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Jonah 1:17 - 2:10

Jonah: God's Love for "Us" and for "Them"  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:45
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FBC Kinston March 10, 2019 Jonah 1:17 - 2:10 PREFACE This morning we will pick up in Jonah at the end of chapter 1 and go all the way through chapter 2. My hope in this series of sermons is that you will be challenged to think deeply about God’s love for you, but also about God’s love for “them,” for those out there in the world that may be difficult or different than you are or even just outside the walls of the church. We’ve seen so far in Jonah that God’s desire is for both Jonah and for the Ninevites to repent. God’s desire is for Jonah to be obedient in taking the message of God to the Ninevites, but we also know that God desires for Jonah’s enemies to repent. The big problem we have is that Jonah wanted God to avenge the Ninevites. Jonah wanted nothing to do with them. And as you know, God had other plans. At this point, Jonah has been on the ship with the sailors, and the sailors have just thrown Jonah overboard into the sea. Jonah’s refusal to repent and obey the word of the Lord led to this very unfortunate situation he finds himself in. So this morning we have this prayer that Jonah prays from the belly of this fish, and it’s just full of things we need to learn ourselves. And we’re going to read this prayer and study it this morning and pretend that we don’t know how Jonah really ends up in chapter 4. Ok? ➔ PASSAGE: JONAH 1:17 - 2:10 Jonah 1:17 (ESV) 17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 2:1-10 (ESV) 1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. 4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ 5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head 6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. 7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. 8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” 10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. PRAYER ➔ INTRODUCTION I’ll never forget the first time I was pulled over by a police officer. It was one of the more intimidating moments of my life. I was 17 years old. And to be honest, I have never been one to really drive much over the speed limit. I’ll go the speed of traffic in a busy city, and I might cruise a few MPH over the speed limit when I’m on the interstate. But generally speaking, I have never been one to break the speed limit. But I’ll never forget that moment when I wasn’t paying attention to the speed limit when there just happened to be a police officer stopped at the intersection that I sped past. So I drove by that police officer, completely unaware that he was there, and the next thing I know I looked in the rearview mirror, and there they were: those flashing blue lights. So I pull over. I’m scared half to death. All I can think of is how dead I’m going to be when my parents find out. I knew my car would be taken away and my life was over as I knew it. The police officer walks over and takes my license and registration and says, “Son, do you know what you did wrong?” I think I was driving to fast, sir. I’m very sorry. “Son, you were driving 63 in a 45 mph zone.” Now, I’m even more dead than I was for just being pulled over. And you know the routine from there - police officer walks back to his car while I wait in mine for what felt like eternity. And he returns, and he says to me, “You have a clean record. No tickets. Nothing. Here’s my deal for you: I feel like this experience has taught you a lesson, so I’m going to let you go with just a warning. Don’t let me catch you speeding ever again or I’ll make sure you get a ticket.” In that moment, I was so relieved that this officer had mercy on me when I really didn’t deserve it. Now listen: ​The officer had the power of judgment over me but he exercised mercy.​ I was going 18 mph over the speed limit, which I am sure was enough for an expensive ticket and plenty of weekend chores at home to pay it off. But for whatever reason, the officer chose mercy over judgment. And to be honest, it’s mercy, not judgment, that often motivates us to live rightly, isn’t it? I can promise you this: from that point forward, I was always aware of how fast I was driving. The one who had the power of judgment had mercy on me instead. It was humbling and it motivated me to do what is right. Doesn’t God work the same way? God is the ultimate judge, but he’s a judge that’s slow to anger. He’s abounding in love and compassion, and he would much rather have mercy on us than judgment. Well, here in Jonah 2, we have a picture of both judgment and mercy, and what we find out is that God had mercy on Jonah. Now, before we go any further, let me define mercy because people often mix up the definition of grace and mercy, and we need to be very clear about the mercy of God in Jonah’s life. Grace is getting something you don’t deserve. As Christians, we are saved by grace. In salvation we are given something that we do not deserve. That is, the righteousness of Christ. We get something we do not deserve. That’s grace. It’s amazing. Mercy, however, is not getting something you do deserve. It’s kind of the opposite of grace. In grace, you get something you don’t deserve. But in mercy, you do not get something you do, in fact, deserve. When that police officer had the power of judgment to give me a punishment that I did deserve, he chose