We continue and conclude our 2-part series in Jonah today.
Last week we considered God’s message to us in Jonah 1 & 2…
Our faithful God calls us as obedient servants to fulfil our appointed part in His purpose that sees us share and experience His message of hope and deliverance in a hopeless world.
As we explored last week…
God called Jonah to a specific prophetic task.
We are also called….
We have been called to salvation in Christ. Our highest calling.
We are all called to live in the new life we have in Christ. Our common calling.
We are each individually called to serve God in a specific way as He has planned it. Our specific calling.
We were asked the question… “What Has God called you to?”
All God's call required was Jonah’s obedience. Jonah’s response to God’s calling, to flee.
As those called by God, all God requires of us is obedience.
We were asked the question… “Are you obedient to God’s call on your life?”
Jonah’s disobedience required God’s loving discipline. God has many ways of bringing our sins to light before us and it often starts with a journey into hopelessness. In Jonah’s case it was a divine storm and a divinely guided huge fish.
We were asked the question… “What is your response to the storms of life? When things seem hopeless?”
The Lord’s purpose was to restore Jonah from his self-inflicted disobedience. There was hope. And that hope came in the form of a huge fish.
We were asked the question… “What is your hope in?”
God delivers Jonah from a watery grave through a huge fish. And in spite of his reluctance to preach to the citizens of Nineveh, Jonah ended up being part of revealing God to a group of sailors. Jonah fled because he didn’t want to preach God’s word, but ended up being an instrument to bring the knowledge of the true God to a group of sailors.
We were asked the question… “Have you experienced and continue to experience the true deliverance that God provides through the person and work of Jesus Christ?”
God’s deliverance brought him to the point of renewed devotion to God. Jonah learned…
There is no escape from the Almighty God.
Everything is an instrument in His hands and leads to the glory of His name.
God is a gracious God and takes the initiative in saving us and restoring us. Divine grace.
Salvation is from God. Jonah also experienced salvation through sanctification.
Jonah’s life is an image of the work of Jesus Christ. An image of the death burial and resurrection, of Christ. As Jesus said himself in Matthew 12:38-41 the sign of the prophet Jonah was to point to Christ.
As with the whole of the Bible, the main character in the book of Jonah is God. To reveal the character and nature of God. To give God glory! To reveal who we are in light of the author of the Bible. To point to our need of God, and His solution in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
As we jump into Jonah 3, does this seem a little like Déjà vu? I feel like we are back at Jonah 1 again as we see, once again, Jonah called to preach God’s message to the people of Nineveh.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah 3:1–2
A restored Jonah was given a second chance to fulfil God’s call.
Nothing has changed regarding the call, but what has changed is Jonah’s response. He obeys. Instead of seeking to run away from God, Jonah obeys.
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Jonah 3:3
But note what else is said here…
“…proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah 3:2
God was emphasising that in the same way it was God’s call, God’s purposes in Nineveh, it was also God’s message. Jonah was to say exactly what he was given to say. He couldn’t add to it, take away from it or even seek to jazz it up a bit to make it more attractive or palatable for the people of Nineveh.
A message that was all about judgement for sin.
We too are called, as part of our common call as believers, to share a message from God. His message.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures... 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
We are not to add to it, take away from it or even seek to jazz it up a bit to make it more attractive or palatable for the people we are called to share it with.
We too are called, as part of our common call as believers, to share a message from God. His message.
Jonah accepted that call and the message God gave him.
Do you accept the call and message God has given you to share?
Jonah had a message for a disobedient people. And what was that message…
“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah 1:2
Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” Jonah 3:4
A message of judgement. So what were the people of Nineveh like? What had earned them this divine judgement?
The people of Nineveh were Assyrians. The Assyrians were the major power in the Middle East at the time and were known for their brutality and cruelty. As worshippers of multiple gods, they were known to impale their enemies on stakes in front of their towns and cities. They were known for torturing captive men, women and children by cutting off body parts, as well as many more graphic brutalities that I won’t share with you this morning. They were a cruel and vicious nation. Nineveh was one of the major cities in Assyria.
Geographically Nineveh was near where the modern northern Iraq city of Mosul sits today. A current city that is in the news every night at the moment.
Their disobedience to God and His ways was clear. So Jonah was called to warn them that as a city, they were under divine judgement and they had 40 days before the city would be judged, overthrown.
We too are called to speak the message of judgement into a fallen world. A brutal cruel world. A world that is described as…
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19–21
We live in a brutal and cruel world that God has called to judgement. A disobedient world.
And so Jonah entered the city and preached this simple but powerful message of judgement from the one true God.
Do you accept the call and message God has given you to share to a disobedient world?
And the Ninevites’ response?
The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonahʼs warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Jonah 3:5-6
They believed. They responded before Jonah could even get all around the city. They believed that they were under the threat of divine judgement and saw the hopelessness of their situation. They were ashamed and fearful. They knew that they were guilty before God and God was justified in judging them. They were in a hopeless situation. Their outward response of putting on sack cloth, which represented their humbling before God, reflected the hopelessness of their situation.
Note who they believed. Not Jonah, but God.
They believe the message because of its origin, not because of who delivered it.
