Jonah 3 – Back to square one

JONAH 3

Back to Square One

Jonah 3v1-10

INTRODUCTION.

 

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.

Jesus said:

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.

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Jonah 1 – The folly of trying to run from God

Jonah 1

The folly of trying to run from God.

 

Introduction.

 

Jonah prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, about 150 years after King Solomon and the split of Israel into two kingdoms. Jonah was active during the reign of King Jereboam II [684-753 BC]. Even though Jereboam II was a wicked king in God’s eyes,  God was nevertheless merciful to Israel and she enjoyed much prosperity at the time.

 

READ 2 Kings 14v25-27.

 

Assyria was the great super-power to the north – experiencing some internal struggles at thr time which may account for the relative peace in Israel.

 

The fact that Jonah is meyioned in 2 Kings with regard to other prophesies suggests that he was a well established prophet before God called him to go to Nineveh.

 

Be a fly on the wall for a moment:

GOD           “Jonah predict to the king that Israel will be victorious over Syria”

JONAH      “Yes Lord”

GOD           “Tell the king I said ….”

JONAH      “Yes Lord”

GOD           “Now do this and that”

JONAH      “Yes Lord”

GOD                    “Now get up and go to Nineveh …

JONAH      “Yes [doubtfully] Lord…

GOD           “And tell them to repent..”

JONAH      “WHAT???”

 

1. Why Nineveh?

 

Why on earth does God want Jonah to go to Nineveh?

Israel had not been to faithful in following God – God showing mercy to the Ninevites might shame Israel into repentence for abusing her blessings and priveleges – unfortunately this didn’t happen with Israel.

Jonah did not want to go!!!    Maybe he feared the difficulties of the task – he feared for his life. Many a missionsry has faced peril and some have lost their lives.

 

ILLUS.: Henry Martyn was killed as a result of presenting a Persian NT to the Shah of Iran.

Richard Cameron’s head was displayed on a pole in Edinburgh for daring to preach the Lordship of Christ in Scotland 300 years ago.

 

We can understand Jonah’s temptation to flee in the light of entering hostile Assyrian territory

 

The Hebrews considered the heathen as being beneath them – Gentile dogs.

God had passed them by!! God didn’t want the Jews to have anything to do with the heathen, did he?? For Jonah to go and preach God’s grace to the heathen was unthinkable. They should be wiped out – not saved!!

The initial declaration was one of destruction and punishment but Jonah knew God was merciful and compassionate.       [READ 4v2]          This did not sit well with Jonah – he could not see past his unbiblical prejudice against the gentile. That is why he ran away.

 

Whether Jonah knew it or not he was being used to take a step forward in the fulfillment of a blessing promised to Abraham [Gen 12v3]. The message of God’s saving grace was to go out to the whole world.

 

2. Jonah on the run!

 

READ 1v3.

 

God says “GO”.    Jonah says “NO!”

God says “Go east'”           .. Jonah goes west”   [Tarshish is in Spain]

 

Jonah was abeliever and a prophet, and inspite of his disobedience, he knew God was omnipresent – he would have known the words of Ps.139v7-8:

Where can I go from your spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go to the heavens you are there!

If I make my bed in the depths, you are there!

 

Joanh was being deliderately disobedient – he was running away!

We have seen he had an anti-Gentile prejudice. His real problem was that God might bring these Ninevites to repentence! Jonah’s theology did not have room for the salvation of the gentiles – not too many anyhow!! Jonah was angry when God spared Nineveh and Show himself to be a compassionate and merciful God.

 

The same God that ent Jonah to Nineveh is the same God that sends the Church to the world – with the same message! That he is angry with sin BUT is merciful to those who repent.

 

God required obedience of Jonah but Jonah would not listen – he was determined to do his own thing his own way! And if God did not agree with him then he would make alternative arrangements – He had better things to do than go on a wild goose chase to Nineveh!

 

Jonah chose his own way because he did not like what he saw in God’s word – it did not make sense to him – but you see the Word of God does not make sense to human wisdom – it never will!  “His ways are higher than our ways ”   –   “the wisdom of the cross is foolishness to men….”

 

So Jonah ran away!!

Trudged 60 miles from Gath Hepher to Joppa – God let him go!!

Found a ship heading west – What providence!!

Paid his fare, boarded and sailed away!  As the ship sailed away he found a quiet corner and went to sleep!

He had done it!! Escaped!

 

Just because things go well it is no guarantee that we are obeying God – conversely if the go badly it does not mean that we are disobeying!

