Back to Square One
Jonah’s experience in the belly of the fish could not have been a very pleasant one! He had faced death – in fact must have considered himself to be as good as dead – who wouldn’t, having been thrown into a raging sea and then being swallowed by a great sea creature. I doubt whether Jonah was thinking about plans for his retirement or where he would take his next holiday. Jonah had no future plans of his own – in fact he thought he had no future.
Yet within the belly of the fish God comes to Jonah and he realises that God is still with him and that he is not lost. Whether he knew at that point if he would be back in this world or simply ushered into the next, we don’t know. BUT he does know that even in the belly of the fish he is not out of reach of God’s redeeming grace.
Jonah knew that he had had an opportunity to obey God and that he had blown it. God had told him to go to Nineveh and Jonah had flatly refused.
Maybe there has been a point in your life when you know that you have disobeyed God. Maybe you willfully followed your own way – like Jonah you blew it. And ever since then you have felt like a second class Christian and God will never again ask you to do any thing significant for him. If that is how you feel then take courage from Jonah – God is the God of new beginnings.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time …[v1]
Intially Jonah had thought he had gotten away with disobeying God. BUT God is gracious and sends the storm and the wind and the fish to rescue Jonah from himself and his disobedience.
Imagine Jonah sitting on the beach covered in fish’s vomit – “Well I never expected to get out of there alive. I am glad that is over now I can go home!!”
1. GOD’S MISSION IS UNCHANGING.
After God has rescued Jonah he renews his command ” Go to … Nineveh..” God’s purpose was that his message be proclaimed in the great city of Nineveh and that Jonah was the one to do it. God had not changed his mind. Jonah is back at square one. Jonah had gone off at a tangent but God brings him back – as we saw in chapter 2 – back to repentence and renewed faith in him.
God has chosen the church to proclaim his message to the world and he has not changed his mind.
#God therefore and maked disciples of ALL nations….
#You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea,
Samaria and the ends of the earth………
#As the Father has sent meinto the world, I am sending you…
The Church’s mission to take the message of God to the World is unchanged. God hasn’t rewritten his agenda. He has changed his mind. Sometimes that Church has forgotten that – we have got involved in all sorts of worthy causes.
* one the one hand – we have become involved in social action – working together in ecumenical structure to bring relief and social justice. Good essential involvements BUT alone do not comprise the gospel.
* one the other hand – those who are more theologically correct have been busy developing good theology – to ensure that it is sound – often our theology is so sound that we are sound asleep. Dead orthodoxy.
* then there is the expectation that the world has of the church – the church is there to serve the community. “Why doesn’t the church do this or that..” The church does not exist to please the community BUT to please God and serve him. If we are serving God as we should we will meet needs within the community BUT we may not please everyone in the community.
God’s mission is unchanging and God had brought Jonah back on track. His past failure did not prevent his future service. If you have failed God in the past and maybe feel that you still are – be assured of this God can bring you back.
It was not because Jonah tried harder or gained God’s favour somehow BUT it was purely an act of God.s grace that brought him back.
Is is grace that brings salvation and it is still grace that restores us when we are disobedient.
God brought Jonah back and gave the same command a second time. When God restores the Church he does not change his commission – his commision to take the gospel to the world is unchanging.
2. GOD’S METHOD IS UNCHANGING.
Go to that great city of Nineveh and proclaim [PREACH]
to it the message I give you [v2]
Have you ever wished that God would communicate to people in a different way – If only there was a different method than more people would believe. If we could prove the existence of God then more would believe. If only God would do some signs and wonders then more would believe. If only we had a very lively, funny, entertaining preacher who people would flock to hear then ….
BUT preaching is the method God has choosen. Sometime we wish it could be another way BUT God works through the foolishness of preaching.
ILLUS.: Maybe some one is saying “I like good preaching. I am glad you said that I just come along and listen to preaching.”
Well let me disappoint you !! Preaching is the business of every Christian “BUT I am not a preacher”
Some years ago I took a concordance and looked up every reference in the NT which is translated PREACH – there are a number of word in the gk. translated preach but only one khrwson means “proclaim / herald”, not used very often. The more common word is lalew which means to “speak about” “to have a conversation”
We have this idea that preaching the gospel is for preacher only. Being witnesses to the message of Christ is the task of every believer not just a select few who are gifted to speak up front.
Some people say “Well I witness by my life”. – That is very commendable and necessary but we are still responsible to witness by our words. We have to visualise and verbalise the gospel. Yes we must be living a christian life and then out of the context speak about the faith we have.
We may wish that God would use miraculous signs – but we need to be reminded of what Jesus said about those who seek signs and wonders.
A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!
But none will be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah [Matt12v39]
What did the sign of Jonah point to? – it pointed to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the message that we are to proclaim. How can the world hear the gospel unless someone tells them?? God has committed that task to the church!
It is his intension to use people to tell people!! May be the problem with the modern Western church is that we are still in the belly of the fish!!
OR maybe we have simply allowed our society to mould us.
As someone put it. “Some are people are made by the time and some are made for the times” Very few seem to be made for the times.