It is God who speaks into people hearts and lives. He uses us as instruments, but it is God in the person of the Holy Spirit who reveals sin in people’s lives. The Holy Spirit reveals the hopelessness of our world, the hopelessness of sin.
As Jesus told us…
When he (Holy Spirit) comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. John 16:8-10
We are just the instruments God uses to share his message of judgement and restoration.
Just as Jonah was an instrument as a prophet.
Are you open to being God’s instrument as He reveals the hopeless position this world is in?
And this is the beauty of our God, because although He defines the problem, He also provides the solution. He provides hope.
This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” Jonah 3:7-9
The people, the whole city, under the direction of its leaders, repented. They turned their backs on their old ways of life and turned their faces in hope to the God of mercy. They saw hope in repentance and falling on the compassion, the grace of God.
Jonah preached judgement and they responded with repentance.
Repentance is a response to the love and grace of God that leads us to confession of sin, leaving our sinful ways and accept God’s way of doing things. A turn from disobedience to obedience.
Repentance begins with God. It starts with God’s continual heart-ache for the sinner. His grace, His call. He didn’t just want to judge them. He wanted to restore them.
We are called to a message of reconciliation. A message that reveals not only God’s judgement but also His desire to restore people to Himself.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21
Our hope, the worlds hope, is in the reconciling/restoring work of Jesus Christ.
Have you been reconciled to God?
Are you sharing the message of reconciliation?
And God’s response…
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah 3:10
Our God of grace, removed the threat of judgement. God revealed His sovereignty in grace. In light of their repentance, He delivered them from their judgement.
The people of Nineveh could also cry out as Jonah did in Chapter 2…
‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ Jonah 2:9
Our God is a gracious God.
Have you experienced the saving grace of God?
Are you continually living in the saving grace of God?
So where is Jonah in this?
In Chapter 2 we see his response to God’s deliverance, God’s great act of mercy and grace leads him to praise and thanksgiving before God.
In Chapter 4 we see his response to God’s deliverance, God’s great act of mercy and grace leads him to an angry and hate-filled conversation with God.
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. Jonah 4:1
Jonah’s real attitude is revealed. His heart attitude. His wrong attitude from the start.
Jonah was angry with God. He was furious that God had saved the Ninevites. He had hoped that they would be punished, destroyed. Why?
Jonah didn’t think they were deserving of God’s grace.
Once again Jonah’s attitude is in contradiction to what he knows to be true.
What he knows…
He prayed to the Lord, “Isnʼt this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Jonah 4:2
A gracious and compassionate God that Jonah not only knew but had recently experienced in his own life after his disobedient run from God.
And yet his attitude was anger that God had acted in a way that was right according to his nature, but was not what Jonah had wanted.
Bitterness and anger at the Ninevites not getting what they deserved. He had wanted the Ninevites to suffer under the judgement of God. Why, because Jonah felt they deserved it.
His bitterness and anger stretched even to the point of crying out for death.
But God, revealing his grace and compassion, doesn’t respond to Jonah’s outburst as we might think it deserves, but rather asks Jonah a very powerful question…
“Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah 4:4
If I am the gracious, compassionate, forgiving God and you are the obedient servant, what right do you have to be angry at my deliverance of the Ninevites?
But Jonah’s stubborn heart needs further work. Again we see a God who is not out to punish Jonah, but to turn him around and restore him.
Jonah in the heat of the desert, is provided with shade by God in the form of a leafy plant. God reveals his grace and compassion to Jonah, but also uses this plant as an object lesson.
Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:6-8
It again revealed Jonah’s real attitude. His heart attitude. His wrong attitude from the start.
How unfair is it that this plant was taken? That it was destroyed? It had been important to Jonah.
But God revealed his grace and compassion again. He doesn’t respond to Jonah’s outburst as we might think it deserves, but rather asks Jonah again a very powerful question…
“Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” Jonah 4:9
If I am the gracious, compassionate, forgiving God and you are the obedient servant, what right do you have to be angry about a plant that you did nothing to provide for or tend to?
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Jonah 4:10-11
Jonah’s concern for the plant was out of self-interest. Jonah’s desire for the Ninevites to get what he thought they deserved, was out of self-interest.
God’s heart of compassion and grace was out of a genuine love for His creation that he desired to restore.
What is your attitude to those who don’t know God? Who are lost and “don’t know their right hand from their left…”?
Do you reveal a heart of judgement and self-interest?
Or do you reflect the mercy, grace and compassion of God?
As Jesus shared in the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18…
‘Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ Matthew 18:33
As recipients of mercy, grace and compassion, we should also be willing to reflect that in our dealings with others.
Who is deserving of God’s grace?
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Who decides when God will show grace and compassion? God
Do you pray for the enemies of God or pray against them?
The Book of Jonah is a revelation of the gospel for salvation.
God calls us to obedience, and in our disobedience and hopelessness provides a hope. That repentance and faith in the power of God sees us delivered.
All of this is the plan and purpose of the Father, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, as revealed and outworked in the Holy Spirit.
But the book of Jonah is also a revelation of the gospel for sanctification.
God calling those who are already his own to obedience, and when we are disobedient and hopeless, He provides a hope. That through repentance and submission, the power of God can restore us back to obedience.
Our gracious God calls us as obedient servants to fulfil our appointed part in His purpose that sees us share and experience His message of reconciliation and deliverance to all whom He chooses.