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Jonah and the Begrudged Message

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We should learn from Jonah that God has mercy and compassion for others and we are to simply follow His commands and declare the Great Commission!

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Open with discussion about the 4th of July event that we had last night and ask of thoughts and what we could do to make it better and also geared towards giving the gospel message (having a prayer before the fireworks, an introduction from the Pastor, etc. Maybe put a book with which people could sign in to give us a headcount and if they would like, list a number or email in case they want info from the church and maybe also list prayer requests and a follow up call on it!)

Ask the question: How many of each type of species did Jonah take on the Ark with him?
ANSWER: wasn’t Jonah that was on the Ark, but rather Noah!
I just wanted to throw some of you a curve and check your perceptual skills!
Also, since, we just had an amazing opportunity last night and God willing, will have another chance next year, to declare the gospel message to those around us, I was thinking about the man in the Bible known as Jonah.
In looking at the account of Jonah in the Bible, we see a very important point that needs to be stressed.
That point is what I am briefly touching on here tonight.

How many of you have ever heard of Roy Riegels?

The Golden Bears of University of California Berkeley, were playing Georgia Tech, in the 1929 Rose Bowl and there was a fumble. Cal’s center, Roy Riegels recovered the fumble (which was good for Cal and bad for Georgia Tech) and then he proceeded to run the ball towards the end-zone for a hopeful touchdown (again, good for Cal and bad for Georgia Tech!)
The problem was. he became disoriented and took off the wrong direction, running 65 yards towards his own team’s end-zone! (Good for Georgia Tech and bad for Cal!)
He was tackled by his own teammate at the one yard line and with a blocked punt, Georgia Tech made a safety on the play and ultimately won that Rose Bowl by a score of 8-7, thanks to the misdirected effort of, then titled, Wrong Way Roy!
The reason that I mention the account of Wrong Way Roy, is this same thing is seen in the story of Jonah, as we are getting ready to look at.
I think that most everyone knows the story, or at least the gist of the story of Jonah. It is a relatively short book in the Bible, consisting of only 4 chapters and is a really quick read.
We are not going to sit and read tonight, but rather just skim through it to make a point.
I would encourage each of you to go home and read through this story at some point this week. (There may be a pop quiz next week!)
Let’s read the opening verses of chapter one and you’ll see why the comparison to Wrong Way Roy. ,
Jonah 1:1–3 ESV
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
So, did you see it, in this passage? God calls His servant, the prophet Jonah, to go to Nineveh with a message and what does Jonah do?
He jumps and runs the opposite direction, of where he was to go!
Jonah left his hometown of Gath-hepher, near Nazareth in Israel and went to Joppa, which was a coastal city.
Once there, he paid the fair to board a ship that was headed to a certain destination. The problem was, this destination was the WRONG WAY, the complete OPPOSITE DIRECTION, from the place that God had just told Jonah to go.
Jonah was a commissioned prophet of God, as we can see in , where it says, “according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. “
Nineveh was located EAST of the Tigris River in modern day Iraq, about 500 miles from his home town.
Tarshish, was located WEST of his home town and a distance of some 2,500 miles from Israel and the complete opposite direction of Nineveh!
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
This was probably the most remote destination available to Jonah, that would put him the furthest distance from Nineveh (the Assyrians) and where God wanted him to be!
The question that probably most people would ask, if you were telling this story to them for the first time, would be, “WHY? Why did Jonah go to such great lengths to get as far away as possible from where God was wanting to send him?”

Well, first of all, I think that we need to look at who were the people pf Nineveh and what was so significant about them?

