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ebook: Holiness and missions

Chapter 3: Proclaimed by prophets

by Susan N. Fitkin

In 1915 Susan Fitkin emerged as the first president of Nazarene Missions International. This 1940 booklet sounds one of Fitkin's major themes. Minor editing has been done to increase readability.

The prophets were God's missionary messengers as they spoke for God to Israel and to other peoples. Beginning with the Major Prophets, we have the wonderful prophecy of Isaiah, who has been called the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. The book of Isaiah has sometimes been called "the Gospel according to Isaiah."

Of noble birth, Isaiah made his home in Jerusalem. God enabled this evangelical prophet to pierce the centuries with an eagle eye. Isaiah recorded a clear account of the Messianic Hope beginning with the Virgin Birth, then through His sacrifice and suffering, and on to the time when He shall return to this earth to establish His kingdom.

One day an American District Superintendent, his wife, a noted evangelist and I were traveling through the Middle West in holiness and missionary conventions. Suddenly, the evangelist said, "You cannot guess what book in the Bible I love best. It is the wonderful revelation of Christ's kingdom in Isaiah."

I replied that Isaiah was also a favorite of mine.

"Isaiah 42:4 especially inspires my heart," he continued. "He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope."

"Why, that is my missionary text," I exclaimed, "the one that has encouraged me many times down through the years!"

The vision

It is quite probable that the vision recorded in chapter six is what made possible this wonderful prophecy. Isaiah announced that one day while at worship in the temple, "I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple." He also saw seraphims and heard them saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." He was permitted a momentary view into a heavenly holiness meeting, was put under conviction, and cried out, acknowledging his uncleanness. The remedy was immediately applied, "a live coal," from off the altar, fire to purify, typical of the Holy Spirit; and he received the witness: "Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for" (or cleansed).

Isaiah further declared, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" and without asking any questions replied, "Here am I. Send me!"

What a beautiful picture illustrating how holiness and missions are bound up together! God could then use his servant to proclaim the good news and to write this wonderful book that has brought blessing to His people down through the centuries.

In chapter nine, the prophet visualized a world in darkness. He writes:

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. . . . For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

In chapter 53 we have Christ's sufferings foretold:

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. . . . But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all, . . . By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken."

What a heart-breaking picture; what wondrous love and compassion! The old, old story must be repeated in every generation around the whole world.

In chapter 35 we have holiness and missions described vividly. Over this passage some Bible publishers have placed the caption, "The joyful flourishing of Christ's kingdom." It begins, "The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy." What a marvelous transformation this illustration portrays. It is followed by a prophecy whose fulfillment is found in the Gospels: "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. . . . And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness."

Then follows a vivid description of the way of holiness:

It is a clean way
"The unclean will not journey on it."
It is a safe way
"No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it." It is true that the enemy, like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, may come near enough to be heard, but we need not fear, for "only the redeemed of the Lord will walk there," and the Lion of the tribe of Judah walks there, beside His own.
It is also a joyful way
"And the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and gladness, and sorrow and sighing will flee away."

The fifty-second chapter has an exhortation to God's people:

"Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again . . . How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news. . . . who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, Your God reigns!' . . . The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God."

The Church, clothed in the beautiful garments of holiness and carrying the glad tidings to the world can count on all the resources of heaven, for "all the resources of God are available to those who carry out His program."

In chapter 55 of Isaiah there is an inviting call: "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters." All may freely partake "without money and without cost." The divine Savior has paid the full price of redemption for all. [ Devotional: To everyone that is thirsty ]

The prophet prays

Isaiah not only had a world vision, but he also carried a heart burden for God's work. Chapter 62 records the fervent desire of the prophet to confirm God's people in God's promises, so that they shall not fail in doing their part to carry out His plan: "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory." Verses six and seven state that watchmen are to be always on duty, saying also that God will have no rest until His people shall be a blaze of glory in the whole earth. For have they not a world-wide mission?

And they are to be known as "the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord" that He may be glorified.

Chapter 64 begins with the words: "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! [mountains of difficulty, opposition and indifference]... the nations to quake before you."

In chapter 45, the prophet records an urgent message from God to His people about world evangelism:

"Gather together and come; assemble you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. Declare what is to be, present it -- let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me."

Then it would seem that God saw that His people were not sufficiently aroused to their responsibility to cooperate with Him in the world task. The prophet hears and records a heart cry from God himself: "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other."

