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The Mission of God and the Madness of His People: A God Too Compassionate


Why does the book of Jonah end the way it does?  How are we like Jonah?  What is Jonah’s contribution to Old Testament Theology? We asked Art Azurdia…


Listen to sermon (Jonah 4:1-11):

What is the effect of placing verses 5-11 after 1-4, thought it appears 1-4 occur chronologically prior to 5-11?

I think the big piece is that Jonah wants that last question lingering in peoples’ minds.  “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”  That’s the question he wants ringing in peoples’ ears as the story closes, so that, as the readers of this text, we’re asking that same question.  And in this case, Israel is asking this question, particularly about the Gentile world.

How does Jonah in his angry disposition shine a light on our own heart?  How are we to resonate with this text?

I think I said earlier that ‘merit theology’ or the idea that we earn the favor of God is the default position of the human heart, and I think the accompanying partner to that belief is a sense of self-righteousness and superiority to people we deem to be less righteous than ourselves.  Moreover, for those of us who possess a view of God that acknowledges Him as sovereign over all things, one of the inherent dangers, and a legitimate criticism on part of well-meaning and Godly Arminians, has been that we have confused being the elect of God with being the elite of God.  I think the beauty of a passage like this is it shows how profoundly ugly that self-righteousness and elitism is.  We’re every bit as much in need of grace as anyone we come across.  It also demonstrates that God’s electing purposes are not just for sake of election itself.  Rather, God elects people with a purpose, and that is to take the Gospel out to the world.

How should God’s compassion shape our pastoral ministries?

I know I’m tempted to be self-righteous and judgmental, maybe more quickly than most people.  That having been the case, when I realize how long-suffering God has been with me, I find my judgmental attitude dissipates.  And I hope it gives me a heart of compassion for people struggling, engaged, and ensnared in sin.  When I realize that I myself have battled with and been ensnared in sin, and that God has been patient with me, there really is no place for me to get impatient or intolerant.  That doesn’t mean there won’t come a time where I have to lead the process of exercising some type of discipline, or that I neglect that pastoral responsibility, but God’s compassion reminds me that I always need to lead with grace.  And even when we exercise discipline it needs to be done in a gracious and redemptive way.  Whenever discipline is exercised in a way that isn’t marked with graciousness, it will destroy and not redeem.

What would you say is this book’s primary contribution to Old Testament theology?

One of the biggest contributions is the confirmation that the seed of Abraham will be a blessing to all the nations in the world.  We see it with Rahab, and we see it with Ruth, and we’re seeing it here.  Then of course it’s expressed most fully in the Great Commission and the outworking of that in the book of Acts.  It reminds us that God’s burden is not for Israel alone, but for all the Gentile world, just as He stated from the beginning.  Israel, in the midst of recognizing her own unique call of God, came to put that in exclusivist terms that compromised her ability to see that God loves all people, and God has always wanted to save an entire world of sinners.  God is going to save the human race through Jesus Christ, and Jonah gets us one step closer to what we see declared in the Great Commission, and ultimately fulfilled in Revelation; a people from every tribe and nation.

About Art Azurdia

Dr. Azurdia is the Doctor of Ministry Program Director and the Associate Professor of Pastoral and Church Ministry at Western Seminary. He is also Director of The Spurgeon Fellowship and Pastor at Trinity Church in Portland, Oregon.