ILLUS.: Difference between a theromstat and a thermometer. A thermometer tells you what the temperature is. A thermostat reads the temperature and does something about it. It switches the heating on or off.
The thermometer- person is controlled by the trends in society. The thermostat – person tries to set the trends reather than follow or be controlled by them.
Which are we?? Jesus said that we were to be salt and light!!
Using people to carry the message is God’s method. It is a method that is unchanging. Jonah arose and went.. Will we??
3. GOD’S MESSAGE IS UNCHANGING.
It is not only God’s method that does not change but also his message!
That does not mean that we use the same style of preaching that Wesley used or Spurgeon or any of the other great preacher of the passed. Or even preacher in other parts of the world or even the UK. The message does not change but the language which carries the message must be contemporary and relavant to the society listening.
I sometime wonder if people don’t understand our mesage because we use jargon that doesn’t make sense to them. It is no good talking to a non-christian or someone who never comes to church using words and phrases like – Redemption, atonement, being washed in the blood, etc …
The message that Jonah is to proclaim is very short and to the point.
Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed. [v4]
Only 8 words but they are from God and God is serious about he word.
Jonah did not go to the Ninevites and engage in debate. NOT “Let’s discuss this and come to a compromise that we can all live with! We need to tolerant each others beliefs! We don’t want to offend each other” God’s message is not debatable! And we change it at our peril and people reject it at their peril.
Jonah’s message was short and God given -Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed. He did not analyse it on a TV chat show, or consult about it, or carry out and opinion poll – HE PREACHED IT.
Whatever Jonah’s passed problem he now believed God’s message and preached it with conviction – he was not ashamed of it.
Are we? Or can we say with PAUL:
I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation [Romans1]
We need to ensure that the message we communicate is indeed the unchanging message of God. The it is Christ and Him crucified and not some insipid, watered – down version of the gospel that is scarcely recognisable as the gospel.
It must be a message that draws attention to the message and not to the messenger. Sometimes the lights from the preacher’s name blurs the name of Jesus. It is interesting the v5 says “The Ninevites believed God” It could have said they believed Jonah – but the attention is focussed on God. There is always a temptation for us – esp. preachers – to want to grab some of the limelight for ourselves.
It must be an uncompromising message. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not the pragmatic presentaion of a set of options. As if there is some kind of smorgasbord of salvation. There is only one way of salvation.
I am the way, the truth and the life,
no one comes to the father but by me [Jn.14v6]
So no matter how sincere or devote a person might be if they reject God’s salvation through Jesus Christ God will reject them.
We cannot, we dare not compromise God’s unchanging message.
We see God’s wrath and anger in the coming judgement on Nineveh. BUT I thought God was a God of love and mercy and grace – where is that in the message that Jonah preached.
4. GOD’S MERCY IS UNCHANGING.
The Ninevites did repent, even the king, and God’s judgement was withheld so it is obvious that God’s mercy was shown –
ILLUS.: Imagine being sent to Baghdad – with the same message as Jonah was sent with to Nineveh. Pretty awesome task Jonah had. And you go to Baghdad andpreach and the city’s population repents and is baptised – even Saddam Hussein.
This is the level of what happen to Nineveh in the ancient world!! –
– God’s mercy was shown BUT where is MERCY in the message that Jonah proclaimed??
Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed. [v4]
The Ninevites realised that God’s message and the way it came to them implied the possibility that they might be spared!
ILLUS.: When you receive a RED Gas, Telephone or electricity bill – Not that any here do as I am sure you all pay your bills on time – but you know about them.
A red bill is a final warning that IF it remanis unpaid the particular service will be discontinued. The warning implies a way out – pay!
A warning usually suggests and opportunity for escape, however slim. Maybe Jonah told them of his escape from the great fish – if so then they had a good object illustration that God is merciful.
It is when God does not warn that we are in the greatest danger!
As in Romans 1 where is says that God gave them over to their sinful desires At that point there are no more warnings only the wrath of God. What a desparate situation to be in.
So a warning is evidence that God is merciful and compassionate. And he has warned the world that if it does not turn from its wicked ways accept Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation then it will perish.
We have received that message. If you have heard God’s warning and not responded – don’t delay.
We have received God’s mercy – He has chosen us and set his love upon us —
Jesus said to his followers “You did not choose me but I chose you…” What a blessed privelege!!!
BUT the verse does not end there You did not choose me but I chose you… and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last — so we have a responsibility to covey that message to the world.
Jonah’s message was not just a message of doom BUT it was a message of Hope.
So the whole city of Nineveh turned.
I prayed that God would turn this nation back to himself. His message goes out and if it does not turn his judgement will surely come!! YOU see one greater than Jonah has come!
God’s mission has not Changed!
God’s method has not Changed!
God’s message has not Changed!
God’s mercy has not Changed!
God has given us a mission! We have a message! There is hope! Our society and nationa and world might be in a mess BUT one greater than Jonah is here! And we are the ones that must tell the world!!
Go forth and tell! O Church of God awake!
God’s saving news to all the nations take:
Proclaim Christ Jesus, Saviour, Lord and King,
That all the world his worthy praise may sing.