Knowing your Nineveh
Know your Nineveh Jonah 1:1-3 How Messed Up I was. I was 30 years old… I knew I was messed up. I knew I needed to change. But.. See I had this view of Christianity.. that it was too easy… my ego would not let me do the easy thing. And it just seemed to easy… People would tell me Christ died to pay for my sins.. and I would literally reply.. “He may have died to pay for your sins… but I will pay for my own sins.” I could not handle the idea that I could not pay for my own sins.. any way other than eternal damnation. People would ask me if I was born again.. and I would reply.. “No I was born right the first time.” I knew I needed to change.. God called me to be a different person.. God called me to come to Him.. and I ran the other way.. I ran as far from God as you can get.. I started studying every other religion I could find.. I read books on Hinduism.. and bhudism.. on Muslim.. and zen.. on Sikism.. and Sufism. For 12 years I ran. And my life just got worse and worse.. I ended up filing bankruptcy. My marriage was a train wreck. I ended up on medication for depression. Just like Jonah I ran from God and ended up at the bottom of my life. When God calls us.. to salvation.. to service.. to present the Gospel.. we need to understand that we may not like the sound of where he is calling us. It may seem like a bad idea to us..It may not make sense.. but He knows what He is doing. We need to quit arguing with God about what He calls us to. Part of the Christian life is listening to God’s call when it does not make any sense to us. We need to know that what God wants us to do very rarely makes sense at the time He calls us to do it. But that HE is GOD.. and His will not mine needs to be the driving force in my life. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at the Book of Jonah. Someone who ran from God… in part because what God was asking him to do.. just did not make sense to him. The Author of the book is Jonah son of Aamati. He is mentioned over in 2 Kings 14:25, “He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher. But lets make sure we understand.. Jonah is not the main character of the book… God is, The Lord had the first word (Jonah 1:1–2) and the last (4:11). God commanded the prophet twice (1:2; 3:2); He sent a violent storm on the sea (1:4); He provided a great fish to rescue Jonah (1:17); He commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land (2:10); He threatened Nineveh with judgment and relented in compassion (3:10); He provided a vine to shade His prophet (4:6); He commissioned a worm to destroy the plant (4:7); and He sent a scorching wind to discomfort Jonah (4:8) There has been some discussion about when the book was written. If we go with the Biblical account of its author and the circumstances described it would seem the book was written in the 700s BC. It is important to consider this book as historical fact… Jesus views it as history so should we. Jesus speaks of Jonah as a man.. calls him by Name. Matthew 12:40 for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Since Jesus had the view that this is a factual account.. I think I will stick with that. Audience: The northern tribe of Israel The Book of Jonah was a reminder to Israel of her missionary purpose. Additionally, the book demonstrates the sovereignty of God in accomplishing His purposes. Though Israel was unfaithful in its missionary task, God was faithful in causing His love to be proclaimed. In praise to God for miraculously delivering him, Jonah confessed, Jonah 2:9 “Salvation [deliverance] comes from the Lord” (). Turn with me in your Bibles to The Book of Jonah and we will begin at Verse 1. One of the things I truly love about this book.. is the manner in which Jonah presents himself. Very few men would have every told such a story about themselves. Jonah 1:1–3 The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. We should not expect God’s call to make sense. Explain: God calls Jonah to arise and go to Nineveh.. lets just try to understand how this would sound to Jonah. If I called you up on the phone and told you I wanted you to get up right now and drive to the airport and get on a plane and fly to Syria… to go talk to ISIS.. That they had offended me and I wanted you to go talk to them about it. See this is who Nineveh was to Jonah. Nineveh was known for its violent military action… They led their captives away with fish hooks in their lips. They were the most threatening enemy of Israel at the time. They would eventually overthrow the northern kingdom and haul them off to captivity in Babylon. Jonah knew this.. it had not happened yet but it had been prophesied. He knew it was going to happen. And yet God has called him to go and preach a message to these people. He knew what their response would be. Over in Jonah 4:2 after the people of Nineveh have repented.. he says; “Jonah 4:2–3 He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. “Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” Jonah runs.. not because he thinks he will fail in what God has called him… but because he knows he will succeed. His hate for the people on Nineveh is so strong he will disobey God rather than see them repent. See it makes no sense to Jonah. Throughout the Bible God calls people to do things that make no sense to them. Just ask Joshua. Joshua 6:1–5Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in. The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors. “You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. “Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. “It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead.” Now