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Jonah 3:1-10

Jonah: God's Love for "Us" and for "Them"  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:10
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FBC Kinston March 17th, 2019 Jonah 3:1-10 So here we are this morning in Jonah 3, and Jonah is finally going to do what the Lord called him to do. If you have missed any of this study so far, let me give you the quick highlights. I have called this study, “God’s love for us and for them.” The reason for doing so is because Jonah found himself in a position where he did not want to do God’s will by going to Nineveh and preaching about God. Now, it’s still very important here to remember that Jonah was not refusing to go because he was scared of Nineveh. He refused to go because he did not want God to save Nineveh. In chapter 4, Jonah admits this to God. This is no secret. Jonah wanted God’s love and grace to apply to himself and to the other Israelites, but he did not want God’s love and grace to end up extending to those outside of his own tribe, per say. So one of the things we must learn in this is that God loves both Jonah and Jonah’s enemies. In the same way, God loves you and he loves this church but he also loves those who are outside of the church, and he wants them to be a part of the church as well. It’s so easy to want a sanitized version of Christianity where everything is neat and tidy and all the people are like us, but that’s just not reality. We must learn to love those who are like us and those who may not be just like us and realize that God wants as many as will come to him to come. We ourselves have been called by God to go and to preach the good news to any and to all who will give ear to hear it. That is the task that we must be faithful in proclaiming. Last week, in Jonah chapter 2, we read Jonah’s prayer of confession to God. That prayer of confession is equally important today, right now, for our church. I believe this church must repent of our apathy and get busy about the work of God in our community. Jonah chapter 3. We are going to read the entire chapter. ➔ JONAH 3:1-10 1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. 6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. PRAYER God, we are often slow to obey your will. Help us this morning see the great need all around us to proclaim your truth in every corner of this community and throughout the world. Help us not to look upon the world as if the world is full of miscreants that don’t deserve your grace. Rather, help us to look upon the world with eyes of compassion; with eyes like Jesus - to see people as ones who are lost like sheep without a shepherd. May we always point them to you, the good shepherd who saves us from our sins. ➔ INTRODUCTION Jonah was a reluctant prophet, that much is clear. He did not want to go to Nineveh. It took him being swallowed by a fish before he decided to listen. And, you know, it’s easy for us to look at Jonah and wonder how he could be so foolish. But we must ask ourselves if are we really that much different. I’m not so sure we are because reluctancy is easier than faithfulness. I remember learning to drive a car, and the neighborhood we lived in was initially built off of a 2 lane road. There wasn’t a lot of traffic there originally. As time went by, that road expanded to 5 lanes wide and traffic roaring down it like a raging flood that would wipe out anything in its path. My dad taught me how to drive, and he would always get so frustrated because it would take me forever to pull out of the neighborhood. Like Jonah, I was reluctant to go. You either waited forever until some sort of modern day parting of the Red Sea of traffic happened or you had to judge it right and go when the timing was right. All new drivers were reluctant until they learned that it’s better to go when the timing is right than to sit and wait it out forever. We are often like that - waiting it out, hoping that God will perform some miracle and make this easy, but the truth is that he wants us to go and it won’t be easy. Jonah was reluctant. We have been reluctant. God was telling him to go, and he waited. Then he ran. Then he was swallowed up. Then he finally decided to listen and go do the work God called him to do. Last week I ended with the admonition to repent of our own unwillingness to go, and I still believe a repentant heart, collectively as a church, is where we must begin. Please hear me clearly: by saying that this church must repent of its apathy at reaching the lost, I am not saying that this church hasn’t done good things. It clearly has. I am also not saying that we are some sort of awful people. If that was true, I would have been gone a long time ago. What I do mean is this: our apathy, in regards to reaching the lost, is evidenced by the number of open seats around you. We must ask ourselves: do we want to see this church full of people once again or are we just hoping a future generation will come in and fill the pews one day? So we repent and cry out to God and ask him to forgive us and to move us from apathy to urgency. Jonah