[b]A Man, A Message, A Movement Godward[/b]
[i]By Keith Daniel[/i]
[u]Let us consider three things in the Book of Jonah: the man, the message, and the movement.[/u]
"Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish...and went down into it to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
"But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea...so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god...But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. So the shipmaster came to him and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
"And they said...Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah...And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you...So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging...Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights..." (Jonah, chapter 1).
After Jonah's agonizing prayer in chapter 2, we read in verse 10 that the fish vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. "And 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. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord...and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So 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...And God 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" (Jonah, chapter 3).
We read in Romans 10:12-15: "There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent?"
Let us consider firstly the man, Jonah. How does God prepare the man whom He would use as an instrument of revival? How does God prepare a man to preach in such a way that a whole nation repents? I would like to suggest that God knew how Jonah would react when He commissioned him to go to that great city and cry against it, "Repent, for thy wickedness is come up before Me."
The Ninevites of Assyria were a wicked people, an evil and a cruel people. They were hated and feared by the nations of the world. The Israelites had suffered terribly through these wicked Ninevites. The Israelites feared them and hated them for what they did to the other nations of the world and to Israel. It's no wonder Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
God knew how Jonah would react, but God knew also of the torment and the anguish and the fear and the suffering this man would endure before he finally stood at Nineveh to preach. How do I know Jonah suffered so? In chapter 2 is the prayer of Jonah, the prayer of a man who wanted to die he was in such torment. Have you ever prayed like that?
It was a very different Jonah who finally walked onto the streets of Nineveh to preach than the man who rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. Jonah stood and preached in brokenness and great humility in spite of his prejudice against the Ninevites.
C. H. Spurgeon was the only man they ever called the prince of preachers. Why was this man's preaching honored and revered above all other preachers of the history of the church? How did God prepare Spurgeon to make him preach in such a way that the world remembers him as the greatest preacher who ever lived? Only once he spoke of it, when in his old age. He stood in the pulpit of God and the tears flowed down his face as he looked about and hesitated and then told why.
Spurgeon said, "If it wasn't for the suffering, if it wasn't for the storms, if it wasn't for the fires, for the trials of my life, for the tragedies that God allowed to come upon my life--if it wasn't for these things, I would be poverty stricken in the pulpit of God. I would be poor as a preacher in the hand of God."
You cannot weep with them that weep unless you've wept yourself. You'll be hard. Oh, what it will cost for a man to become the instrument of revival! Spurgeon said, if God could find just one man so broken of self that he will not touch the glory, no matter what God does through him, a man so broken by God that he would be incapable of even a sideward glance at the glory, let alone touch it! If God finds such a man, Spurgeon says, the world would know of him.
Secondly, what was the message that Jonah preached that brought about such an amazing movement of God? It's a message we can hardly whisper today. People are fearful of it. Jonah preached judgment. Beloved, America will never see revival until judgment is preached once again loud and clear in her pulpits.
Listen to these staggering words in Ezekiel 33:7-9: "So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the House of Israel. Therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth and warn them from Me. When I shall say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul."
When I was a young preacher, I remember being staggered by God in one quiet time on my knees. I wrote these words in the front pages of my Bible: "Art thou ready, O preacher, to take the consequences of letting the Lord speak through you as He will?"
Paul wrote in Galatians 1:10, "Do I seek to please men; for if I yet pleased men, I would not be the servant of Christ." So you seek to please men? You are not the servant of Christ. In 1 Thessalonians 2:4 we read, "But as we were allowed to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God which trieth our hearts." Are you ready, O preacher, to take the consequences of letting the Lord speak through you as He will?
Jonah preached judgment. But beloved, your harshest word from the pulpit of God must throb with love, or God will rebuke you. Your crudest word from the pulpit of God must so throb with God's love that every single person you're preaching to will become conscious that no man has ever loved my soul like this preacher. That's how we preach judgment or God will judge us. Jonah cried out that judgment would come upon the Ninevites and their nation because of their sin.
Read Jeremiah 18:1-12: "The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear My words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
"Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in Mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not My voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.
"Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good. And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart."
Nothing will stop us, they said. We want to be free from any constraint concerning sin. Oh, how many nations in the world today are saying that! Is America saying it in the heart of her people?
In Psalm 2:1-3, the Psalmist cries out in confusion and great fear, "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us."