With millions still in heathen darkness, do not we as members of Christ's Church today need to earnestly pray:

Stir me, O stir me, Lord, I care not how!
But stir my heart in passion for Thy world:
Stir me to give, to go, but most to pray.
Stir, till the blood-red banners be unfurled
O'er lands that still in heathen darkness lie.
O'er deserts where no cross is lifted high.
Stir me, O stir me, Lord! Thy heart was stirred
By love's most intense flame, till Thou didst give
Thine only Son, Thy best-beloved One,
E'en to the dreadful cross that I might live;
Stir me to give myself so back to Thee
That thou canst give Thyself again through me.

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet

One day I was dining in the home of a missionary along with some other missionary-minded people. As we sat about the table, we began talking about God's Word. Someone remarked about the tragic situation of Israel and the faithfulness of the Prophet Jeremiah in his day.

The missionary, with tears in her eyes, exclaimed, "Poor, darling Jeremiah! I have just been reading that wonderful book." We smiled at the unusual exclamation. However, anyone who has read prayerfully the life of this weeping prophet who carried such a tremendous burden that God's people should be true to Him and who probably suffered more persecution than any of the other prophets, will understand the reason for her tears.

The Prophet Jeremiah is introduced in the beginning of the first chapter as "Jeremiah son of Hilkiah . . . The word of the Lord to came him . . . in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah . . . down to . . . through the reign of Jehoiakim . . . down to . . . the eleventh year of Zedekiah." (Jeremiah 1:1-3)

Jeremiah began his ministry about sixty years after Isaiah's death. The events recorded in his prophecy cover a period of forty-one years.

The preparation and the call

"The word of the Lord came unto me, saying . . . I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Ah, Sovereign Lord,' I said, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.' But the Lord said to me, Do not say, I am only a child. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord. Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me. "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appointed you over nations, and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant . . . They will fight against you but will not overcome you." (Jeremiah 1:4-10, 19)

God's people backslidden

Jeremiah's ministry began before the Babylonian captivity. Israel had perilously backslidden. God, through His messenger, earnestly sought to call them back, offering mercy in place of judgment. In the prophet's first message to backslidden Judah, the Lord has Jeremiah remind them of their former kindness and love to Him when "Israel was holiness unto the Lord." Then Jeremiah pleads with them:

"This is what the Lord says: What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They did not ask, Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?'
I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable . . . .
Therefore I bring charges against you . . . My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns, that cannot hold water." (Jeremiah 2:5-7, 9, 13)

The tragedy of backsliding is portrayed in this message. The people's reaction to it is equally tragic. They not only refused to heed the message, but asserted they had not sinned, even though God himself declared they had turned their back upon Him and were serving heathen gods according to the number of their cities. No wonder Jeremiah declares a bit later: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure," and then asks, "Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

Jeremiah's second message was to all Israel. It was full of pathos and tenderness. God is yearning over His backslidden people. "The Lord said to me, . . . Go, proclaim this message . . . Return, faithless Israel,' declares the Lord, I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful' . . . Only acknowledge your guilt--you have rebelled against the Lord your God . . . (you) have not obeyed me . . . Return faithless people,' declares the Lord, for I am your husband.'" (Jeremiah 3:11-14)

Many in Israel heeded this message, for we read that, "A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel," and God's promise was, "I will cure you of your backslidings." (Jeremiah 3:21-22) They had evidently come to realize this, for they exclaimed, "Surely in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel." (Jeremiah 3:23) Then there was a second message to Judah, with more pleading, and gracious promises; urging them to stop, think, and give heed to God's words. Thus saith the Lord, "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." But they said, "We will not walk in it." (Jeremiah 6:16)

God's house desecrated

The prophet was then directed to stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and plead with those who were still continuing the outward forms of worship to Jehovah; while they continued also to bow down to heathen gods. We have here another glimpse of the great love and compassion of the infinite God, and how His heart was grieved when His people did not walk in the light, and press on to holiness, but turned back to the world, and forgot their God. (What a calamity for people in any age to be content with forms and ceremonies.)

They were reminded again of God's faithfulness and love and exhorted to obedience. "From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention . . . they did more evil than their forefathers." (Jeremiah 7:25-26)

"Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. . . . Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people. . . . But they hearkened not."

Surely God had done all that was possible, and we hear Him saying, "I have forsaken mine house . . . I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies." His judgments followed, and before this message in the temple was finished, we are not surprised to hear the prophet exclaim, "Oh, that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people!" (Jeremiah 9:1)

Jeremiah suffers persecution

Other messages follow on the broken covenant and the drought. As God's judgments began to come upon the disobedient people, the prophet was subjected to severe persecution. He was beaten by a false prophet, who was the son of a priest, and put in the stocks "by the house of the Lord." Being released, he continued faithfully to give the Word of the Lord to his persecutors. He prophesied of the Babylonian captivity and of the return after seventy years. Daniel was again shut up in the court of the prison, prayed, and received an answer that comforted his heart.