if I had been Joshua I am not really sure what my reaction to that attack plan would have been.. But I sure would have thought it did not make any sense.. Thankfully Joshua trusted in the Lord and did what he said.. and did not go running off for Tarshish. We think we are so wise.. that we know so much. We are convinced that if something does not make sense to us.. it has just got to be wrong. Paul over in 1 Cor 3:18 writes; “1 Corinthians 3:18–20 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” It can be very difficult to put your effort into something you do not understand. HOW WE DO IT There Are things in the Bible that God calls us as a people.. as the Church to do.. that do not make sense to us sometimes… Like forgiving people that really and truly wronged us.. People that have done truly horrible things.. I am not talking about people that took your parking place.. or cut in line… but the ones that did really horrific things.. We are called to forgive them.. Sometimes we can feel like this just does not make any sense.. why should I forgive them..look what they did.. it was truly and wholly evil.. and wrong.. and yet it does not say forgive those who deserve it.. it simply says forgive. Or when God calls us to love our enemies.. Remember this is not just feel love for them.. this is that Agapa Love.. he is calling us to care for them.. to take care of them.. to sacrificially serve those that are our enemies.. From a strictly worldly stand point this makes no sense.. heck it does not even sound safe.. I am sure going to Nineveh did not sound to safe to Jonah.. But.. see we should not expect the things God calls us to to make sense.. or even sound safe. What we have to do, is learn our limitations. We need to get a better understanding of Who God is… and who we are.. His limitlessness.. and our limited nature. We must understand that we cannot know the mind of God and we must trust in what he has told us to do. So God has told Jonah to rise up and go to Nineveh and cry out against them for their wickedness has come before God.. What would you do if your calling were so CLEAR.. I mean.. if God spoke to you and told you exactly what to do… and it made no sense what would you do… We are to present the Gospel to those whose wickedness has come up before God. See the thing is.. God has spoken this plainly and this clearly to us.. maybe not as individuals… but collectively as the Church God has spoken very clearly and very distinctly in His word with regard to what we are called to do.. and one of the things He has told us to do.. is exactly what He told Jonah to do. In Acts 1:8 Luke writes; “Acts 1:8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Has the Holy Spirit come upon us? Well then we are to be His witnesses in both Mullin and in Mills County and Texas.. and even the remotest part of the earth. We are called to proclaim this Gospel… and yes we can do that to some degree by the way that we live. This is called experiential Gospel. We do this by living like Christ called us to live. Shinning as lights in the world… and this is great. But we cannot JUST do that. We must at some point speak the words. Yes we must live it but if we do not say the words how will they hear them. Paul writes over in Romans: “Romans 10:14–17 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” So how do we do this.. What words to we need to say… do we need a tract. Do we need to take Lessons on how to present the Gospel.. Is there a formula.. What if I don’t have an answer when they ask a question. What if I mess it up. The best thing to remember is that we are called to present the Gospel. We are not responsible for the results. The Gospel we are called to preach is fairly straight forward. We are to tell them: “There is a God who loves you and wants to have an eternal relationship with you. However, we all sin. And God cannot have a relationship with Sin. There is nothing we can do about our sin, but God can and did do something. He came in the form of a man, Jesus Christ. He lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay for our sins, he arose after 3 days, ascended to Heaven and He is coming back. All we have to do to have this eternal relationship with Him is place our trust in what He did on the cross… That it was enough to pay for our sins.” That is it.. that is the Gospel message. It does not need to be those exact words… but that concept.. we Sin.. God paid for it.. we have to trust in what He did. Sometimes we can have trouble seeing how it makes sense for us to tell people this message. We can think.. they must already know it.. surly everyone knows this message.. but the truth is many people do not.. Sometimes they were raised in a Church that gave a different message.. sometimes.. they were not raised in Church… sometimes they were not really even raised.. Some religions have a totally different message.. that we can somehow earn salvation.. that we have to follow a set of rules.. or pass a test. And some people may have heard this exact same message 99 times.. and just need to hear it one more time. We may feel that God does not really need ME.. personally to tell people the Gospel.. that I am sure someone else can do it better.. But it is not about better.. maybe someone needs to hear a really poorly presented gospel.. full of .. hesitation.. presented by someone who is not so sure of what they are saying.. someone who