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God’s Notorious Mercy

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God’s Notorious Mercy

Why we do what we do is as important as the attitude behind it. The world understands retaliation; they don’t understand love.  ONE MISSION comes from the Great Commission of Jesus, which commands us to take the Good News to every person everywhere. Lakeview’s mission is: “Connecting to Christ, changing lives, impacting the world … together.”

I’ve learned the work of missions is messy.

The work of missions is as much about God working in us as it is about the people we are trying to reach for God. Through missions, God deals with our hearts and attitudes towards other people that we may not understand or even like.

Jonah, the first missionary, is a great example of that. The Lord spoke his word to Jonah, son of Amittai. He said, “Leave at once for the important city, Nineveh. Announce to the people that I can no longer overlook the wicked things they have done.” Jonah immediately tried to run away from the Lord by going to Tarshish. He went to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid for the trip and went on board. He wanted to go to Tarshish to get away from the Lord (Jonah 1:1-2 GW).

Jonah’s reaction to God’s missions call to Nineveh set off a huge storm in his life, and in the end, he learned a great lesson about God and about himself. Jonah ran away from his God-given assignment.

Jonah knew about God’s notorious mercy. In his desire to escape God’s call, he boards a boat and heads out to sea. While he sleeps, unaware of what’s going on in his world, a storm rises up in the ocean. When he realizes his disobedience has put the lives of others at risk, Jonah tells them to throw him into the ocean. God prepared a whale to swallow him up, and after three days in the whale’s belly, Jonah becomes willing to do what God asked him to do. He went to Nineveh, delivered God’s message and the people of the city repented.

The Book of Jonah was written about 750 B.C. At that time the Assyrian Empire had become the largest empire to that point in history and the city of Nineveh was its capital. The Assyrians were a notoriously brutal conquering force. They routinely tortured and brutalized the people they conquered.

They sadistically killed their enemies refusing to use the traditional means of death in warfare. They like mutilating the bodies of the dead. They widely bragged about their exploits so as to instill terror in the hearts of all other nations. In fact, terror was their most powerful weapon (terrorism is NOT new).

At the height of the Assyrian terrorism, which had now reached the country of Israel, God told Jonah, “I am going to destroy Nineveh.” And I think Jonah said, “GREAT! That’s a good plan! I hope I get to see it!” But there was a tiny glitch in the plan. God told Jonah to go warn the people of Nineveh, and if they repented, they would be saved.

For some reason, God’s mercy extends to the worst of humanity.

That can be difficult for us to understand. I pray today God would give us an understanding of His heart in this command to go and share the Gospel.

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About Ron Bontrager

Lead Pastor of Lakeview Church in Indianapolis.

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