"I prayed to the Lord: Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. You show love to thousands but bring punishment for the fathers' sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve." (Jeremiah 32:16-19) Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah, saying, "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:26)

The life of the prophet was threatened again and again. He was accused of being a false prophet and a traitor to his country, but he continued faithfully to declare God's messages. Finally, he was seized and let down with cords into a dungeon that was in the court of the prison: "And they let down Jeremiah with cords, and in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire."

This was reported to the king, and he sent thirty men to rescue Jeremiah from certain death. God was thus fulfilling His promise to His devoted servant.

At God's command, Jeremiah, while still in the court of the prison, wrote his prophecies in a book. This was read in the Lord's house on the fasting day and later also to the king and his princes. But they received not this message from God. Instead, when the scribe had read three or four pages, the king cut them out with his penknife and threw them into the fire on the hearth. This he continued to do until all were consumed. Then the king sent officers to arrest Jeremiah and the scribe who had written the book for him, "but the Lord hid them." The prophecies were rewritten, and God preserved them so that His people down through the centuries might realize the peril of disobeying God's word and backsliding when He had provision for them to have victory instead of defeat, and His presence, love and care in place of bondage, captivity and death.

The final restoration of Israel

Times of affliction are often times of greatest blessing to God's faithful children. Amid testing times, Jeremiah was comforted by a special promise: "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."

Then followed a vision of Christ, David's righteous Branch, and a promise of the final restoration of the Jews:

"And I will cause the captivity of Judah, and the captivity of Israel, to return, and I will build them as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, . . . And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honor before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: . . . In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord of Righteousness."

This prophecy is to be fulfilled at the Second Coming of our Lord.

Jeremiah's prophecies included many nations, He was always a faithful witness for the Lord, whether in a heathen land, or in his own country. The special significance of these forty-one years of service was to preserve a remnant who remained true to God and to reveal the love and sorrow of Jehovah for His people, even when it was necessary to chastise them. Jeremiah's writings reveal a sorrow wrought by the Spirit in the heart of His servant, the Weeping Prophet.

Daniel the faithful

The first chapter of Daniel tells of God's people being carried away into a heathen land. Jeremiah the prophet had faithfully warned them, from God, of seventy years captivity in Babylon, but their leaders refused to listen or to turn from their evil ways.

No doubt among these captives were many who often bore witness to their heathen neighbors of the God of heaven as the only God, but four are especially mentioned, who were princes -- young men of royal descent, educated and attractive. These were taken to the king's palace, but although exiles and subject to the temptations of a heathen court, they remained faithful witnesses, real foreign missionaries.

We will mention only a few of the miracles God wrought through Daniel, who seemed to be the leader. While the book deals largely with his long, eventful life, the story of the three Hebrew children who came through the fiery furnace unscathed is also familiar to all. The intertwining of holiness and missions is strikingly illustrated in the lives of these four faithful servants of God.

A test

On arriving at their new home a test awaited them, but it is recorded, Daniel "resolved" in his heart to be true to God. He refused the meat and wine sent from the king's table. God gave Daniel favor with the officer in charge when Daniel courteously requested they be permitted to eat simple food. They won out also in the ten-day test. God blessed them. Later when the king had them brought before him and he communed with them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in his kingdom.

Then came a crucial test for these young Hebrews who were determined to live "set apart" lives. The king forgot a dream he had had and demanded that the "magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers" tell him the dream as well as interpret it. When they acknowledged their inability and declared that it was a request hitherto unknown, the king went into a rage and ordered them all slain.

Now Daniel and his companions were reckoned among this company, but they had not been notified of the incident until the summons came to go out with the others to be slain. Daniel answered the king's guard with "wisdom and tact" and secured permission to visit the king. He requested the king to give him a little time, promising to make known to him the dream. (Daniel 2:14-16)

A prayer meeting

Returning to his home, Daniel and his three friends went to prayer, and God answered. "During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision," after which they had a praise meeting, thanking God for making known to them what they had desired. (Daniel 2:19-20)

Daniel then sought out Arioch, the commander of the king's guard. He requested that he be taken to the king to make known the dream. Upon his arrival, the king demanded, "Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?"

