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How God Turns a Curse Into a Blessing - Jonah 3:1-10

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God Uses the Cursing of Jonah to Bless Nineveh with Forgiveness

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Big Idea

Tension: how does God bless Nineveh with forgiveness?
Resolution: Through the curse of Jonah.
Exegetical Idea: God blesses Nineveh with forgiveness through Jonah’s cursing.
Theological Idea: God uses the law to compel us all to run to Christ.
Homiletical Idea: The curse of the law leads us to the blessing of Christ
Objective: We want people to see that God saves.
Intro
Introduction:
Exposition

Jonah Cursed Nineveh

Inciting Incident
God called Jonah a second time: Now, this story picks up where we left off. Jonah has been vomited out of the fish onto dry ground. We don’t know what happened next, how long he was on the beach or what. Personally, I think he went back to the temple in Jerusalem. But, regardless. Wherevere he is, the Word of the Lord comes to him a second time. God is being so gracious and so kind to him. Here is this prophet, who has run away when he received his message. He has been reckless and dangerous and hidden in the bottom of the boat when he’s been confronted. He’s been self-righteous and so stuck-up in the fish. And here God is giving him his message a second time. Here we should just note, God loves to use broken sinners for his tasks.
Call out to it the message I tell you: And God tells Jonah call out against Nineveh the message I tell you. Now, this word, against, is not actually the same word that was used in chapter 1 when God originally sent Jonah. It is a kinder, lighter word. So there is a hint that God is telling Jonah, “Hey Jonah, call out against Nineveh, but remember teh mercy I just showed you. Remember the grace I just showed you. Remember how kind I have been towards you.”
Rising Action
Jonah arose and goes to Nineveh (seems like he’s obeying God): Well, Jonah does as he is told. he stands up and he goes to Nineveh. It’s probably about a 500 mile journey. ALl this time it seems like he’s being obedient. Whereas before he ran away from God, now he is doing what God asked him to do. In fact, it says, “according to the word of the Lord.” So we’re kind of on teh edge of our seat, what will Jonah say? How will Jonah respond? Has Jonah finally understood what God is about?
Climax
Denouement
The omens on Nineveh: Now, as we are talking about Jonah going to Nineveh, it is appropriate to note hwat was historically happening in Nineveh about this time. We know from archaeology and from history, that Nineveh and the Assyrians are going through something of a crisis. There is a civil war that has just caused a lot of conflict. There has been a devastating earthquake. There has been a famine where many people in Nineveh starved. And so, as Jonah is headed towards Nineveh, we can assume, “Okay, now would be
Jonah cursed Nineveh, “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown”: But Jonah gets there, and he preaches against Nineveh. And he says, “yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Now, Jonah is here citing a tradition of Old Testament prophets who would frequently talk about God’s judgment on cities using this language.
The omens on Nineveh
The omens
So Jonah here is preaching disaster that is coming. In other words, there is not really any of the mercy that he’s been shown. He can’t reciprocate .He can’t pay it forward. He is like the dead sea. You see, the dead sea is the lowest point on earth. And the Dead Sea in Israel is this sea that has received the flow of the Jordan River for centuries, but it doesn’t empty out anywhere. It has so much minerals that it is bitter and undrinkable. And the sea is just sinking deeper and deeper into the earth. Jonah is like that. He has received eerything that has been doen for him gladly, but he can’t let any of it go forward. As a result, he sinks deeper and deeper into himself. The kindness and the grace of God have not touched his heart, and so he is all fire and brimstone, all judgment, all curse.