does not have all the answers.. maybe that is the way.. a particular person needs to hear it. God calls us ALL to present the Gospel.. and we need to make sure we are not getting on a Boat and heading to Tarshish. We are called to present the Gospel to anyone who’s wickedness has come up before God… that is our Nineveh.. So.. that is pretty much the entire world… For all have sinned and fall short of Righteousness.. that means the whole world.. and their wickedness has surely come before God. When we are called to cry out to Nineveh we need to make sure we don’t get on a boat for Tarshish. We should avoid fleeing from God’s call. Read Jonah 1:3Jonah 1:3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. When it says that Jonah rose up to flee from the LORD let us first note that God’s call to Jonah did include the idea of rising up.. Jonah did listen to the first part of God’s call. We should understand that we cannot pick and choose which parts of God’s calling we wish to follow. Partial obedience is still disobedience. If you are not sure about this check with your mother. Recall what would happen if you did “part” of what she told you to do. We do not get to pick which part of God’s commands… This is not a Buffet religion. We are to present the Whole Gospel.. not just the part we like.. we cant just tell them about Heaven and leave out the Hell.. and even though we might want to we cant just live the Gospel and not tell them the words.. we are called to do both. Jonah rose.. just as God had commanded. However, instead of going to Nineveh and crying out against it. He fled to Tarshish. Let’s make sure we understand just how much of a fleeing this was. Not only is Tarshish in the opposite direction from Nineveh.. it is as far away as possible.. it is literally the end of the world.. in the other direction. It is as if someone said.. New York and Cry out against them… and you hopped a train to Los Angeles… No really it is farther than that… Someone told you to go to Alaska.. and cry out against it and you got on a plane to Chile.. That’s how far away it is. And yet.. We can be sure that Jonah knew he could not out run God.. that he knew no matter where he went God would be there. He grew up on the Scripture.. He knew Psalm 139:7–10 “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.” Jonah would know he could not escape from God.. What Jonah is saying here is not that he was trying to get away from God.. When it says Jonah fled from the “presence” of the LORD.. it would also be accurate to translate that Jonah fled from being “before” the LORD.. This is a reference to his position as a Prophet of God. Basically Jonah is quitting his Position as Prophet. He is leaving from his position as a prophet before God. By rejecting God’s call to Go to Nineveh.. and running off to Tarshish.. Jonah is leaving his position as Prophet. We can never leave God’s presence in the sense that He will be where ever we go. However, we can certainly step away from the positions he puts us in. God may have provided you with a situation where you are able to do His work. Not in any official capacity.. not with a title.. But just being His light in a situation.. in a family, at work… in an association.. in a group of friends. And we need to make sure we don’t flee from our position. That we are aware of who our Nineveh is.. Who we are being called to cry out too. As Christians we strive to stay on target.. and never flee our Nineveh. About this time last year I began looking for a Church to Pastor. Erin and I had decided that we were certain we wanted a small church in a rural area. We were looking in Fort Bend county.. Near Houston. And one Saturday I received an Email from a Church in Gordon Texas.. just north of here the other side of I-20. They wanted to know if they could put me on their short list. Keep in mind this would put us about 500 miles away from Fort Bend county. I told them.. that if they could not find anyone else I would consider serving there but that.. was a little farther than I was expecting to go. The very next day.. at our Bible study for young married couples and we have a visitor. He is engaged and getting married in two weeks. He tells us how he and his new bride will be moving to South Africa to do mission work for the next 5 years. It kinda hit me.. He is willing to go to South Africa… and I told those people.. Gordon was to far. When I got home I contacted them… and asked if we could drive up to see the church and the town. They were like that is an awful long way to drive just to look around. We were like… well I think I can do that for God.. if He wants me to move 500 miles.. I ought to be at least willing to drive 500 miles. We drove up and looked it over.. eventually they decided on someone else.. and we are glad they did.. so that we could end up in Mullin…. But what changed from that day was that we stopped worrying about WHERE.. we were going to serve.. and started looking for where God wanted us to serve. Mullin is not as far from Sugarland as Gordon was.. but it is a bit farther than we originally planned.. We are so glad.. God provided us with the lesson when he did.. so that when The search committee contacted us.. We had no problem at all with coming to Mullin.. we were very excited about the possibilities. God has called us to cry out to those who sin has come up before Him, we are to tell them the Good news. Christ died for their sins. And if they place their faith and trust in what He did on the Cross they can have eternal salvation.