Daniel, disclaiming any special wisdom, replied that it was not possible even for "wise men" to show the king his dream, "But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries," and he added that God was seeking to make known to the king what should be in the latter days. (Daniel 2:27-28)

Daniel then related the dream. I can almost see King Nebuchadnezzar nodding and smiling as the strange dream came back to him. After the interpretation was given, and Daniel's first sermon finished, the king was convinced that Daniel's God was the God of gods and a Lord of kings. He then promoted Daniel and "made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men." (Daniel 2:48) Daniel did not forget his three friends, but requested they also share in these honors. But although the king was convinced that the God of Daniel was above all gods, it took another experience of humiliation and repentance before Nebuchadnezzar really knew God, after which he gave his testimony in a proclamation to his kingdom which is contained in chapter 4:1-3.

The proclamation

"King Nebuchadnezzar,
To the peoples, nations, and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly!
It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation."

Also in the last verse of the record of his life he praised and rejoiced in the God of heaven: "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble." (Daniel 4:37)

Daniel also witnessed before King Belshazzar, the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar. When God wrote with a visible hand upon the wall of the palace during a drunken feast, Daniel was called in to interpret. But though Belshazzar trembled and feared, we have no record that he repented before he was suddenly slain.

Another test

A new king, Darius the Mede, then took over the throne. He appointed one hundred and twenty princes which should be over the whole kingdom, and over these three presidents, of whom Daniel was first. "Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom." (Daniel 6:3)

Daniel was now an old man and about to face the most severe test of his life. We are reminded here that even holy people are not exempt from devices of the enemy who seeks to destroy them. The story of Daniel is a familiar one in Christian homes, but did you ever notice that even his enemies bore witness to his faultless living: "We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God." (Daniel 6:5) What a testimony in behalf of the holy life of this foreign missionary!

So they prepared an edict, and through the cunning device of flattery deceived the king. He signed that decree which stated that no one should pray to any god or man for thirty days, except to the king. "Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." (Daniel 6:10)

When this was reported, the king "was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel." (Daniel 6:14) But the decree was according to the Medes and Persians, which could not be altered. While he was helpless to change it, he did believe in Daniel's God. So when Daniel was brought and cast into the den of hungry lions, the king was there and "said to Daniel, May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!'" (Daniel 6:16) What a declaration of faith from a once-heathen king! Did it not pay Daniel to let God have his life and to be a witness for Him in a foreign land (what today we call a "missionary")?

After the king had spent the night in fasting and prayer, he was off in the early morning to the lion's den. With real faith the king called out: "Daniel, servant of the living God, has you God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?"
Daniel answered, . . . My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me.'
The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God." (Daniel 6:19-23)

The second proclamation

But not only was this king won over to the true God, but he also desired that his subjects should know Him:

"Then King Darius wrote unto all peoples, nations, and men of every language throughout the land:
May you prosper greatly!
I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
For he is the living God, and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.'
So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian." (Daniel 6:25-28)

What a record! Does not giving priority to holiness and to missions pay?

In the last chapter of Daniel and almost the last verse, we have the promise of a holiness revival connected with missionary outreach, just before Jesus returns to earth again. "Many will be purified, made spotless and refined." (Daniel 12:10) Oh, that all God's people in this century might cooperate so whole-heartedly with His plans that He shall not be disappointed when He comes! A generation ago A. T. Pierson wrote, "The Protestant churches have men and money to get the gospel to the whole world in the next generation." This should drive us to our knees, pleading for a world-wide revival, and that Nazarenes may do their part in this new generation upon which we are now entering.

Joel and Jonah

Joel and Jonah might be termed "the Twins," for Joel's message was on holiness, while Jonah's was distinctly a foreign missionary message. Joel was a prophet in the southern Kingdom of Judah. The scope of his prophecy extended to the end-time of that age, the time of the Gentiles, the re-gathering of Israel, and of kingdom blessing. In the first part of the prophecy an immediate need of a holiness revival among God's people was emphasized. The people were all called to fasting and prayer. God's message to His prophet was: "Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy a fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly." (Joel 2:15) This was followed by the promise that God would hear their prayers and send "abundant showers." Then there would be a time of great rejoicing -- which a real heaven-sent revival always brings, especially when many have been sanctified. Best of all was the assurance, "Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God." (Joel 2:27) Such a revival is a necessity in every generation. The prophecy of Pentecost follows:

"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days." (Joel 2:28-29)

Thus provision was made for God's people in this present age to be filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:16-18). Holiness revivals are surely in divine order.