Is Jonah wrong to curse Nineveh?: Now, God is going to deal with Jonah a little later in chapter 4. But we should ask right now, was it wrong for Jonah to point out just how sinful Nineveh was? After all, Nineveh was a wicked city. Nineveh was the ISIS of its day. They worshipped many gods other than God. They were violent and took pleasure in torture and painful death. They were sexually immoral. They were the equivalent of a modern terrorist state. They were unspeakably evil. This is the group that not long after Jonah’s life would take israel and scatter many of its inhabitants across the face of the known world. They were a wicked city and under God’s judgment. God is a pure and holy God, and he will punish all people who are evil.
Nineveh is a sin city, and they are under God’s judgment: Around the same time as Jonah, mayb ea few years later, maybe earlier, there was a prophet who prophesied against Nineveh named Nahum. And this is what he prophesied in , ,
Around the same time as Jonah, mayb ea few years later, maybe earlier, there was a prophet who prophesied against Nineveh named Nahum. And this is what he prophesied in , ,
- Of course, the
How could God be so angry?: Of course, our gut impulse is to ask, “How could God be so angry? How could he be so wrathful? How could he punish sin like this?” You know, this is a good question. One of the unique things about our church is that we have a lot of teachers and social care workers in our church. And pray for them because that is a tough job. And one of the things that is tough about that is you get to see humanity at its worst. And you get to see some children who have gotten a rough shake in life, and who have very little hope, and who have been beaten and abused and sometimes worse. And it is broken and heart breaking. And when you encounter what some of them have encountered, and seen it with your own two eyes, your question is not how could God be so angry, it is, “God give this situation justice.” Our impulse is to say, God make this right. God you are judge, judge evil. And God promises to do so. But here’s the thing, if we ask God to judge evil, we have to let him do that. And here’s the problem, is that God doesn’t just judge some evil, he judges every evil deed, every evil thought, every evil desire. And that includes me, and that includes you.
How could God be so angry?: Of course, our gut impulse is to ask, “How could God be so angry? How could he be so wrathful? How could he punish sin like this?” You know, this is a good question. One of the unique things about our church is that we have a lot of teachers and social care workers in our church. And pray for them because that is a tough job. And one of the things that is tough about that is you get to see humanity at its worst. And you get to see some children who have gotten a rough shake in life, and who have very little hope, and who have been beaten and abused and sometimes worse. And when you meet people like that, people who have undergone sin
All who oppose God are under the same curse: Here is the unforunate reality, everyone who is opposed to God is under the same curse . - Everyone who breaks God’s laws, his just and eternal decrees, everyone who does not surrender his life and his conduct to Christ, will be brought to his knees in judgment. There is no place you can escape to. YOu cannot go into the earth to escape his judgment. You cannot go into the sky to escape his judgment. You cannot go into the earth. You can’t find a legislative loophole. You can’t find an exemption. You can’t find a lawyer to defend you against the Almighty. ALl who have broken God’s law are under the curse of the law. And God’s anger towards them is great.
All who oppose God are under the same curse: Here is the unforunate reality, everyone who is opposed to God is under the same curse . - Everyone who breaks God’s laws, his just and eternal decrees, everyone who does not surrender his life and his conduct to Christ, will be brought to his knees in judgment. There is no place you can escape to. YOu cannot go into the earth to escape his judgment. You cannot go into the sky to escape his judgment. You cannot go into the earth. You can’t find a legislative loophole. You can’t find an exemption. You can’t find a lawyer to defend you against the Almighty. ALl who have broken God’s law are under the curse of the law. And God’s anger towards them is great.
But, and thank goodness, that is not the end of the story.