moved, at least initially, from apathy and selfishness to urgently taking the message of God to the Ninevites. We must respond in the same fashion. So, let’s return to our text and see what God is up to in the life of Jonah as we near the end of this book. The first thing we see this morning is that... ➔ God gives second chances (1-3) Look what happens to Jonah. The fish spit him up on dry land, and then, after his repentance, the word of the Lord returned to Jonah a second time. Look with me in 1-3: 1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Now, let’s pick this apart a little. In chapter 1, we have a mirror image of what’s going on here in chapter 3. In chapter 1, it says, “the word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh.” It says the same thing here in chapter 3. In Jonah 1:1: Arise, go to Nineveh. In Jonah 3:1: Arise, go to Nineveh. In Jonah 1:3, it says, “But Jonah rose to flee.” In Jonah 3:3, it says, “So Jonah arose and went.” You with me? In chapter 1, we have, “Arise and go to Nineveh. Jonah did rise up, but he fled from God.” In Jonah 3, after having been on stormy waters and having been swallowed by a fish, the word came again, a second time, and said, “Arise and go to Nineveh.” This time, Jonah did rise up and he went this time. Jonah gets up and he goes this time. God said to go to Nineveh and declare the message he is going to give him. Now, two observations from these verses: First, God is a God of second chances (and 3rd, 4th, and 5th chances if necessary). But why didn’t God just move on to someone else that was willing to go? He didn’t move on because God had a purpose for Jonah. God could have used anyone in this moment. There was nothing special about Jonah. God just loved Jonah and wanted to use Jonah. Jonah blew his first chance. And honestly he blew his second and third chances while he was on the boat. But God wasn’t letting go of him. So God chases Jonah down to the bottom of the sea to get his attention, puts him back on dry land, and then gives him another chance to do the right thing. I wouldn’t look at this as some sort of test to see if Jonah learned his lesson. I’m not so sure that’s the right way to look at it. Listen, God is just a God of second chances who is willing to use us even when we are disobedient, rebellious, and hypocritical. God just loves taking people like you and people like me and giving us a second chance to do what we should have done in the first place. That’s the message of Jesus in the parable of the unforgiving servant. It says there in Matthew 18, that, “Peter came up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus said that because it’s a reflection of what God would do. In other words, God will always forgive. He will always take our messes and make a message out of it. It’s just who God is. That’s what God did for Jonah, and that’s what God can do for this church, too. Let me ask you this: do you think God wants this church to be used mightily so that many people might come to know Jesus as a result? Or do you think that God wants us to sink into obscurity to the point that it’s almost impossible to come back? I know God wants to use us. He didn’t provide us with this beautiful piece of property, this wonderful building, and such a generous group of people for us to just waste away. He gave it to us to be used as a tool for ministry and as a vehicle to get the gospel to the people all around us. That’s what this meeting is all about on March 31st. It’s about getting the good news of Jesus Christ into the lives of as many people as possible so that many might come to know him as their savior. Isn’t that your desire for this church? Don’t you want to see baptisms on a regular basis? Don’t you want to see the pews filled up again? Don’t you want to see the Lord working mightily through us? God gave Jonah a second chance, and he can give us a second chance too. Will we take it is the ultimate question. Second observation from these first few verses. God tells Jonah to arise and go to Nineveh and to proclaim the message that God will provide. That’s verse 2. Look at it with me: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” God was not calling Jonah to go and just share anything he wanted. God called Jonah to proclaim the message that God would give. Now, as we read here, that was a message of destruction if they did not repent. In other words, it’s not as if Jonah had to take this long journey to Nineveh and pull out a notepad to begin crafting a sermon or taking notes about what is most relevant for the Ninevites. God was providing the message. Jonah just had to deliver it. You know what? God has already provided the message we are to go proclaim. God has already given the command to us. We know what we are supposed to proclaim. That’s not hard. The message we are to proclaim is about the life, the death, the burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and how through faith in him someone can be saved from the wrath of God. And you know what that means? It means you don’t have to pray about whether or not God wants you to focus your attention on outreach and