not to. That was mercy. And we can see in the context of Jonah, as well as throughout the Bible, that the justice and judgment of God paired with his goodness and mercy is what drives people to repent of their sin. The big idea that I want to submit to you this morning is that the fish that swallowed Jonah was not an act of judgment as we typically think it is, rather it was an act of mercy. The fish swallowing Jonah was what ultimately saved Jonah’s life. And what God wants from us today, I believe, is for us to see our own need to repent from our disobedience and apathy in regards to evangelism and for us to experience the mercy of God in giving us a renewed passion and desire to minister outside the walls of the church. Here’s the deal: The judgment of God is the raging sea and the sailors that throw Jonah overboard. The mercy of God is ultimately the fish that saves his life. Now, let’s work through this. ➔ JUDGMENT LEADS TO CLARITY (1-6) Watch what happens to Jonah. He’s been picked up by the sailors, tossed in the sea, and now we find this prayer of his. Now remember, he’s inside this fish for three days and three nights. And what he prays is partly a recollection of what happened when he was thrown overboard. So part of this prayer is just him recounting what happened. He’s also writing this down after being spit up on dry land and taking a shower. There was no waterproof paper in his day. Picking up in verse 1... 1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, (and in verse 2, he begins to recount what happened leading up to being swallowed) 2 saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. This is the judgment of God going on here. He was cast into the depths of the sea where the waters surrounded him, and all the waves and billows from the sea passed over him. This is not a pretty scene going on here. I remember one time being on a mission trip in San Diego, which I know is just an absolutely miserable place to go on a mission trip, and we were at the beach in southern California (see what I mean? We were really suffering for Jesus), and the waves were huge, much bigger than we see here. I’ll never forget thinking I was a good enough swimmer to handle those waves. So I ran out into the ocean, and I was absolutely obliterated by the first wave that came crashing. Literally, I remember being knocked down and smashed against the ocean floor. The water was so strong and powerful that I could do nothing other than wait to be able to come up and get a breath of air. It was a scary moment to be honest. That’s the kind of moment Jonah finds himself in here, except infinitely worse I am sure. He’s thrown into the midst of a raging sea, gasping for breath, and hoping that somehow he might survive. Of course, moments before, he was more than willing for the sailors to throw him overboard, but now it appears that he doesn’t want to die. So he says in verse 4 4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ 5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head 6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. So understand this: Jonah is still in the sea at this moment drowning, at least that’s what I gather from his prayer. He is driven down into the sea. The waters closed in over him to take his life. The deep surrounded him. Weeds were wrapped about his head. And he says, “I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever.” In other words, what Jonah realizes is that he is going to die. He believes he is going to Sheol, which, for now, you can just think of as the place of the dead. And in ancient times, they believed there were literal bars, like a jail cell, that would close in over them when they died. This was kind of how I felt when I saw those blue lights in my rearview mirror. It’s the moment where you say to yourself, “I guess this is it. This is how my life ends. I’m dead now.” Jonah is done. The raging sea has closed in on him, and he is drowning. He has nothing left. He has hit rock bottom. Until, the fish swallows him. The judgment of God on his life has led him to this moment of clarity. He sees clearly. He understands fully. He is effectively repenting of his unwillingness to go to Nineveh. What happens next is really an act of mercy, and what we learn is that...number 2... ➔ MERCY LEADS TO MOTIVATION (7-10) Look next at verse 7: 7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. In other words, Jonah knows that God is listening to him. Jonah knows that even though he is about to die and he is at the bottom of the sea, God will still hear his prayer. In other words, it’s never too late to do the right thing. It’s never too late to pray. It’s never too late to repent. Verse 8... 8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. This is Jonah rejecting his idolatry. This is Jonah realizing that his extreme desire for God to bless Israel and avenge Nineveh was in fact an idol. Jonah was so overwhelmingly concerned about his own people and his own safety that he created an idol out of them to the point that he did not want God’s love to go beyond his people. And that’s often what happens in the church, is it not? Idols are created out of safety and ease and comfort. We don’t want our lives entangled with people who are difficult or whose lives might bring some level of discomfort to us. And so what we do is we idolize our sanitized version of Christianity and we leave the difficult people to someone else to minister to. But listen to Jonah... 