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Read Introduction to Jonah


“And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”


And should I not pity Nineveh,

God asked Jonah to take a spiritual inventory with a pointed, piercing question.  God demonstrated to Jonah what He feels is important.  God is a God of compassion (“pity”).

that great city,

God’s point to Jonah was this: “Jonah, you care more about your plant (temporal thing) than about the greatest city in the world.  You care more about temporal things than eternal things.” 

in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left

The city of Nineveh had 120,000 small children who could not tell the difference between their right hand and their left hand.  By extrapolating 120,000 tiny children, we must conclude that there were between 600,000 and a million people in the city.  That is a lot of people about which to be callous.

God’s point about children is something like this: “Jonah, if you don’t care about adults, maybe you care about children?  Do you even have any compassion for them?” 

—and much livestock?

The book of Jonah closes abruptly.  This is intentional because God wants His people to think about eternal things.  It is a more forceful conclusion than if He spelled out the implications of the conclusion.  It was important for Jonah to learn the relative value of the temporal and eternal, the material, and the spiritual. 

The book of Jonah concludes on a compelling note.  Here is the implication: “Jonah, if you don’t care much about the adults of Nineveh, maybe you care about the children.  If you don’t care about the children, maybe you care about the cows of Nineveh?”  This is pure irony

Jonah did not answer that question because it is an open question for anyone who reads the book of Jonah.  All of us should take inventory of our lives.  What do we care about? 


All of us need to take inventory of our compassion for the lost. 


Take inventory of your life.  Is your chief concern for your house, success, security, health, and pleasure? 

The reason most people are indifferent to missions is that they are indifferent to the lost anywhere.  We are God’s representatives on earth today.  God loves the most awful of people.  He intends that every generation be evangelized.  Many of us are calloused and indifferent to this mission.  We have the heart of Jonah.  We do not care about the eternal state of people around us.  The reason we do not care is that we are too occupied with the “plants” of this life, with material pursuits.  There is a tendency to make our churches into country clubs of Christians who enjoy one another but care less about those who do not know Christ. 

Every time we become indifferent to the lost, God prepares a worm.  If we are in bondage to materialism, God sends something to disrupt our covetous idol.  It is time to take stock.  Do I care about the lost around me?  Do I have my priorities straight? 

1 Tim. 2:3-4, 3 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

2 Pet 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”