missions and evangelism. The answer is, “YES. HE. DOES.” Let me say that again, “God wants you to be on mission for him so that someone might come to know Jesus as their savior.” Jonah ran from this responsibility only to find out that he can’t run away from it. You can run too. You can run as far away as you want, but, if you are a Christian, then this response to go and proclaim the word of the Lord to lost souls is the only appropriate response to the love and grace of God in Christ Jesus. We don’t have to pray about whether or not God wants us to go. The answer is already a resounding, “YES.” I heard Danny Akin, the president of Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest say recently, “You put your ‘yes’ on the table, and let God put it on the map.” In other words, you tell God you’re willing and let him lead you in the right direction. After Jonah’s repentance, he was willing to obey. God gave him a second chance to do just that. And you know what? Jonah really shouldn’t be fearful, or reluctant, or whatever emotion he might have been feeling in that moment. You know why? He didn’t have to be fearful...because... ➔ The word of God is effective (4-5) Watch what happens. Verse 4: 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. Now, I’m sure there was more to it, but Jonah pretty much just shows up on the scene and declares that Nineveh will be overthrown in 40 days. It would be like someone walking into your home and saying, “you better repent of your sins or God will overthrow your home in 40 days if you don’t.” This is a pretty drastic message Jonah goes to preach to them. Repent of your sin or God is going to overthrow your city. These were Assyrians. They were no joke. Had it not been for God’s protection on Jonah’s life, Jonah would likely be dead by now. But he rolls up into town proclaiming God’s disaster upon these people if they don’t repent. And the text just says, “The people of Nineveh believed God. So they called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” They repented of their sins. The word that God sent through Jonah was effective. You know why Jonah’s message was really effective? It wasn’t because he was super persuasive. It wasn’t because he knew all the right things to say. It was effective because God was in it. The effectiveness of Jonah’s preaching wasn’t in himself. The effectiveness of the word was the word itself. The word of God is effective because Jesus is the word. How true is this? Listen church, the effectiveness of our own church is not dependant on us. Our Christian service, and our work at developing relationships with the lost is not going to be effective because we are effective. Any effectiveness we have is because Jesus is in all that we do. The word of God is effective in and of itself. Now, one final point before application. Verses 6-10 teach us that... ➔ God still saves (6-10) In verses 6-10, we find that the word, which is the message Jonah came preaching, reached the king of Nineveh. What did the king do? He arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. So not only did the king repent of his sin, but he published an official proclamation to go throughout Nineveh that everyone in the land should call out mightily to God so that they might be saved from the wrath to come. Then, guess what? God relented from the disaster and saved the Ninevites. Now, listen, God saving the Ninevites is really nothing special. It’s not unusual. It’s just not. God has been in the saving business from the very beginning of time. God saving the Ninevites tells me that God will never stop saving people. It’s so easy to look around at our country and our own communities and all the churches that are dwindling in attendance and become fearful about the future. And, yes, there is reason to be concerned about that. But, let me tell you something, there is absolutely no reason to lose our hope in the faithfulness of God to save people. That’s what God does. He did it for the Ninevites, and he can still do it today right here through our church. Let me give you a few points of application ➔ APPLICATION 1. Take the second chance Listen church, I believe the Lord is giving us a great opportunity to reach people in our community that are far off from God, those who are spiritually lost. Let’s not let this time pass us by. If the Lord returned today, would he find us faithful? Or would find us busy about things that in the grand scheme of eternity just won’t matter? Let’s be faithful. Take the second chance. 2. Proclaim the good news We don’t have to be the coolest church in town. We don’t have to have the most amazing programs or music or whatever. We just have to be faithful. God will do more with faithfulness than he will busyness. If we take the opportunity, and we faithfully proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, then... 3. God will do the saving In 1 Corinthians 3:6, we see this principle played out. Paul says that he planted the seed. Apollos watered the seed, but God gave the growth because only God is capable of saving anyone.
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