God blessed Nineveh with forgiveness

The omens on Nineveh: Now, as we are talking about Jonah going to Nineveh, it is appropriate to note hwat was historically happening in Nineveh about this time. We know from archaeology and from history, that Nineveh and the Assyrians are going through something of a crisis. There is a civil war that has just caused a lot of conflict. There has been a devastating earthquake. There has been a famine where many people in Nineveh starved. And so, the people in Ninveh were particularly sensitive to the divine, and this word i just what they need to hear. God had been using the national crises of Assyria to make clear the way of the lord.
The omens on Nineveh: Now, as we are talking about Jonah going to Nineveh, it is appropriate to note hwat was historically happening in Nineveh about this time. We know from archaeology and from history, that Nineveh and the Assyrians are going through something of a crisis. There is a civil war that has just caused a lot of conflict. There has been a devastating earthquake. There has been a famine where many people in Nineveh starved. And so, the people in Ninveh were particularly
They believed God: So Jonah goes and just preaches this short brief sermon, “You’re all going to hell.” and guess what, Nineveh “believed God.” That is, they believed that God was who he said he was and that God was going to do what God said he was going to do. They believed that God was fully capable of destroying them, that God was holy and displeased with destroying them, and that God was unchanging in that nature and going to destroy them. And they were terrified otu of their minds.
The word reached the King : We see that so great is there terror that even the Word reaches the King. And the Kign hears it. Now, Kings in Scripture were supposed to be representatives of their people. They were supposed to more or less act in behalf of their people. So we read that the King did this, and we should read this as more or less true for all israel. He gets up and steps off his throne, a very humbling fact. ANd he covers himself in sackcloth and ashes. and he proclaims a fast. Here we see the King, hearing of his sin, humbling himself to ask for mercy.
They put on sackcloth: One of the things that is mentioned like 3 times in this chapte ris htat the Ninevites all put on sackcloth and ashes. And this is an interesting thing. It is a sign throughout Scriptures that someone is repenting, such as Job in where he says, “I repent in dust and ashes.” It is a sign of repentance, because someone is symbollically putting away all wealth and all luxury and turning to God. It is an outward show of an inward reality. Now, here is what is really interesting. This was not common in the Assyrian empire. This was pretty much an Israelite custom. So the Ninevites are making a clear and exclusive turn to the Israelite God.
God may turn from his fierce anger: Now, they are hoping that god will turn from his anger. THis is interesting, we dont’ know why they thought that he might. But there was something in them that felt the weight of their sin and that must have said a God that is this holy, this righteous, this angry, must also be capable of love and forgiveness and mercy. SO they were hoping against hope that God would relent of his anger and put onto them his love and mercy and forgiveness. And here, they are kind of a foil, because they understood God better than Jonah did.
Did they really repent? (): Now, we might be tempted to think, did they really repent? I mean, their theology was not quite as clearcut as we would like it. And they don’t put away their idols. And they don’t make any sacrifices. So, while all those things are true, Jesus seems to have considered them to repent. This is why he says in Matthew 12:41...
God relented of the disaster: And what we see is that God did in fact, relent of his judgment on them. He does actually forgive them. Now, when we say “God relented” we’re not saying that God changed his mind. No, God is from age to age the same. He does not change. He does not experience something from outside of him to move him. God is sovereign over all things. God rules over all things. He is the alpha and the omega. Rather, everytime that God pronounces a judgment, built in, in the small print, is an offer of mercy and forgiveness. That is, God’s judgment is conditional on the unrepentance of man. If man does not repent, he will show judgment. But everytime God pronounces judgment, there is a built in offer of forgiveness. The curse has a built in offer of blessing of forgiveness.
Did they really repent? ()
This is what says...
We see the providence of God: God used Jonah to drive Nineveh to repentance; he turned Jonah’s curse into a blessing: So here is one of the most ironic thigns that we see here in teh whole book of Jonah. That God calls Jonah, knowing exactly what Jonah will say to Nineveh, and knowing exactly how Nineveh will respond to Jonah’s curse. God used the right person in the right time, even though that person did not want to be used to accomplish the purpose that God set otu. And here we see one of the great mysteries of Scripture. Because we see, on the one hand, that Jonah did exactly what he wanted. There was ntohing that Jonah did that he had no control over. No, JOnah Chose to do what he did. But, on the other hand, God was totally sovereign. God accomplished his purposes. He turned Jonah’s curse into Nineveh’s blessing. (Neh 13:2) He used Jonah to accomplish his task despite Jonah’s will. Here we see, human capacity for choice and divine providence, mysteriously both are true. On the one hand, we choose what we want to do. On the other, God’s purposes cannot be thwarted. But, and this is a far more pressing question for Jonah, how can God purpose to forgive Nineveh after all they’ve done? The book of Jonah’s concern is not about how God accomplishes his purposes, but it is about why God would purpose that. You see, the book of Jonah juxtaposes these two concepts, his holiness and his love, his curses, and his blessings. And our question as we’re reading this is, how can a holy God forgive a sinful peopel?

How can a Holy God bless a cursed people?

