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Sermon - A Merciful God & His Merciless Man

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A.         What’s the book of Jonah about?

1.         A merciless man and his merciful God.

2.         Better, a merciful God and his merciless man.

B.         Story about God teaching Jonah two lessons he badly needed to learn.

1.         Jonah 1:1–3

a)         Story begins with Jonah refusing to follow God’s directive.

b)        God created a great storm and a great fish to teach him the first lesson, that of obedience (subject of the first two chapters).

2.         Compassion.

a)         Jonah was a hard man, stony-hearted and merciless.

b)        Needed to learn the lesson of compassion.

c)         This time God uses a little worm in order to teach him this lesson (subject of last two chapters).

C.         Also teaches us some things about our God and how he deals with us.

II.     Lesson 1 — Obedience

A.         Jonah “got up and went in the opposite direction in order to get away from the Lord.”

1.         Jonah was a patriotic prophet whose affection was focused on his own people.

a)         He was a racist — had a hostile attitude toward nationalities other than his own.

b)        So much a racist, he was willing to commit spiritual suicide to avoid playing a role in God’s merciful treatment of Assyria!

2.         Interesting: nearly every time God is spoken of, he’s referred to by his covenant name — Jehovah 26 times in the 48 verses of the book).

3.         To the crew on the ship, Jonah said, “I am a Hebrew and I worship Jehovah, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”

4.         Jehovah, to Jonah was the God of Israel, and only Israel!

5.         Parallel: Israel to Assyria perhaps like Taiwan to mainland China.

B.         Sometimes God calls us to do things we don’t want to do. (“Why me, Lord?”)

C.         God doesn’t always pick the nice men and the nice women.

1.         Again and again in scripture we see God choosing men and women who have weaknesses, moral lapses and spiritual failures in their lives.

a)         Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah, Jonah

b)        God’s way was (and is) to work with these folk is to change them as he uses them, and to use them while he’s remaking them.

c)         Sanctification and service advance together!

d)        John Binn’s remodel — lives in it during the process!

2.         “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish…and he chose those who are powerless….” (1 Cor. 1:26–28)

3.         “It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God. He is the one who has enabled us to represent his new covenant.” (2 Cor. 3:5,6)

D.         Jonah needed to learn obedience.

1.         So God created a great storm and a great fish to teach Jonah obedience.

2.         Why didn’t God just fire Jonah and hire someone else? That’s what we’d do.

3.         Jesus — (Heb. 5:8) “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” (NOTE: obedience is learned through suffering!)

4.         Paul: “For preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t do it!” (1 Cor. 9:16)

E.          We all need to learn to do good whenever we have opportunity to do good (Gal. 6:10)

1.         Not just when it suits us…not just when we like to do it…not just when we think we’re good at it…but when we’re called to do it!

2.         We must guard against getting mad at God for presenting us with this unwanted task.

3.         Remember — obedience is learn through suffering.

a)         For Jonah it was a great storm and a great fish.

b)        What’s yours? Sunday PM, Wednesday, contributing at least 10%, Visit/Invite…

F.          Our God is a gracious God who chooses people who blow it, forgives them for blowing it, and works with them and on them to reduce their liability to lapse as they formerly did.

1.         He gives us the privilege of serving him, despite all our deficiencies.

2.         So Jonah finally obeyed and went to Nineveh.

III.   Lesson 2 — Compassion

A.         God had a task for Jonah and it was complete now. Or was it?

1.         God’s first mission: preach to Nineveh so they can repent.

2.         God’s second mission: convert Jonah into an obedient, compassionate servant.

a)         Kids and parents re. cleaning up their room (“I may have to do it, but I don’t have to like it!”)

b)        Jonah prepares to watch God’s clock tick off the days until 40, hoping but not expecting Nineveh to be destroyed.

B.         Nineveh — read chap. 4:5–9

C.         Our God is a God of compassion (Jonah  4:2)

1.         “But you are a God of forgiveness, always ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and full of love and mercy.” (Neh. 9:17)

2.         Compassionate toward Jonah

a)         Didn’t kill him in the storm or in the fish. In fact, he’s restored to his job as prophet!

b)        Provided shade from the scorching sun in chap. 4

D.         Jonah must be taught compassion

1.         Remember, Jonah’s a patriot

a)         A racist, a proud and bitter man when it comes to ethnic issues.

b)        Has real faith, matured by the boat and fish incidents, but still sadly flawed.

2.         God has a little chat with Jonah (4:4)

3.         Sits days after days waiting, hoping he’ll be wrong and God will put on a fireworks display on Nineveh; a repeat of Sodom and Gomorrah.

4.         The vine and the worm.

5.         Another chat with Jonah (4:9,10)

E.          Compassion, perhaps, is the last great lesson we must learn.

F.          Good Samaritan

1.         Who is my neighbor?

2.         Story of grandpa Murphy in back alley going wrong way.

a)         It’s when we’re so wrapped up in our own life (which doesn’t always go the way we want it to) that, like Jonah, we can reach the point of suicidal thoughts (Jonah twice).

b)        The cure is compassion for others.

G.         Throughout Luke’s account of the life of Christ, we repeatedly are shown the compassion of Christ, culminating with the cross — “Father forgive them….” (Lk. 23:34)

H.        “God so loved the world….”



A.         Lk. 15, story of prodigal boys ends w/o our knowing the elder son’s response to the father’s plea to join the celebration. So ends the story of Jonah.

B.         Why Me, Lord? (Chris Kristofferson)

Why me, Lord,
What have I ever done
to deserve even one
of the pleasures I've known?

Tell me, Lord,
what did I ever do
that was worth loving you
and the kindness you've shown?

Try me, Lord,
if you think there's a way
I can even repay
all I've taken from you.

Maybe, Lord,
I can show someone else
what I've been through myself
on my way back to you.

C.         May we be obedient and compassionate people, worshippers of the God of mercy and compassion.

D.         Prayer:

Oh God, our heavenly Father, we are awed at the spectacle of your wisdom and patience with a difficult man we find in the book of Jonah. We know that like him we too are called to become messengers of your mercy to lost souls, and like him, we erect barriers in our own hearts to the fulfilling of our mission. We know that we have in the past spoiled our service to you by our negativism on some things and our rigidity and pig-headedness on others, and we have closed our eyes and ears to the real needs or real people whom you have prompted us to go and seek to help. For the sake of Jesus, your Son and our Redeemer and example, forgive us these ugly failings, and teach us to love the lost as you yourself do, so that the light and love of Christ may shine out in us as we go about your business. Melt us, mold us, break us, change us, use us. And your shall be all the glory. In his holy name, amen.

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