Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. This is episode 172 of Missions on Point. We're in a series on missions insights from the Old Testament. In this episode we'll talk about Jonah, Daniel, and Malachi. The story of Jonah demands special attention, at least because of the phenomenal story of the book of Jonah. Everyone is amazed by it. The book of Jonah is unique in that while Jonah was a real prophet in the days of Israel at the time of King Jeroboam. This book is not a collection of the writings of his prophecy as much as it is a narrative of what happened to him and why. While generally throughout the Old Testament, God uses his word and the people and practices of the people of Israel as a model and an attraction to the rest of the world, for them to see the greatness and the glory of God to bring them to repentance and salvation by trusting in him and Him alone.
Jonah and the Mercy of God for the Nations
So throughout the Old Testament, we see nations and kings and kingdoms come into contact with the people of Israel and the God of Israel and be compelled to admit that God alone is the one true God. But here in the case of Jonah, God sends the prophet from Israel, Jonah to a different country, to the people of the Assyrians, specifically to the city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Children and fishermen are attracted to the special fish that's involved in Jonah's story. Jonah attempts to go the opposite direction from the place that God told him to go to escape, giving the message of God to the Ninevites. And the reason apparently from his book and his own record is that he knew that God wanted to be merciful to them and to not destroy them, and that's not what Jonah wanted, so he wanted to go in the other direction.
God used a fish, a special fish. We don't know what fish. It had to be a fish that was large enough to swallow Jonah whole and somehow to keep him alive. So probably it was an air breathing fish, a mammal of some sort, but we just don't know from the record. And it must've been a very strong and fast fish because if he swallowed Jonah in the Mediterranean on the way to Tarsus, that is Spain, that fish had to circle back in the other direction, hundreds of miles at least to get back to dry land and in a position to hear the word of the Lord telling him again, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city and call out against it the message that I will tell you."
Jonah, this reluctant missionary had a very brief message and he just kept repeating it for three days as he walked through the city of Nineveh. His message though brief was probably the most effective message in all of history because all of the people that heard it repented and believed in God. Not only was Jonah reluctant, but he had a bad attitude. In Chapter 4 it says, "It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, oh, Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country. This is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and relenting from disaster."
God works with Jonah and teaches him that he alone has the right to be merciful and to show pity on a city like Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from the left. And I think the evidence that Jonah is in our Bible is evidence that Jonah understood God's lesson and did repent of his bad attitude. In the process, saved a whole metroplex of people because of God's great grace and mercy. While God used many means and many situations to draw people from many nations to himself during the Old Testament period, Jonah seems to be the only one that was specifically called and commissioned by God to be an Old Testament missionary.
Daniel Worships God and Influences Foreign Nations
Daniel is a different missionary and he is one of my great heroes of the Old Testament. Daniel was among other young men in Israel who were chosen and captured and taken into exile in the Babylonian empire under King Nebuchadnezzar. Though the circumstances were terrible on a personal and family basis, Daniel took advantage of this unique opportunity to serve in the King's court. And he and his friends worked hard to stay faithful to the Lord and to God's law while learning the language and culture of the Babylonians.
Similar to what missionaries should do today, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom and understanding. He knew the language, the culture, and the ways Of the court and of the Babylonians. He received commendation from the king. What a great model for missionaries going to the field. These guys had three years to study hard and work hard at learning all of these things so that they could communicate and serve their new country and the authorities of that country well.
In the course of time when Nebuchadnezzar had an unusual dream and Daniel interpreted it, King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and paid homage to Daniel and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. The king answered and said to Daniel, "Truly, your God is God of Gods and Lord of kings." You see, Daniel spoke up and gave credit to God. One of the things we see through the whole book of Daniel is that Daniel knew how to choose his battles. He was ready to proclaim the word of God as it were to these foreign dignitaries and rulers in such a way that God got all the glory for the special gifts and abilities that he had given Daniel.
In the story of the fiery furnace, King Nebuchadnezzar recognizes that these Hebrew men who refuse to worship the idol were servants of the most high God. He said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Therefore, I make a decree, any people, nation or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses laid in ruins for there is no other God who is able to rescue in this way." King Nebuchadnezzar wrote to all peoples nations and languages that dwell on the earth, "Peace be multiplied to you. It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the most high God has done for me. How great are his signs? How mighty His wonders. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and his dominion endures from generation to generation."
Daniel interprets another dream of Nebuchadnezzar, and after that dream is fulfilled, Nebuchadnezzar is restored and it says in Chapter 4, "I Nebuchadnezzar lifted my eyes to heaven and my reason returned to me and I bless the most high and praised and honored him who lives forever for his dominion is an everlasting dominion and his kingdom endures from generation to generation and all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the hosts of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand or say to him, what have you done? Now, I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the king of heaven for all his works are right and his ways are just, and those who walk in pride, he is able to humble."
These are missionary statements and they were distributed and proclaimed all across the empire to many nations and languages. Then the kingdom changes, and Darius is made the ruler of the Medo-Persian Empire, and Daniel is given leadership in that kingdom as well. While there is a plot to destroy Daniel, God saves Daniel again, and King Darius wrote, "To all the people's, nations and languages that dwell in all the earth," this is Chapter 6:25, and following, "Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree that in all my royal dominion, people are to tremble in fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues. He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth. He who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions."
So we see Daniel's influence and testimony to the rulers of a foreign nation through all of his long life and tenure as a leader, his influence spanned 70 years in a foreign nation. All of these things make Daniel a model missionary. He was steadfast and faithful in proclaiming the Lord. He worked for the good of the people of the country in which he served. However, as a captive, he had long-term ministry outstanding results. Daniel receives special mention by the Lord in the book of Ezekiel Chapter 14 when he names Noah, Daniel and Job as outstanding in their faithfulness and righteousness.
If you're a believer listening to this today and you happen to be working in the area of international relations or international affairs and you have a desire to serve the Lord as a missionary, like Daniel, I would encourage you to pursue it and see where it takes you. Maybe you could be in the court of a foreign nation and advising them about the Lord as well as the good of their country and interpreting the amazing crazy politics of the international scene and how it affects them.
Malachi Prophecies of All Nations Worshipping God
Now we'll turn briefly to Malachi. This is the last book in our Old Testament. He is one of the minor prophets. He is the last voice of the Lord to the people of Israel before 400 years of silence before Christ comes in the incarnation. So there are 400 years between Malachi and John the Baptist, who is a prophet in his own right as the forerunner of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
In Malachi Chapter 1, God is speaking through Malachi to the priests about their unfavorable offerings and he said, "I don't really need your offerings," in verse 11, "For from the rising of the sun to its setting, my name will be great among the nations. And in every place incense will be offered to my name and a pure offering for my name will be great among the nations says the Lord of hosts." Here is this outstanding declaration of God's intent and prophetic saying about his glory and his worship being spread from the rising of the sun to all nations in every place. This is clearly a missional statement of the Lord in the closing of the Old Testament.
Here we've taken a glimpse at some mission's insights from the Old Testament. There's one more episode to go, stay tuned to seeing Christ through the Old Testament. These lessons have shown us God's intent from the very beginning to the end of the Old Testament, to see worship of his name in all nations. And there are stories scattered throughout the Old Testament of God drawing people from beyond Israel, from all nations to worship him, to acknowledge him, and to come before him as the only savior. I hope that you'll continue to read your Old Testament with great expectation and anticipation and energy to see God's heart for missions woven throughout the Old Testament.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at propempo.com and missioserve.org. We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever, amen.
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