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16th September 2012
During the Season of Prayer, Fasting & Giving – running from 23rd September to 14th October – we'll be learning about our missional God, a God who cares and shows great compassion, through the book of Jonah. It's just four chapters (less than 60 verses), but there is plenty here from which we can learn and mature in our faith.
The book starts with God speaking to Jonah, who was already a prophet to Israel, and asking him to go to Ninevah with a warning about their impending destruction. The Ninevites were infamous for their extreme cruelty – flaying people alive and piling up bloody skulls outside the walls of cities under siege – and so Jonah ran in the opposite direction! Taking a ship to Tarshish, Jonah ran from God and his call, but when a storm rose up and threatened to sink the ship, Jonah told the terrified sailors to throw him overboard.
Though Jonah still hasn't repented of his disobedience at this point, God shows mercy to him in a most bizarre manner – by sending a giant fish to swallow him up! After three days and nights in the fish, Jonah repents and is vomited up onto the shore, from where he heads to Ninevah and proclaims God's warning. The result is that, from the least to the greatest, the Ninevites repent and turn to God. This leads to God relenting from the planned destruction, much to Jonah's annoyance!
The main point of this book isn't about Jonah or the big fish – it's about God and it tells us something of who he is and what's on his heart. In fact, the theme of Jonah is also the central theme of the whole Bible: in God's original plan, men and women were designed to live in peace, freedom and righteousness, and since we turned our backs on him, God has been redeeming mankind and has always had the nations in his heart.
The story of Jonah has corporate and individual application. Are we here for an easy life, or to be used by God to rescue even the people we may not want to go to? What is in our hearts for those who are very different to us – compassion or disdain? This Season is an opportunity to catch afresh the heart of God for the communities around us. Please join us as we pray, fast and give.
Reading: Jonah 1-4
Prayer meetings: Sunday 23rd September – 7am at The Hastings Centre and 7pm at Sussex Coast College (see calendar for more meeting times and dates)
(Available from the Resources Area on Sunday morning.)
Posted by Paul Mann