The best way to know one’s mind is not only to hear his words, but to also see his face. And so God, in making known his holy mind to sinful men sends His Word delivered by prophets with human faces.
Jonah, and Jesus, are prophets. One was an Anti-Prophet. The other is the Ultimate Prophet. Once again, we must decide if we will follow Jonah, or Jesus. The (literal) use of the word “face” in the opening verses of Jonah provides the starter material for our discussion. “But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” (Jonah 1:3 NAS95S) The phrase could be translated literally, “from the face of the Lord.”
Where is God’s presence? Isn’t it everywhere? “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?”
(Psalms 139:7 ESV) For this prophet, a fair interpretation would be to say that when Jonah ceased to be where God wanted him to be, and go where God wanted him to go, then he was no longer living in God’s presence, or before God’s face.
So Jonah forsook God’s face, rejecting the message, and he also fled from the mission field, rejecting the recipients, refusing to communicate with them face to face. There is a lesson here. Rejecting the faces of the recipients of God’s message coordinates with fleeing from God’s face. “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar;” (1John 4:20 ESV) We cannot love the Lord fully and not also love those to whom we have been called or sent.
As followers of Jesus and representatives of the Ultimate Prophet, we may wish that God’s mind could be communicated merely with propositions. Air drop some literature on Nineveh. Send a mass e-mail to all my associates. Let’s be done with it. But the message is not merely propositional. It is also personal. Jesus came and delivered God’s mind to us in person – He spoke the message (propositions), but even more, he incarnated the message. There is an application here. So we also must seek “face time” with those who would be recipients, in those places where God has called us to be, and those places where God sends us to go.
We live in an informational age overladen with technologies that permit and encourage minimal personal contact. But the very culture that maximizes such capabilities at the same time hardens people against the practice. People are resistant to mere propositions. They need to receive the Good News from someone they can respect; from someone they can know and trust; from someone who will take the time to sit with them face to face.