Nineveh was established by a guy that many of you may know the name of. His name was Nimrod, and he was the great grandson of Noah (not Jonah, but Noah!)
According to the Bible, in , we see this about Nimrod,
Genesis 10:9–10 ESV
He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
Nimrod was very instrumental in developing some large pagan areas which were great sources of contention for Israel!
Nineveh was a massive city and according to different accounts, it had walls that surrounded it, that were estimated to be from 50 to 100 feet high and 8 miles long. The city had a circumference of some 60 miles! There were possibly several hundred thousand inhabitants of this area.
(Show video re-enactment of the city of Nineveh.)
The people of Nineveh worshipped Nanshe, the fish goddess, the daughter of Ea, the goddess of fresh water.
They worshipped Dagon, the fish god, represented as half man and half-fish.
Funny, don’t you think, that two of their major gods they worshipped were likened to a fish and what did Yahweh use to hold Jonah in?
They worshipped Assur, highest god in the Assyrian pantheon and protector of the city.
And they worshipped Ishtar, the goddess of love, war, fertility and sex.
Besides being a city of vast pagan worship, Nineveh was, at one time, the capital city of Assyria.
This possibly being one of the reasons that Jonah didn’t want to make the trip to Nineveh. The Assyrians were a ruthless civilization and enemies of Israel.
In fact, the Assyrians were noted for their cruel methods of capturing and punishing those whom were opposed to them.
says this of Nineveh,
Nahum 3:1–5 NLT
What sorrow awaits Nineveh, the city of murder and lies! She is crammed with wealth and is never without victims. Hear the crack of whips, the rumble of wheels! Horses’ hooves pound, and chariots clatter wildly. See the flashing swords and glittering spears as the charioteers charge past! There are countless casualties, heaps of bodies— so many bodies that people stumble over them. All this because Nineveh, the beautiful and faithless city, mistress of deadly charms, enticed the nations with her beauty. She taught them all her magic, enchanting people everywhere. “I am your enemy!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “And now I will lift your skirts and show all the earth your nakedness and shame.
This was written about the destruction of Nineveh, that would take place about 100 years after the account here found in Jonah.
The Assyrian people were noted for methods of cruelty like no other. Literally skinning their enemies alive and leaving them to die under the scorching sun and then hanging their skins on their walls.
Cutting off the hands and feet of rulers and nailing them to city walls.
Making great pyramid structures out of the heads of their foes.
Burning the cities children alive, or impaling the people and leaving their bodies on the stakes for all to see.
Cutting off ears, noses and gouging out eyes to make a point!
This is why the Assyrians were feared by other civilizations and why their empire reigned for over three centuries!

So, if you want to put into perspective, Jonah probably despised these people and saw no value in their lives.

When God gave the command to go and give the message to them, Jonah may have thought, “Give them the warning that God is going to destroy, or else they perish............I SAY THEN, THEY PERISH!”
Jonah was an embittered man and right out of the gait wanted to leave God’s presence and dismiss an entire city of people, knowing their fate!
What kind of prophet of God just turns his back on God and completely dismisses what God has commanded him to do?
The answer, is simple: one that is filled with hate, disdain and only sees through his own eyes.
In short, Jonah was a BIGOT! He only wanted to see his people, (God;s chosen people) prosper and he cared nothing about this pagan group.
Jonah jumps on the boat and off he goes.
Look at the account of while he is on the boat (verses 4-17)
God created a massive storm to pound the ship to the point that it was about to break the ship apart and that the seasoned sailors were fearful, having not experienced something like this! (How many here knows that when God does something, it is beyond anything we can imagine?
When God says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it”, you had better know that He means it!
The sailors are all praying to their various gods for help and throwing things overboard to lighten the ship and the captain goes down below and finds Jonah asleep!
“How can you sleep at a time like this”, the captain asks. And then tells Jonah to get up and pray to his God for help!
Either Jonah was in a depressed and despondent state and slept,(how many know that people that are depressed sleep easily?!) or, he was confident in his own decision and felt at peace with whatever happened and had security in his own decision and of himself and didn’t care about the ship, its crew and what was going on!
The thing is, the pagan sailors had more reverence and respect for God than the prophet of Jehovah himself did!
They ask Jonah, after casting lots over whose fault it was that the storm had come upon them, “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”
Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”

Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”

Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
The sailors were terrified because Jonah admitted that he was running from God and God was the one bringing the storm.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Long story short, Jonah tells them to pitch him over if they want to live and even then they try to keep from doing this, but in the end, they had no choice, because God was working something in the background for Jonah!
God had placed a great fish to come and swallow Jonah, holding him for 3 days and 3 nights!
While on the boat, the sailors were praying to their gods and then to Jehovah Himself for help, yet we do not read of Jonah praying until calamity has completely taken him over, as seen in chapter 2! (Just like so many people today, we don’t pray until we are knee deep in despair and then we seek His help!)

