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A Bitter Pill to Swallow

Jonah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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A study of Jonah's response to God's forgiveness

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Illustration of when things weren’t fair

This leads us to Jonah. We’ve all heard the story of how Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, but we often miss the real point of the story. That’s why today I’m not focusing on that part of Jonah’s story. We’re gonna be in chapters 3 and 4, but before we get there we do have to understand what’s going on. The book starts with God telling Jonah to go to the city of Ninevah and preach to them, but for some reason Jonah doesn’t want to, and decides to go in the opposite direction. After Jonah boards a ship, God sends a storm that nearly kills the sailors, who out of fear decide to throw Jonah overboard (who tells them too) and then repent themselves and turn to God. God saves, despite his disobedience (this is IMPORTANT!) by sending the big fish, and after three days he is puked up on the beach, gross! This brings us to chapter three, where Jonah has finally reached his intended destination: Ninevah.
Now a little background on Ninevah: It was a major city north of Israel, which eventually became the capital of the empire of Assyria. That’ll be important to know. To give you an idea of where exactly this was, if you have followed the news in the last year or two, you’ve probably heard about a city in northern Iraq called Mosul. It’s become known worldwide recently because it had, until recently, been under the control of Islamic State. It was there that the ancient city of Ninevah stood. In fact, even today, Muslims have a sacred Mosque in the city of Mosul that is dedicated to Jonah. The most important thing to know about Ninevah though, is that it was not an Israelite city! So what does this all mean? Simple: The Lord Loves the Lost. Yes Ancient Israel was His covenant people, but the Lord still loved those who were not Israelites.

The Lord Loves the Lost ()

Now we come to chapter thr
Watch to see if God caring actually makes a difference in the lives of the Ninevites: READ CHAPTER 3. The Lord loves the lost.
The city took three days to go through, but it only took one day for Jonah’s message to be heard. The word spread and pretty soon everyone began to realize how much trouble they were in. Even the king knew that things weren’t gonna end up well for them. They only had 40 days to change, according to Jonah! And so, the entire city repented. And God relented. What a great thing! Pagans turning to God and repenting of their sins! Jesus said, “When even one sinner repents all the angels in heaven celebrate.” Imagine the celebration after this great event. The story should end there. But it doesn’t. We return to find Jonah....a little upset.

The Lord Loves the Lost, Even when we don’t. (Jonah 4:1-4)

READ 4:1-4 - This isn’t quite what we were expecting. Suddenly we understand why Jonah was running away from God in the first place. It wasn’t because he was scared of preaching to the Ninevites, it was because he hated them. He knew they would actually probably listen, and that then God wouldn’t destroy them…and well that’s not how it works. It’s not fair. Throughout the Bible we see where people are angry at God but very rarely do we seem them as up front and angry as Jonah is. He genuninely doesn’t want the Ninevites to be saved. He wants God to destroy them. But instead God saves them. Why? Because the Lord loves the Lost, Event when we don’t. Let’s be honest, have you ever felt the way Jonah did? Sure we know we need to love everyone, including our enemies, but sometimes we don’t want our enemies to be saved. We don’t want them to repent. We want God to punish them! The Psalmist in feels this same emotion towards the Babylonians when he wishes for God to “dash their children upon the rocks”. For God to save the Ninevites despite their sin and disobedience just isn’t fair....hmmm sounds familiar doesn’t it? Let’s finish the story.

The Lord Loves the Lost, because he also loves us. (Jonah 4:5-11)

READ 4:5-11 *commentate the passage*
The Lord is calling Jonah out for everything he has missed. He cares about a plant, but the plant didn’t even live a whole night! Notice that word “provided” its a keyword in this whole book. God provided the plant, the worm, the scorching wind, and if we look back to chapter 1, he also provided the large fish. God provides everything in this story! Jonah just simply had to obey. Honestly, if he had just listened the first time I’m sure God would have provided much better transportation to Ninevah than the belly of a fish. But Jonah didn’t. He disobeyed God, which is the real point of irony in this whole story. Despite disobeying, God still saved Jonah! And now here Jonah is getting angry that God was saving a disobedient people. He wanted these people to get punished. But he wanted them to be punished for more than just their sins. See, not long after this story, Ninevah was going to become the capital of the Assyrian empire. And God was going to use Assyria to completely destroy the northern kingdom of Israel. And Jonah knew this. So imagine how he would have felt. It would be like seeing an alcoholic about to jump off a bridge to commit suicide, but God tells you to save him, to pull him down. And while you might know that “saving” him is a good thing, you also know that eventually hes gonna get drunk again, get in a vehicle and crash into someone else. And the someone else that he kills in the other car is your family. Not only do you not care if this wicked man jumps off the bridge, you probably want to push him off yourself.
Jonah hated this, and he didn’t think it was fair. And he was right. News flash: God isn’t fair! Even though Jonah knew God was a God of compassion and love, he allowed his stubborn heart to get in the way. But to God these people were still people! It didn’t matter what they looked like, what they did, or who they were, they were still 120,000 people made in His image! Just like you and me. The Lord loves the lost, because he also loves us. In all our sinfulness and ugliness, he still saved us. God isn’t fair. He loves everyone no matter who they are, what they look like, or what they’ve done and you better understand that. Nobody wants Islamic State Terrorists to be saved do they? No we want them to pay for the terrible things they’ve done! And just like Jonah we may get mad and think its not fair when they are saved, but lets get one thing straight: If you want God to be fair, then you can get right back in line because you’re the next one up to hang on that cross.
But God isn’t fair. He wasn’t fair when he put Jesus, is own son, up on that cross to die for you and me. He wasn’t fair when he raised Jesus from the dead three days later. You know who also knew what that was like? Jonah, who shouldn’t have been alive but was saved after three days. God isn’t fair, and that’s the beauty of grace. I’m leaving you with two choices. First, if you haven’t repented if your sins and accepted Jesus, then now is your chance to be like the city of Ninevah. The Lord loves the lost, which means he loves you no matter how lost you may be. But for those of you who do know Jesus, do not be like Jonah. Don’t let your pride stand in the way of you loving those who need loved the most: people who aren’t like you. You have no excuse, and God is telling you to go to them. To love them and to call them to repentance. Are you going to listen?
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