Shakespeare was a sonnet maestro. A sonnet, from the Italian word meaning little sound, is a structured form of poetic expression. An English sonnet has 14 lines, each one must contain 10 syllables and there are certain rules for rhyming. The point of the sonnet is to show the poet’s prowess commanding the language to conform to strict limits, while still expressing what he wants to communicate in an artistic way.
The Bard used sonnets, we use tweets. Twitter limits our expression to 140 characters. This is somewhat easier than what Shakespeare had to do, but for many loquacious youths these days, any type of limit is a challenge.
Founder, Jack Dorsey, explains,
[W]e came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was.”
The brevity of the tweet is what makes it simultaneously both appealing, and potentially useless. But Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet law at Harvard says,
The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful.”
But just because a message is short, does not mean it is insignificant.
Horatio Spafford saw his life collapse when he heard his four daughters had drowned in a shipwreck. This news came from his wife’s poignant telegram: “Saved Alone.”
World War 2 ended with the words “Unconditional Surrender.”
My wife made my day, and my life, with two words: “I do.”
In Jonah 3 we see five (Hebrew) words that changed history for over 600,000 people, with implications that echo in our very lives today.
3 STEPS TO REACH OUR WORLD FOR GOD:
1. ACQUIRE GOD’S MESSAGE
Jonah 3:1-2 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”
After some aquatic persuasion, Jonah is ready to get back on mission to Nineveh. Jonah’s first step is to acquire the message. God’s message. Our first step is to make sure the message we proclaim is God’s message. The Bible tells us what to teach and how to teach it.
If a church has a 1,000 people, hoards of cash, ample parking, convenient cry-rooms, and great coffee, but doesn’t preach the word in season and out, it’s a weak church.
That is why at good seminaries they don’t teach you how to grow your church, how to do missions, or how to run an outreach program. They teach you Greek. They teach you Hebrew. They teach you hermeneutics and exegesis and theology and preaching.
2. ACCEPT GOD’S COMMISSION
Jonah eventually (though reluctantly) accepted his mission and began to preach:
Jonah 3:4….“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
Not a very winsome approach. You ask the seeker sensitive churches of today and their research will show you: there is no way this will work.
But Jonah accepted his mission to preach the pithy “Judgment is coming.” Pretty simple.
This message has not changed in 5,000 years.
Seven centuries after Jonah, John the Baptist came preaching:
Matt 3:2 Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Jesus came preaching:
Matt 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The apostles came preaching:
Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
And today judgment is still coming to those who do not obey God, who are not in a right relationship with him. And we have the same commission as Jonah, John, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and every Christian preacher worth his salt since the days of Noah! Repent!
Rom 10:13-14 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
People think that if you preach against sin, sinners will not put up with it and your church will shrink. So what!? It’s the truth, it’s the message of the Shepherd, and his sheep know his voice.
So accept your mission to tell people about Jesus. But you will need to eat your porridge and get brave, because part of the good news is the bad news. And if you are too cowardly to tell people they are in sin, they will not repent.
3. AWAIT GOD’S RESULTS
Jonah 3: 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
This is the shortest sermon I’ve ever read. It’s five words in the Hebrew, eight in English.
It’s a tweet. A text message. And yet it sparked the greatest single revival in the history of the world!
Over 600,000 people instantaneously repent and get saved.
Was this because of the eloquence of the preacher? Was it the moving stories, the catchy language, the vivid word pictures? Was it the alliteration in the outline, the passion of the delivery? No, it was the work of God. And to this day, only the work of God moves sinners to repent. It is always God who does the saving.
Your part can be short and sweet, as long as it’s true.