: So this question is put starkly in … God is, on the one hand, merciful. He is loving and kind and forgiving. But on the other he is wrathful. He is angry. He is holy. He does not forgive sin.
God is holy and does not forgive sin: God is, on the one hand, a just God who does not forget about our sin. Every sin has a penalty. Every infraction we’ve made against the divine law, every time we’ve overstepped our bounds, every time we’ve shaken our fist at God, or defiantly whispered against him under our breath. Every time we’ve justified ourselves. Every time we have done something we know to be wrong. Every time we’ve said or thought or acted like we know better than God, God cannot forget. God will put the curse on every person who has rejected him.
God is loving and does forgive sin: Yet, in some mysterious way, God forgives all those who call out to him. All who reach out to him, God will redeem. He will not be angry witht htem forever. He warms his heart towards them. He turns to them and makes his face to shien aupon them. God’s love is more expansive than the universe, it is more real than the pew you’re sitting in, it is louder than my sermons, it is mor ecompassionate than a cousnelor, it is more precise than a scale, it covers more than the clouds cover the earth. There is not one sin outside of God’s capacity to forigve. There is not one person who can sin so bad that God wants nothing to do with them. There is not a line that you can step across that God says, “that’s too far.” No, for all who reach out to him, God will surely make his face to shien towards them.
How? The sinless one was cursed so that sinners might be forgiven: how can God do this? How can God punish the sins of Nineveh, yet still forgive Nineveh? How can God punish our sins, yet forgive us? Here’s the answer. We need someone to bear the curse for us. We need someone to step in our place, and take teh curse for us. If we are to receive God’s blessings of forgiveness, if we are to receive the status as the children of God, if God is going to welcome us into his home, someone has to be cursed, someone has to be estranged, someone has to be exiled. Christ is unjustly condemned so we mighty be unjustly forgiven. Christ was exiled so we might be brought home. Christ was kicked out so we might be brought in. Christ was killed we we might live. Christ was cursed so God might forgive us. This is what says...
Big idea reveal: You see, God turned the curse of Jonah into a blessing for forgiveness. And God turns the curse of our sins into the blessing of forgiveness through Christ. God turns the curse of our sins into the blessings of forgiveness through Christ. That has profound application for us today.

How does this apply to us today?

How? The sinless one was cursed so that sinners might be forgiven
Taking this seriously: If we’re going to take this seriously, we can’t let either of these things go. We have to understand the profound nature of the curse, but the majestic nature of God’s blessing.
The gospel is good news only if we acknowledge the bad news first. While we should not have the heart of Jonah, we can’t totally separate ourselves from his message. Because while Jonah’s heart is askew and his message is disproportionate, and we will talk more about that next week, it’s not totally wrong. God really does call all sinners everywhere to repent. IF we do nto understand that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of Christ, then we don’t really understand the gospel. If we don’t acknowledge our sin first, we can’t reach out for salvation. Recently, I was eating lunch at Panera here in town, reading a book. And a woman came up to me and asked me what I was reading, and so we got to talking. And I asked her about her faith. And she said, “Oh, well I like all the good parts of Christianity and the Bible, God’s love, his forgiveness, all that, but I don’t really like the bad parts, I don’t really like to talk about sin and all that.” And I said, “Wait a minute, you cannot have one without the other. Because if there’s no sin, there’s no salvation. If there’s no Fall, there’s no Messiah. If there’s no curse, there’s no forgiveness.” And she looked at me and said, “Well, that’s not necessarily my God.” Listen you cannot believe in the God of the Bible and believe that God does not hate sin. If you take your Bible seriously, you see that way before there is good news for us, there is bad news about us.
If we’re honest about sin, we can’t help but be honest about salvation: Sometimes though, we commit the opposite problem, right? Like sometimes, we forget that there is a salvation, and we drift back into works righteousness. We try to impress God with how much we know, or how much we read, or how much we do. We smugly believe, like Jonah, that others are not as worthy of God’s grace as we are. We’re like the Pharisee that prayed, “God I thank you that I am not like this tax collector.” But here’s the deal, if we are honest about sin, if we really recognize just how sinful we really are, and just how angry God is with our sin, than we have to do exactly what Nineveh did and cry out to God for his help. Only through Christ does God forgive us and offer salvation. You can’t earn God’s love, you can’t be worthy of God’s love, god’s love is a gift that we don’t deserve. And that’s what makes it grace. You see, if we really do realize just how sinful we are, if we really do realize that we are all under God’s curse, if we really do realize just how sinful and broken we are, then we won’t be able to help throwing ourselves upon him for grace.
The
This is compelling: There’s something about this that is compelling to unbelievers. When I was in college, I worked in this big retail store. And I was talking with one of my coworkers about CHristianity. And she was saying, “I just don’t understand you Christians. You people tell us that we all have to be holy, and that if we don’t follow Jesus, it doesn’t matter how good we are, none of us are good enough. And yet, you people will also say anyone at any time can become a Christian?” And I said, because I heard this argument from someone else, “So is your problem that God is too holy, or too forgiving?” She was just floored, like she had never thought about it that way. The point is not that I’m so smart, I learned that argument from someone else. The point is that, even for someone who is so viruently opposed to Christianity as this person was, there’s still something inside them that says, “I wish I knew that God.”
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