Jonah was probably the earliest of what we call the Minor Prophets. Dated around B.C. 862, the prophecy contains a very important missionary lesson about the insistence of God that the heathen should have opportunity to know Him as a God of mercy and love.

The prophecy begins with the prophet's first commission, which was a definite foreign missionary call, "Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the Son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me." [ E-book on Jonah ] Unfortunately this prophet was neither missionary minded nor missionary hearted. He certainly didn't think of Nineveh as an attractive mission field. It was not only a great city with 600,000 persons of tender age, but was one of the most wealthy and lawless cities of the great Assyrian empire, which at that point in time was at the height of its power.

Jonah probably knew of the Ninevites custom of impaling offenders on the roofs of certain buildings which had been studded with sharp spikes. There the offenders were left to die a lingering death. Jonah's reluctance to go on this mission may be attributed to the "fear of man [which] will prove to be a snare," (Proverbs 29:25). Or Jonah may have felt that his reputation as a prophet was at stake, for he knew God to be a God of mercy. In any case, he needed to have been in Joel's revival.

Jonah's the story is well known, including his attempted flight from Jehovah and the storm during which he confessed that he was the likely cause, and requested to be cast overboard so that the lives of others might be spared.

Fortunately, God had prepared a living submarine, and had it standing by. It took Jonah aboard at once after which they submerged, as Jonah says, to the "roots of the mountains," where he was interned for three days and nights. While there, Jonah learned how tragic it can be to disobey God. He fasted and prayed, promising God to obey Him. Jonah even got blessed:

"Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: 'In my distress I called to the Lord,and he answered me . . . When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. . . . I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord." (Jonah 2:1-2, 7, 9)

After Jonah thus prayed through, the submarine rose to the surface and headed for shore. The door opened, and Jonah stepped out on dry land.

The prophet's second commission

Jonah then heard the word of the Lord the second time, saying, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." and he obeyed. (Jonah 3:2)

The sermon was short, or perhaps that was only the text, but he stuck to it. Jonah was not like the preacher of whom it was said that his sermons always had three divisions: First, the preacher took his text; second, he wandered from it; and third, he never returned to it again.

The prophet Jonah's sermon may have been short, but it was effective because it was God's message. The people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest of them even to the least of them. When God saw that they turned from their evil ways and cried mightily to Him, He had mercy on them and spared them.

God has not changed. His heart is still yearning over the multitudes under the power and dominion of sin and Satan. Let us pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth more laborers unto the great waiting harvest field of earth.

An incident of soul saving in Africa

From one Africa mission field came a little incident that will help us to visualize God working on that continent where we now have over five thousand members of the Nazarene family. One day an elderly native man hurried to the mission and begged Miss Ora Lovelace, the missionary [ see photo ], to come at once to his kraal. His wife was dying and was not saved. Miss Lovelace knew the family well. Gospel services had been held in that kraal. Two of the boys had been converted, had been in her Bible School and were now preaching the gospel. But the father and mother had not accepted the Savior.

She hurried with him to the humble home and found the poor woman very ill, lying on a few rags in one corner on the dirt floor. She talked with her about her soul's need, but her heart was hard. She seemed indifferent. The husband, although himself unsaved, was deeply concerned that his wife should be saved, and finally he lost patience and began to scold her. He said, "Mother, why don't you repent? You are not going to live any longer, you are going to die, why don't you pray? If you don't repent, we won't take care of you any longer. We won't give you food, and when you die we won't bury you." But even this did not move her, and after an earnest prayer the missionary returned home.

A couple of days later the man was back again pleading, "Please come once more, Mother is almost gone." So she made the long trip again in the burning summer sun, praying as she went that God would help her to win this blood-bought soul to Jesus.

Again she knelt beside the dying woman and taking the weak, trembling hand in her own, she told again the sweet story of Jesus' love and sacrifice. After praying, she noticed tears in the faded, almost sightless eyes. Her faith was encouraged, and she began to sing softly that old familiar chorus, "Come to Jesus, come to Jesus, just now," and as she sang it a second time, she saw the sufferer making an effort to lift her right hand, and then, when the chorus was finished, in a very feeble voice, the dying woman declared, as is the custom in Africa, "I choose Christ." Now the husband rejoiced, he fairly danced for joy, that at last mother had accepted the Savior. Thus souls in Africa are seeking and accepting Christ, some even at the eleventh hour. . . . [ continue reading ]

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Holiness and missions in the gospels

Next chapterThe Lord's prayer is about holiness and evangelism. Read how in chapter 4.[ read more ]

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