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A Godly View of Mercy

Jonah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The book of Jonah concludes in such a way that we must consider our own views of mercy.

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Intro: Ticket. Brother/sister arguing.
Again Jonah holds up the mirror. Causing us to consider our responses.
Jonah 4 ESV
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 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. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” 5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

God’s Mercy Enraged Jonah

Jonah was indignant at what had happened. He is probably the only preacher in history to be mad that God used his message to bring people to repentance. But he was MAD! He was furious. It’s why he didn’t want to go in the first place. He knew that this was a possibility. That God would save these people. He was so mad in fact that he would rather die than see God be merciful to the Ninevites. But why did this enrage Jonah? He had just received mercy from God. Jonah God was just sooooo good to you. Don’t you want God to be good to other people too?
In Jonah’s mind these people didn’t deserve a single ounce of mercy from God. I’m sure some of you have felt this way about someone before. I particularly remember how I felt the after 9/11. I had been a Christian for a couple months and I remember thinking “let’s go wipe these guys off the face of the earth.” They had become our mortal enemies. I wanted swift justice to be served. No holding back. The full brunt of our military might to be wielded against them.
This is how Jonah felt about the Ninevites. They deserved swift brutal justice from God. The punishment that Sodom and Gomorrah recieved. Or the plagues on the Egyptians. Or the falling of the walls of Jericho. The full breadth of God’s force.
Yet. God in his mercy spared these people. God spared the enemies of Israel. This fact makes Jonah indignant. So what does Jonah do?

Jonah Puts God To The Test

Jonah decides to put God to the test. God it is me or them. Kill them or kill me. Wipe them off the earth or remove me from it. We’re back to chapter 1. Jonah is trying to force God’s hand. He would rather die than see these people receive mercy. That’s why he goes and builds himself a structure. He is waiting to see what God does even though we already know that God has relented. Jonah knows that God has relented, that’s why he is so angry. Jonah is giving God an ultimatum. But an ultimatum only works if you’re the one with the power, which Jonah is decidedly not. Jonah don’t you know that the Lord controls your life? That he knows the day of your death. That he is the one who appoints it? Jonah you have zero control over the outcome here.

God Provides An Object Lesson

Since God is not done with Jonah he won’t acquiesce to his request. In fact now he is going to teach Jonah something and to do so he is going to use an object lesson. Like the fish swallowing him whole as a means of provision God again uses nature in a super natural way to serve his purposes. God causes a plant to spring up to provide Jonah with shade. This act of mercy causes Jonah to be happy or glad about the plant. But God, seeking to make his point, won’t let that last long. The next day God has a worm come and kill the plant so that it will cease to serve as a means of mercy to Jonah. So again Jonah wants to die. Why? Because God changed course. The very thing Jonah desired God to do with regards to Nineveh, he now does with Jonah and it makes Jonah angry.
Oh how often does our Lord use circumstances outside of our control to teach us things. How often does he use that which cause us pain or discomfort to reveal something about himself to us? How often does he use “object” lessons in our lives to help us see things accurately? Think through your lives friends. Has God not taught you in many ways through circumstances that you disliked? Rarely will you learn about his complete and utter provision if you never go without. Rarely will you learn about patience if you don’t have to sit in traffic for 5 hours. Rarely will you truly grasp peace that surpasses understanding unless you have opportunity to experience it. God in his infinite wisdom and mercy uses the experiences of our lives to form us into the people he desires us to be.
That is what he is doing here with Jonah. He is forming Jonah, addressing the very heart of the issue. And God will drive it all home with a question.

God Questions Jonah

As the book of Jonah closes we are left with God questioning Jonah. In a way similar to how God questions Job at the end of the book of Job God is taking Jonah to task over his attitude. Jonah wished that God had shown pity to the plant, but not the entire city of Nineveh. Jonah saw now value of life in the entire city of Nineveh. The plant was of more value to Jonah that the entire city and all the creatures in it. Jonah’s perspective was skewed.
What God is saying to Jonah is this? Jonah Isn’t Nineveh of far greater value than the measly little plant? Jonah don’t you see that this is of greater value? Look Jonah these people have repented don’t they deserve mercy? Don’t they deserve for me to grant them mercy? Jonah…it’s just a plant. That is an entire city of people and animals. And what response do we get? Nothing. No response at all. It is a deafening silence.
This is not the type of conclusion we want. We want it all wrapped up nice and neat with a bow on top. We we want to know what happens. What is Jonah’s response? What does God do? Does Jonah go home? Do Jonah get it? But we don’t get that. We get left with a question.
But that’s the point. It serves a purpose. The book of Jonah concludes in such a way as to make a point to us. It is screaming at us. How do you view mercy? Do you have a godly view of mercy?
With that there are 5 important things we need to consider about mercy.

Godly Mercy Defined: Not receiving what we deserve.