After God causes the fish to spit Jonah out, God, again, issues His command to Jonah by saying, “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”

Jonah listens this time (sitting in a fish’ stomach for three days will tend to make you more amiable and cooperative!)
The Bible says, “On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”
Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Jonah 3:5–9 NLT
The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: “No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”
Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
The people heard and heeded Jonah’s message from God; just like that!
The funny thing is, it took God longer to get His prophet Jonah to go and deliver His message, than it did for the people to receive and believe and act on it!
A civilization of pagans heard and believed and instantly changed! God’s own people, Jonah’s own people, Israel, knew and yet still refused to follow and especially not share to the gentiles about who Yahweh was!
Jonah simply delivered the message. He didn’t stand out in the streets and proclaim judgement and point his finger and yell out their faults. He didn’t hold up a big sign that read “You are a sinner and you are dying and going to hell!”
This being the very tactic that many street evangelists use today!
He gave the message along with the time table and looked what happened; they received and believed and repented before God! Instantly!
If you knew, with certainty, that you had 40 days until judgement was coming, would you instantly change in your ways, or enjoy some more of the world’s pleasures for a couple of more weeks and then repent and save yourself?
It doesn’t matter what we think or how we feel as His servants, we are to simply believe and move as He tells us.

Jonah’s true heart and his motives are expressed in chapter 4, after delivering the message to Nineveh.

Jonah 4:1–3 ESV
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Look at what Jonah says to God in response to God not instantly bringing down the fire and brimstone and destroying Nineveh. ,
Jonah 4:1–3 NLT
This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
“I’d rather be dead than alive!” (This is a very similar sentiment of what you kind of pick on when Jonah is on the boat, “Throw me over”, is what Jonah said to the sailors. He knew if he was dead, he wouldn’t have to deal with the Ninevites! He is basically saying then, “I’d rather be dead than go there!”
So, he says to God, “See, I tried to tell you then, that this is just like you! You becoming all forgiving and show love and let them just walk away! This is what I was trying to say when I left for Tarshish, but you didn’t listen to me!”
Now, let me point out the main gist of this message here. We can look at this story and say, “Yep Jonah was wrong in what he did and for being embittered against the Ninevites, because God loved them and he should have also.”
We can easily say that he was wrong to feel disdain and bitterness against those people and that he should have carried out the command given by God from the beginning!
Yet, many Christians today hold the same bitterness towards Muslims and homosexuals. We forget or ignore that, although Jonah was given a commission to deliver the news of God to one city, we have been given a commission for the whole world!
It was a command given to us by Jesus, Himself. It is called the GREAT COMMISSION; it is not called the GREAT SUGGESTION!
There are many of scholars who teach that this was a lesson given in the Bible, but that the account really didn’t happen. (Much like some Jewish scholars feel that Daniel fails as a true Old Testament prophet.
However, in , Jesus said this to the religious leaders that questioned Him,
Matthew 12:39–41 NLT
But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.
If Jesus, volunteered this explanation and thus validated Jonah and his account, then YES, it was a real scenario!
Why are people so indifferent to sharing the gospel message to others, or to certain groups? Truth be told, like Jonah, maybe they are religious bigots themselves and do not feel like it is their legal responsibility to share with certain people.
Chuck Swindoll gave this example one time, dealing with a court case that took place in the 1920’s, in the state of Massachusetts.
Read account.

You know, at the closing of this story, I would have expected a different outcome.

If I had just went through what Jonah did, as soon as I delivered the message, I would have been running back to tell everyone what just happened back home! (ELABORATE)
Instead, look at what Jonah does, because he is o embittered and angry with God.
He builds a little lean-to and decides to sit and watch and see what happens after the 40 days are up. Like he is thinking, “OK, when the 40 days are up, your gooses will be cooked and will have to destroy you then, because that’s the message he gave me!”
So, God, in His great love and compassion, rather than killing or punishing Jonah for his blatant anger and disrespect for God’s command, creates a plant that grows and provides Jonah relief from the extreme heat while he sets and waits.
Then, the Bible says that Jonah becomes, “extremely happy”!
Then to teach Jonah a lesson, God appoints a worm that comes and attacks the plant and it withered the next day! (I’d hate to see that worm!)
Instantly, the heat came, along with a SCORCHING east wind that God sent to beat down on Jonah and look what Jonah says again, “I want to die”!
It is here that God proves His point to Jonah. God asked Jonah if he had good reason to be angry about the plant situation and Jonah said, “Yes”.
God tells him, “You show compassion to a plant. that you didn’t work or do anything to develop and that you had nothing invested in; A PLANT!”
God then says, “Do you not think that I, the creator of all life, should not have a reason to have compassion over the lives of thousands?”
There are people that have more compassion over an animal, than they do a human life!
You and I have were issued the Great Commission. It was not given to the Biblical professionals: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, preachers and teachers. These were given, to help equip and further the commission.
Rather, the command was given to every true Christian!
It is like one preacher said,
Jesus didn’t command that the whole world was to go to church, but He did command that the church was to go to the whole world!” Amen?
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