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” 10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. Finally, Jonah acknowledges that salvation belongs to God and that nobody is unworthy. Nobody is unworthy of God’s love. Nobody is unworthy of our time or our resources or our willingness to go and minister. Now remember, part of this prayer is Jonah recounting what happened when he was in the water before the fish swallowed him, so I don’t know at what point the fish swallowed him, but I put before you again that the fish was, at least in part, an act of mercy. Jonah was drowning and was pushed down to the bottom of the sea. It was there when Jonah hit rock bottom that he realized he needed God. Now, that’s not the way you should spend your life following the Lord. But sometimes it takes hitting the bottom before the Lord gets your attention. Jonah got on a ship to run away from God. He hid on a boat. He had sailors throw him overboard. He ran and ran and ran, and God chased him down to the bottom of the sea before Jonah looked up and realized he needs to follow God. So God sends a fish to swallow Jonah. This wasn’t just a random occurance of a hungry fish looking for a meal. This is a miraculous event in which God is working to save Jonah. The fish is what kept him alive. And his repentance and his forsaking idols is when God spoke to the fish causing it to spit him up upon dry land. The fish saving Jonah was an act of mercy that led to motivation for Jonah. Judgment led to clarity for Jonah. Mercy led to motivation. What happens next is that the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, and what happened? He went to Nineveh. He went because he experienced both the judgment and the mercy of God in a way that he could see clearly and he was motivated to go because he experienced mercy too. Now, let’s think through how you are to apply this passage to your life. ➔ APPLICATION The application for this passage is both personal and corporate. It’s personal for you as an individual. And it’s corporate because it applies to us as a church. But first, the personal aspect of this. ➔ As an individual, don’t try to run away from God. The reality is that you just can’t run away from God’s will. You can try. You can ignore God for a long time. But there’s going to come a moment when you can’t run anymore. We should learn from Jonah that it’s just better off to obey God in the beginning than to wait until your thrown into the midst of a raging sea. ➔ As an individual, share the gospel. Don’t shy away from this. God wants to use you, and God can use you. You don’t have to know all the right answers. You don’t have to be the most persuasive person on earth. God will do more with your faithfulness than he will with you running away. God commands everyone to go, and you are no exemption. ➔ As an individual, repent if necessary. To be quite honest with you, I bet there is a lot of repentance that needs to happen, myself included. Just ask yourself, “How many times have I shared the message of salvation with someone in the last year or five years or for my entire life?” If evangelism isn’t something on your radar, then you need to repent of that apathy and let God begin to work through you. He gave Jonah a second chance, and he will do the same thing for you. ➔ But what about us as a church? ➔ I believe this church body must also come to a place of repentance Generally speaking, as a whole, we have not been that concerned about evangelism. We have not cared enough. We have not put enough effort into proclaiming the truths of the gospel to those outside these church walls. I can’t speak for the last 50 years, but for at least my 5 and a half years here, I’ll take the wrap for that one. I have spoken a lot about it, but I have not led us far enough in that direction. It is time for that to change for all of us. This week you should have seen in multiple places that we are going to gather at the end of the month on the 31st to begin moving more in this direction. If you are a church member here, then I want to say to you that this is one of those meetings that should be at the top of your priority list. So mark it down. If you are visiting with us, then we welcome you too. It is time for us to repent of our own apathy. And secondly… ➔ As a church body, we must be willing to go and do this work And thirdly… ➔ As a church body, we must remain faithful to the task As they same, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nor is the kingdom of God built overnight. I believe the Lord is calling us to a season of outreach and evangelism, and that will require faithfulness before anything else. So here’s what I want you to do. I don’t care if you stay in your pew or you come down to pray, but I believe it is time that all of us acknowledge before God that we can do better. It is time for all of us to repent of any apathy and unwillingness to do the hard work of sharing the gospel with those around us. It is time for this church to plead with God to use us in a mighty way to reach this community for his Son, Jesus Christ. But that begins with repentance. It begins with us being willing to say it’s time to do better. It’s time to work harder. It’s time to be more faithful. Jonah was cast into a raging sea before he acknowledged his sin before God. Let’s not allow that to be our story. Jesus came to us, in our own Nineveh, so let us go to those in need now.
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