For he [God] will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth" (Rom. 9:28).
The Lord called Jonah to go east to Nineveh, to cry against that city because of its wickedness. Jonah disobeyed God, tried to evade and hide. He came to Joppa, found a ship going west to Tarshish, in the opposite direction, one thousand miles out of the way, and went aboard to flee. Eyes were upon Jonah, for God had a special work for him—Nineveh, the capital city of a world empire, had to be warned. A heavy wind and the seas so rocked and battered the ship that it was about to go to pieces. While men on the upper deck were terrorized, God's man was down below fast asleep. The shipmaster hunted him out, shook him, and said: "What meanest thou, O sleeper?" Here was the world, shaking and waking up a sleepy church.
What would you do if a rough-and-ready boat captain, who knew the world and the needs of men today, should enter your church, take the rostrum, and in heightened earnestness shout to you: "What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not." It took perilous times to cause the world back there to wake up a wayward, disobedient church. How is it now? If the tempests and judgments round about do not awaken us, what more can God do? Men in their extremity were beaten to their knees, crying to God for mercy. Battered by heavy seas, men held to hatches, rigging, anything. What daggers of remorse assailed Jonah as he witnessed the scene on deck, the fruitage of his neglect, heart failure, and disobedience! It was noble and selfless of Jonah, when questioned, to blame himself, and confess, and to ask to be cast into the boiling sea to save the ship and crew. At first the sailors shrank from throwing him overboard, but later in desperation they did so Immediately the sea became calm, and a wave of praise and thanksgiving swept over the hearts of all aboard.
Now the Lord had prepared a fish large enough to swallow Jonah in order to bring him back to duty. It is a bit odd that knowing men will question the Jonah narrative and argue regarding a whale, when in the book of Jonah there is no mention of a whale at all. The God who prepared the wind and miraculously reversed Jonah's thinking could certainly provide for his speedy transportation to the nearest East Mediterranean port, and thence help him to make a trip overland by rapid locomotion; a kind of three-day journey in one day.
Jesus Himself expressed faith in the sign of Jonah. Jonah as a new man was as one raised from the dead, and Jonah's message, like Jesus', was a resurrection message, accompanied by the power of the Holy Ghost and Christ's righteousness. Jonah entered the streets of Nineveh and cried: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." Nineveh repented, and God's judgments were stayed. What a short work God made of an international and world mission problem!
"Doest Thou Well?"
The time was up. Hadn't he waited days, on the side of the hill, to see the city destroyed? Jonah wanted things to happen his way, and when they did not, he was disappointed, displeased, and discouraged. No wonder God asked, "Doest thou well to be angry?" How is it with you? Are you among those who overlook the masses and wait for the destruction by fire? Are you more anxious to go up yourself, without concern for others; more interested in a pyrotechnic display than in the lost souls in the crowd? Doest thou well?
There is more to that question. Doest thou well to be angry? Jonah had so far lost his
Christian poise and the loving Spirit of Christ that he centered his life's interest in a withered gourd, and for the second time he wished himself dead (Jonah 4:9-11). A discouraged Christian worker is a sorry sight.
After all that God had done for Jonah by divine agencies, by natural and material agencies, Jonah had lost his vision for the lost!
It would be hard to list all the human and material agencies at our command, and all the divine marvels God has prepared to help men speedily finish God's work in the earth today: Rapid transportation has been speeded up by streamlined ships and trains, by automobiles and aircraft. And God can use them all. Wheelbarrow and oxcart missionaries now travel by air, and natives on high, inaccessible tablelands are most familiar with airplanes, yet they may never see a train, streetcar, or automobile.
Speedy communication has been accelerated by wireless telephone, telegraph, and short-wave radio. At an American telephone and telegraph company banquet each guest, with a receiver at his plate, listened in as the chairman conversed with a steamship in the Pacific Ocean and with another in the Atlantic. But even this is commonplace compared with the four-way shortwave conversation heard almost any night between correspondents in Berlin, Paris, London, and New York. These are tokens showing with what speed messages travel. Even so Bible messages may be quickly relayed by wireless and hastened around the world in a few moments! God and the world's inventions are ready; what the church needs most is the right kind of men —more Christ-righteous carriers of present truth —to make a short work in the earth.
In the face of all of these wonders and twentieth-century marvels, what are our behavior patterns? Are we more fruitful? Are we more spiritual? We will have to confess that machine-made advantages in such abundance have not brought us more spirituality. God has done His part to close the gospel work with rapidity, but the greatest need just now is better messengers of reformation. In view of the imminent second advent of our Lord, would God have to ask us the question He asked Jonah twice over, "Doest thou well?" We may have to answer in the words of olden times, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace" (2 Kings 7:9).
A critical famine had come to a very fertile country—Samaria. It usually yielded thirty-, sixty-, or a hundredfold, and yet our chapter sets forth the most terrible famine the land had ever experienced. In the midst of this, Elisha, the prophet, promised them that within twenty-four hours barley and other cereals would practically be given away. The king's chancellor scoffed at the idea and said, "Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?" The prophet replied: "Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof" (verse 2).
All of emaciated Israel was in doubt as to where food should come from in so short a time, and how it could be so amazingly cheap. In the meantime four starving lepers, desperate in their need, decided to go for food, in the face of death, to the enemy camp: and there they found that the Syrians had fled. The Lord made the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots and horses and a great host approaching, and they believed that the king of Israel had hired other forces. They fled for their lives, leaving all their tents, horses, and food.
When the lepers entered the tents they found food enough to supply an army. They carried away garments, gold, and silver, and hid them, then awakened to the peril and need of their own starving people. They said one to another, "We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: . . . now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household" (verse 9). Soon, in response, the hungry mobs rushed over the countryside, broke through the lines fixed by the chancellor, and pressed forward wildly for food, treading to death the king's skeptical chancellor—he who had questioned the power of a miracle-working God.
Those leprous men were God's agencies for saving a nation. Angels going before them had cleared the way, for a previous chapter tells us that divinely opened eyes saw the hills and valleys covered with angels, chariots, and flaming horses. What speed, alacrity, efficiency, is here illustrated when God determines on a short work in the earth! All this happened in one twenty-four-hour day!
There are signs enough to tell us that the coming of the Lord is near; we have inventions enough to hasten the coming. The matter is with us. Would the Lord Jesus, looking on our ease and comfort, ask us, "Doest thou well?"
Shall we answer, "We do not well: this day is a day of glad tidings, and we hold our peace"? Should we not pray the Lord that the righteousness of Christ may cover God's children like a garment of sanctification? The Lord is going to make a short work in the earth. He will when those of us who lead His people are ready to pay the price.