to tremble because of their sins, and to repent in great humiliation.
"The people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?" Jonah 3:5-9.
As kings and nobles, with the common people, the high and the low, "repented at the preaching of Jonas" (Matthew 12:41), and united in crying to the God of heaven, his mercy was granted them. He "saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." Their doom was averted, the God of Israel was exalted and honored throughout the heathen world, and his law was revered."
God used the beliefs of the Ninevites to reach them. One of the gods worshiped by Nineveh was the fish god Dagon. When the fish disgorged Jonah the coast of Phoenicia in the sight of the local fisherman on the shore, it must have been a most startling sight. The fisherman would convey what they saw to the people of Nineveh. No wonder Nineveh responded as it did, here was a messenger who was seen coming out of the mouth of a fish, one of their idols. Here was instant validity.
What is the lesson? The lesson is that God is in control, and His plans cannot be thwarted. Jonah was to preach to Gentiles, and his first converts appeared to be the sailors on the boat he was on to flee from speaking to Gentiles. God provided a fish to capture him and place him on the shore in the presence of people who worshiped a fish.
Isaiah quotes God saying,
Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God's methods are different than ours and more effective. Ellen White says,
Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness.--Testimonies to Ministers, p. 300.
Will we let Christ take the reins or will we not let go?