I was stuck today by the great contrast between two of the Old Testament prophets: Isaiah and Jonah.
Isaiah saw a vision of God, And when God asked “"Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" Isaiah said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah Wanted to go and do God’s will, to speak Gods word, spread Gods messages. Yet God told him to say,
"Go and tell this people:
" 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'
Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed."
When asked for how long, God said
Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken. (see Isaiah 6)
I don’t know about you, but I think that I would find that a pretty sucky kind of commission: "Go preach my words, but no one is going to repent.”
Yet in contrast to this, when God told Jonah “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you," Jonah Runs away. He didn’t want to speak God's message. Yet when He finally did, the whole city repented and turned to God. And then guess what Jonah does: he goes off and sulks. I mean, came on. Nineveh was one of the most powerful cities in the world at that time. Think New York or Shanghai or London, the whole city, turning to God, after one guy goes and preaches there. That’s the kind of responses we dream about!! Yet Jonah goes and has a wee cry in the desert.
What’s going on here? Why is the guy who is saying “send me, God!!” getting told, “go preach it brother, but no one’s going to lessen,” yet the guy who doesn’t even want to go, who tries to run away, get possibly the greats response to God's message in human history?
I think this is a timely reminder that when it comes to God’s mission that is the key thing: it’s God’s mission, not ours. Successes comes down to God's work, not the state of our own heart or our own efforts. We are called to be faithful in preaching the message is a way in which the people will be able to understand it, in our prayer life and in our love for God, other believers and nonbelievers. But doing all these things “right” is no grantee that we will see the results we desire. That’s Gods bit.
That said, we still have some questions to ask ourselves.
Are we willing to go to the Nineveh’s of our word? Are we willing to go to the places we are told are too dangerous for us, or where we are told the people “too evil” to even bother with? To go to the poorest, the most violent? To the prostitutes, to the gangs, to the drug dealers, to the terrorists?
Are we willing to be Isaiah’s in this word? To preach the Gospel to anyone, even if God tells us that they won’t respond, but that he wants us to them anyway? To stay where God has called us, even if we are not seeing the fruit that we want?
I believe that we need both today: we need to be willing to go anywhere God call's us: even to the Nineveh's of the world. And we need to be like Isaiah: to be willing to go, even if we don't see any fruit.