 

ILLUS.:  Christian businessman – I must be doing it right look how God is blessing me!  Prosperity is no gaurantee of spiritually or obedience.

 

Jonah attitude was like of the thief who thinks that because he has eluded capture so far he has got away with the crime altogether!

 

It is illogical to think that just because God’s discipline is delayed does not mean it won’t come! Because things fall into place for us it does not necessarily follow that we are obeying God’s will.

 

3. Jonah is found out!

 

READ v4-7

 

The wind and the storm obeyed God. The sailors cried out to their gods but Jonah remained sleeping – silence!  But God was not going to allow Jonah to get away with this willful disobedience.

He was even going to use this to glorify his name among these heathen sailors and bring them to salvation.

 

The strom is so fierce that they pray to their gods and jettison their cargo.

BUT Jonah is sleeping!  The captian of the ship is amazed and rebukes him for not calling on his God!  Most people can’t sleep in a crisis BUT Jonah has blotted it out – oblivious to the danger that he is in – it is the sleep of one who has persuaded himself that he is safe when in fact he was in mortal danger.

 

Paul in a similar crisis 800 years later – was the one who prayed and brought assurance to the sailors – but Jonah was the cause of the crisis and he was sleeping.

 

There is an irony that the Lord had Jonah rebuked by a Heathen Captain. Jonah would never have been in the ship in the first place had he not turned his back on the God-given commission to take God’s word to the heathen! Now it is a Heathen ship’s-Captain that brings him back to God’s reality.

 

What an indictment against God’s people when it takes the heathen world to rebuke their disobedience.

 

The experience of Jonah is an example of the sin of a believer finding him out!

“Be sure your sins will find you out” It is not possible to escape from our sins, they will catch up with us in time, and – if not forgiven  and covered by the blood of Christ – then paid for in a lost eternity.

 

As Christian we can be tempted to play down sin. O we acknowledge our sin in general – after all we are not perfect – but then no one is!!  We can’t be good all the time>

BUT you see it is easy to extract general admissions of relative imperfection – after all God is only really angry with mass-murderers and rapists – There a little weakness in my life but nothing that will warrant the full wrath of and angry God.

 

And we accept that  things go wrong in the course of life and that maybe God’s way of keeping us in line “These things are sent to try us

 

God won;t allow us to get away with that!! God does not condone in the saint what he comdemns in the sinner!!

 

Like Jonah – God eventually catches up with us and puts his finger on us and says “IT’s you”       “The Lot fell on Jonah”.

 

4. Jonah confesses!

 

READ v8-10

 

Jonah explains who his God is and why he is anger with him. The focus is upon who God is           – His holiness

– His love

– His glory

– His right to be angry with the waywardness of men who he made in

his image.

 

The sailors had been afraid of the storm but now they were terrified when they heard of Jonah’s God.

Their response to hearing of God was the corredt one – it is amazing that even though Jonah was disobedient God still use him to bring salvation to these sailors.

READ v16.  It became clear to them that the Lord was pursuing them as well – the were not just bystanders in someone else’s problem. They were not innocent victims of Jonah’s  transgression BUT they too were answerable to God for their own spiritual condition.

 

It is no excuse on Jonah’s part but it shows God”s sovereign dealings with men.  They were evangelised by Jonah’s confession.

 

CONFESSION IS NOT FORGIVENESS.

 

READ v11-12         Jonah’s confession did not mean that he was instantly forgiven and reconciled to God. The storm did not stop.

There is some how the view that God must forgive as it is is a right! NO!!

Forgiveness is not imperative – punishment is!! Forgiveness is optional – at the discretion of God’s mercy.

 

And God’s mercy is not given at the expense of his justice – hence the cross!!

 

Confession may be good for the soul BUT it is neither atonement for sin NOR a basis for forgiveness. Repentence and sorrow do not earn forgiveness.

 

Jonah had to learn in his own personal experience that the wages of sin really si death.

 

Jonah recognised that he was to blame. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you..

 

He accepted without reservation the consequences of his sin “Pick me up and throw me into the sea”

 

He does not bargin with God

 

ILLUS> many do . Lord if you get me out of this mess I’ll…..

 

Jonah anticipates God’s mercy to the sailors  v12a “.. the sea will become calm…”

 

God had called Jonah to preach to the Heathen in Nineveh!!

His prejudice would not allow him to go to his enemies -these gentile dogs.

BUT God uses some of thhese very gentiles to bring him to the place where he casts himself fully on God and His mercy

And in the process brings the message of salvation to the gentile sailors.