The first is the definition of Godly Mercy. It is not receiving what we deserve. Godly mercy is the opposite of what we deserve or earn. Mercy is not getting a speeding ticket even when we were. Mercy is not getting time in jail when we are guilt. Mercy is not receiving a punishment you deserve. You see Nineveh deserved wrath and yet they received mercy. Jonah too deserved punishment, yet he received mercy. Mercy is the very act of God not giving us what we deserve. We all deserve just punishment for our eternal crimes against God, yet God’s character is merciful and gracious.
This fact is made evident when we realize the next truth.

Mercy Defined - Not receiving what we deserve.

Godly Mercy Granted: We are all recipients.

Godly Mercy Granted: We are all recipients.

We are all recipients of God’s mercy. You see we all by nature of our sinful nature deserve death. We don’t deserve a single thing from God. We deserve instantaneous punishment. Yet God doesn’t give that to us. He gives us grace and mercy. Think about it. We all are by nature are in rebellion to God from the moment of our birth. We are enemies of him. Yet he still sees fit to have the sun rises on good and wicked. All of humanity, every single one of us are deserving of swift punishment and yet God causes rain to fall for us to have food. The one who holds all things in his hands. The one who causes the sun to rise and rain clouds to form, who all of humanity rebels against daily, still grants these things to us. The mere fact that he doesn’t wipe us out the second we sin is mercy. Don’t you recall the warning he gave to Adam? The day you eat of that fruit you will die. It was his mercy that stayed his hand.
But this is general mercy. There is also specific mercy. For those of us who are believers in Christ. His elect from the foundation of the world we have received an infinitely greater mercy than that which he bestows upon humanity in general. Look upon that cross. It should call to your mind the great mercy God has upon you. Dear brothers and sisters the very punishment you deserve was mercifully given to our savior. He who knew no sin bore our sin. He became our transgression. He took the full brunt of the punishment we deserved and exclaimed tetelesti, it is finished, so that God would grant us mercy. He took all of it. Not a single ounce of our rebellion is left unpunished. All of it has been poured out upon our savior. Oh what wonderful news. That we have a merciful God who doesn’t give us what we deserve.
This naturally leads us to the next point.

Struggling With Godly Mercy: Justice isn’t neglected.

If we’re honest we are like Jonah. We struggle with mercy because we see it as a neglect to God’s justice. We struggle with mercy because we want justice. We long for justice and mercy feels like justice is being neglected. But this isn’t the case. We struggle because we want instantaneous justice. Jonah wanted this too. But it would not serve God’s purpose. It is as if all of history is a long game of chess and all we see is one move. The game goes on long after we are gone, yet God will win the game. Justice will occur, in God’s time. Eventually Assyria was punished for their sins. It took a while but God was using his mercy for a greater purpose. He withheld his judgment against Nineveh so that he could use them to discipline his disobedient people and eventually bring them to repentance. Justice was never neglected. It was simply delayed.
God will always have his day. God will always execute justice. Is he not the all-powerful one? Is he not the all-knowing one? Is he not the every present one? How then will he not execute justice? Ultimately justice will be served. Sometimes it is served this side of eternity. Other times it is served by the eternal wrath of God. Either that which was pour out on the son upon the cross or in the fires of hell.
2 Peter 3:9–10 ESV
9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Any delay in justice is serving God’s purpose. Often that very purpose is so that others will come to repentance. In we are told that very thing.

Godly Mercy Offered: Repent and believe.

This causes us to move to the next point. If you are here and you’ve never put your faith in the Lord I want to share with you God’s offer of mercy to you. We’re told in the New Testament that if we call upon the name of the Lord we will be saved. God offers his mercy to those who repent and believe. To repent means we turn from our sin to God. We turn from that which separates us from God. We turn to him and believe in him for our salvation. We place our faith in him. God offers this to all. Dear friend if you’ve never put your faith in Jesus today is the day to do so. Without it you will receive no eternal mercy. In fact any mercy you do receive here and now will seem fleeting when all is said and done.

Godly Mercy Applied: Are you merciful? Even to your enemies?

The final thing this causes us to consider is whether we are applying mercy in our lives. Are you merciful? If you have received mercy you will be merciful. If you’re not merciful you either don’t understand what has been done for you or you haven’t received mercy. If you exhibit not traits of mercy towards others it is a huge red flag. Jesus tells a parable in the gospel of Matthew about an unforgiving servant. He concludes that parable indicating that if we don’t extend mercy to others we are not actually saved. If you don’t extend mercy you need to pause and consider what God has done for you.
What is your attitude towards that slow driver on the road? What is your attitude towards that clueless friends or family member that you desire to “write-off”? How do you treat that person who said that hurtful thing?
Has God extended mercy to you? It is time you extend it to others, even your enemies.
Let’s pray.
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