Why do the ungodly, the godless, the irreligious unitedly assemble, and with one voice cry out for one thing? They are speaking of Christ, Christianity, its influence, the Gospel's influence upon a nation--"Let us break their bands asunder and cast their cords from us." Come, let us free ourselves from slavery and bondage to God's law. We want to be free from any restraint of sin.
They say, we want to take away decent speech and call it free speech. We want our children to hear the language of the gutter and we permit it to enter the home. We don't want restrictions on films and media and books and on the stage. "Come, let us break their bands asunder and cast their cords from us."
The next verse, (4), says, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision." Do you want to know what I see written across America, and the West, and my country of South Africa? It is derision, fear, confusion. You think you can do without God? What you sow, America, you reap! This applies not only to individuals; it applies nationally too. Sow perversion and you reap perverts. Then you want to jail them. But it is you who made them. They're ten years old with guns. Why? Because you made Hollywood able to make crime and slaughter as something heroic, so we have gangs and gangsters--when they're ten years old!
O beloved, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh. The Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure" (verses 4,5). Do you want to know why all the troubles are going on right now in America? Though you are the greatest nation in the world, yet look at your fearful hearts. You see crime and you see children destroyed morally before they've passed the age of ten. They have no honor. Look at their eyes; they have no innocence. What have we done? Why have we done it?
God is troubling us in His sore displeasure--derision, fear, confusion, hopelessness. What are we going to do with what we've started now that we've pushed God out? How do we get back to decency without God?
The verses that follow fill me with hope that God can revive nations like ours, that God longs to, in spite of generations arising that would reject God and all the influence of Christianity that their forefathers set as a foundation in the land. Today many are fighting to free themselves of what their forefathers embraced. In spite of this apostasy God says these amazing words:
"Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession."
There is hope when the High Priest who stands at the right hand of God will ask of the Father a petition such as this. There is hope when we cry out, "Give us America! Give us America!" and when we plead with the Father. O Jesus, Thou Son of God to whom the Father has promised, "Ask of Me and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession"--give us America! Oh, for such a revival that it would spread through the world.
Now comes the judgment if you don't turn! "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
"Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him" (verses 10-12).
Oh, be wise now, ye kings. Rejoice in fear and trembling that there is still grace and mercy, that God hasn't destroyed you yet. Rejoice in trembling; kiss the Son; pay homage to the Son of God. Acknowledge Him, the Gospel of Christ; embrace Him as a nation; kiss the Son of God. You rulers of nations, you who are in charge, be the first, like the Ninevites' rulers who were seeking God.
I wonder how much His wrath is kindled right now. America influences the whole world, America, you were so blessed once. Now the world wants to and will follow you into anything. Blessed indeed is the nation whose God is the Lord. America, America, "The wicked shall be cast into hell, and all the nations that forget God (Psalm 9:17). Don't forget God, America!
The rulers were the first to seek God in Nineveh. They called upon their people to turn, and they called with such desperation that their people did turn. The rulers took the message of Jonah and cried it out by what they did. God is not making a mistake when He cries out--"O ye kings...ye judges of the earth...."
George Washington cried out, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." God give you another George Washington! No wonder America became the greatest nation in the earth with such men.
Daniel Webster long ago warned the striving people, "If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper, but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury our glory in profound obscurity."
If God could only find a man, if God could only find a man who would without compromise preach the message with such love that it would break our hearts, if God would only prepare us such a man, we would see the movement Godward. As Nineveh turned to God, we will turn to God.
What a heritage America has in men like Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was broken by the spiritual state of early New England, America--the irreverence in the church, the lack of fear of God, the hopelessness that prevailed, no one under conviction of sin. There was deadness in the churches. Jonathan Edwards became so broken and fearful by this state of New England, early America, that he got alone with God. He was so desperate for three days that he did not eat. For three nights, he did not sleep. Every moment of the days and the nights, he was on his knees, weeping, groaning in agony, crying out, "God, give me New England! Give me New England, God!"
He had a pen in his hand as he prayed, and paper, and a Bible opened and the tears were falling onto the paper and onto the pages of the Bible day and night. This man was crying, "Give me a message that will turn these people back to God!" To this man crying for the only message that would turn the people back to God, God gave revelation. God made his hand turn the pages; God brought his eyes to the verses all through the Holy Bible.
