Jonah’s Mission: Greatest Hurdle


The fact that the greatest hurdle (Jon 4,1-4) to overcome in discharging the missionary mandate was not the sailors, nor the fish, nor Nineveh’s king and its citizens, but rather Jonah himself – the recalcitrant and narrow-minded.[1] Chapter four of the Book of Jonah describes Jonah, who has long since departed the city find shelter east of the borders. The forty day period of repentance has passed, but since Yahweh has changed His mind about destroying it, the city continues to be nourished by Yahweh’s grace and mercy. Jonah is furious that Yahweh has extended His mercy beyond the borders of Israel to the Gentiles. He wanted a God cut according to his own pattern. He cannot think of the Gentiles as part of salvation history.

nineveh-illustrationThis is Jonah’s sin, the sin of a missionary whose heart is not in it.[2] He who once pleaded with Yahweh for mercy from the desolate isolation of a fish’s belly now is angry that this God shows mercy to the Gentile nations. He vents his fury in the form of a prayer found in Jonah 4,2.

The question is why is Jonah so angry? For no other reason than that Yahweh is treating those outside His covenant the same as He is with those within the covenant.[3] But Jonah’s anger in effect is putting himself outside the covenant, for he obstinately refuses to acknowledge the covenant’s purpose – to bring salvation to all the peoples. He had not yet learned that Israel could not presume upon some special favours from God. Both Israel and the Gentiles alike live by the grace which the Creator gives to all of His creatures. So Yahweh comes to His prophet, but no longer as a covenant partner; He comes as the Creator and asks His creature: “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jon 4,4).

[1] J. Verkuyl, Contemporary Missiology: An Introduction, (E. Tr. and ed. by D. Cooper), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Michigan, (1978), 99.

[2] Cf. P. Trible, The Book of Jonah: Introduction, Commentary and Reflections, NIB, Vol. VII, Abingdon Press, Nashville, (1996), 521.

[3] J. Verkuyl, Contemporary Missiology: An Introduction, (E. Tr. and ed. by D. Cooper), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Michigan, (1978), 99.



  1. A great message again Sharon and very True, sadly some still think the same as Jonah and claim unless you belong to their group or Church you can’t be saved or you must do this or that to be acceptable, Salvation is a free gift but we do show we have it by our actions motivated by God’s Love and empowered by The Holy Spirit , when we choose to turn from evil and do good.1John3:9

    Romans 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

    Christian Love from both of us – Anne

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