This man stood up from the presence of God in brokenness, and he walked into the pulpit of God and something happened. Before he opened his mouth, God had come. The people looked and they sat up, as they had never sat up. This man was not charismatic in his personality. Charismatic personalities are a hindrance because we rely on personality to get us through a meeting. Edwards didn't have great ability. He didn't raise his hands. The people didn't even see Jonathan Edward's face. All they saw was the paper in the dim light that he held as he was reading. That's what God needs, a holy man of God whose expectation is in God only, a man who will not touch the glory.
Do you know what message God gave him? "God, give me New England!" It became one of the most famous sermons after the Sermon on the Mount that Christ preached. Edward's sermon was, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." God gave him the message of Jonah. Judgment!
As he began to preach, men began to slip onto their faces, and to hang onto the pews, and began to cling to the pillars, and began to cry out. Men who not once in their life had been stirred by any message, were suddenly stirred because judgment was being preached.
What started there spread through New England like a flame. That flame started through Jonathan Edwards became a fire that swept across early America through young Whitfield. What did Whitfield preach? Judgment! Every time he stood in the pulpit--judgment! But before an appeal was made, men were crawling and weeping. He was obeying God.
That flame that Edwards started and that was taken by Whitfield spread like a fire through America. It came to men like Charles Finney. He was criticized by the world, but has anyone won so many souls as Finney? What did Finney preach? Judgment! On a very different level from the way Whitfield preached it, but O, his preaching was throbbing with the judgment of God coming upon sin unless you repent! When the awful judgment upon sin was cried out from this man, America arose and began to turn to God under such men.
Through Finney and the prayer revival, as stepping stone, revival came to men like Moody. Moody preached judgment but God had to remind him very carefully, Let your harshest word throb with love, Moody. Even if you preach the judgments of God, let everyone know that behind the judgments of God are love.
These revivals were stepping stones to revivals that spread through the world. The only revival that South Africa had in its history was when Finney's writings were read in the Dutch Reformed Church where young Andrew Murray fell on his face weeping. Two weeks later revival swept through the land, and turned the nation's history. It was through the revivals that started in America.
Somehow the world wants to follow America. If America turns back to God, the world will turn back to God. It did before. Why won't you, America? Why won't you? You owe it to the world. You're so corrupt today. Because of your greatness, the world wants to be like you.
Beloved, could it be that you, even with all your praying for revival, are the greatest hindrance to revival today?
"Judgment is not the message we should preach in dignity in 1998. In this enlightened age? O, no, no!"
Forgive me that I preach this way, but I am desperate for revival.
Are you able to pray, preacher, you who pray desperately for revival -- "Oh, God, no matter what it costs me, make me an instrument of revival! I've prayed for revival. I've prayed for others; I've prayed for my nation. Now, my Lord, I want to pray, start revival in me. I'm the one, God. I have no right to pray for revival. I want to dedicate my life on the altar. What I dedicate, You can consecrate. Make me an instrument of revival, God, no matter what the cost, that I don't become the enemy of revival."
God, don't turn Your face away. Look at us. We need God, and we acknowledge all our efforts, all our outreaches, our organizings cannot stop what the devil is doing to America and the West and the world. We are at the end of ourselves, God, but we want You to have Your way in our lives. Break us of self, break us so we will not touch the glory. Break us that we would stand and preach in brokenness and great humility, even to people we're prejudiced against.
God, give us America or we die! Wash us in the Blood of Christ from all our inconsistencies, all our shallowness, our hypocrisies, all our unfaithfulness to God in the handling of the Word of God, all our trying to impress and please man so we've forgotten to please God. We want to hear man's "Well done" when all we should have done is flee to God to hear God's "Well done."
Oh, our God, forgive us for not fasting and losing nights of sleep as our nation is being destroyed and for not crying with great tears with a pain in our heart, "Give me a message that will bring revival!" Help us, Lord. Have mercy on us by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Take us deeper. Let the blood go through and through. Create in us clean hearts, O God. Renew a right spirit. Then shall we teach transgressors Thy way and sinners shall be converted unto Thee. Make us clean and pure in heart and motive. Come, our God; come, our God! Prepare us no matter what it costs, but don't let us die, not having brought our nation back to God. In Jesus Christ's Name.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon