Jonah's Lesson in Covenant Grace
Jonah’s Lesson in Covenant Grace
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.
Introduction: What does the book of Jonah show us? There is so much we can learn from Jonah’s reaction to God’s instruction for him to go and preach.
A. Often 2 things are remembered about the book of Jonah:
a. The Fish that swallowed Jonah. What kind was it? How did he survive inside that fish’s digestive system? Many questions people will ask, often just because they doubt what they do not understand.
b. Jonah’s attitude toward the Gentiles Ninevites revealed in his reaction to circumstances outside his control, such as a plant that spring up and died so quickly. MORE ABOUT THAT LATER!!
B. Author and setting—the book does not name the Author. Jonah may be the one who actually penned this book for the details given unless he had a travelling buddy.
1. Jonah served as a prophet during the reign of King Jeroboam II, one of the wicked kings of the northern kingdom.
2. He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.
3. Some believe that Jonah served as a prophet under the ministry of Elisha. Remember Elijah and Elisha followed him. Jonah may have been schooled at that time.
C. Jonah’s demonstrates to us a desire of God’s Grace for those that are close to us, those who are more precious to us as though my knowledge of them makes them more deserving of that Grace.
While other disliked by us, (of course justified in our own minds) are not deserving of that same gracious act of God in forgiveness.
D. We see this in Jonah’s thoughts towards the Ninevites, or how about Jewish dislike towards the Samaritans/
OR how about even today the hatred between people groups today whether skin color, economic status or any number of reasons we might tell ourselves that someone else is less deserving of God’s Grace.
E. Before we begin attacking Brother Jonah for his racism we need to consider a few things:
a. Was God unaware of Jonah’s character flaws prior to calling him as a prophet?
b. Do you see that it was not Jonah’s lack of faith nor his limited knowledge of God that caused him to run from God’s call? Jonah knew God was gracious and knew He would do what He said He would do. Thus forgive if they repented.
c. Did Jonah understand the Grace of God, or did he know the God of Grace?
d. Does Jonah’s prayer reveal to us anything about Jonah’s character before God? Or was it simply the location and stress of the experience which caused Jonah to cry out to God the way he did?
F. Simply put, Jonah was selfish and somehow had forgotten that God was sovereignty and at best ignorant of God’s plan for Covenant Grace for all people.
Can you name a man who God used to turn a population as large as the city of Nineveh?
This book of a prophet is so very different from other books named after the prophets. The book of Jonah’s main focus is concerning a period of a prophet’s life, and not a proclamations of God on a nation.
I want you to know that This is not so much about Jonah as it is about God.
I. God’s Covenant Grace During Acts of Disobedience and Rebellion
A. IF we stopped reading and didn’t know this story what would we think would be God’s response?
Our view of God would dictate this……Right?
Well, we might assume that God would destroy Jonah while on that ship. Or God would cause him to fall overboard and not be noticed by anyone and drift for days and become fish food.
But it is not that God is a “God of Second Chances” but rather a God of Grace and that is covenant grace.
B. Why did Jonah want to avoid the Ninevites? We later learn that he ran because Jonah knew God was a merciful and Gracious God who forgive sin and Frankly Jonah did not think that they deserved God forgiveness.
C. His decision to disobey was based on his own prejudice and hatred for events he would have witnessed himself.
D. Nineveh was the military capital of Assyria and based on archeologist, the people of that city were sadistic and evil self-worshipers. They were worse than a bunch of Fish-Slappers.
E. It is possible for us to come to this same self-focused view-----Remember : tells us “For There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
There is no sinner who is closer to being saved than another.
G. Tarshish was a coastal city in Spain. So think about the Geography. Nineveh was North, Jonah goes very south to Joppa. From there he catches a slow boat to Tarshish which is basically at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea. Past and around the Italian boot out the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea.
Jonah intent was to escape the presence of the Lord.
But it just brought him down but he could not escape the presences of the Lord
He went down to Joppa,
He went down into the belly of the ship
He went down into the depths of the sea
In God’s covenant love for Jonah he prepared something for Jonah to get him where God wanted him to be.
THAT IS WHAT SIN DOES TO US IN OUR REBELLION AND DISOBEDIENTS
May God’s Love prepare storms in our life to bring us back from straying.
I. Before we move on I want you to give attention to the God’s intervention of this run away prophet.
1. God hurled a great wind upon the sea. (v. 4)
2. The Sovereignty of God caused Jonah to lose in the casting of lots
3. The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah.
J. So when God’s instruction comes to us we might actively or passively do a “But Jonah” did the opposite.
And Then we see “But the Lord caused” how similar is that to .
2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
II. God’s Covenant Grace Never Shuts the Door on One Who Experienced It
Jonah’s Prayer in Chapter 2 (Read chapter 2) NOTICE HOW THIS SOUNDS LIKE A Psalm.
A. We must ask Why did Jonah run?
1. Was He Afraid?
2. Nahum prophesied against Nineveh-- Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder— no end to the prey! The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel, galloping horse and bounding chariot! Horsemen charging, flashing sword and glittering spear, hosts of slain, heaps of corpses, dead bodies without end— they stumble over the bodies! And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute, graceful and of deadly charms, who betrays nations with her whorings, and peoples with her charms.
3. Frank Page writes:
“Archaeology confirms the biblical witness to the wickedness of the Assyrians. They were well known in the ancient world for brutality and cruelty. Ashurbanipal, the grandson of Sennacherib, was accustomed to tearing off the lips and hands of his victims. Tiglath-Pileser flayed victims alive and made great piles of their skulls. Jonah’s reluctance to travel to Nineveh may have been due to its infamous violence.”
B. Often times we sin out of fear for our own selves. We may avoid difficult confrontations but are we sinning against God because there is clear instruction from God’s word?
C. But this does not appear to be the case with Jonah. His sin was simply hated the very people that God was instruction him to preach to.
D. Noah’s prayer comes while he was within the fish.
E. He cries out for the mercy of God for himself. Now remember the Lord brought him to this point of repentance.
F. Jonah was completely dependent on the covenant promise and relationship with the Lord and he called out to God for help based on that memory.
III. God’s Covenant Grace Redeems from Every Kindred, Tongue and Nation
A. Jonah is to go and proclaim a coming judgement against the city of Nineveh.
40 days and Judgement will come.
B. But as he proclaimed this he was doing it with hatred and bitterness in his heart looking forward to watching the destruction of the people.
C. R. D. Philips ask us to examine ourselves in the light of Jonah’s behavior:
“How can we know if we also are approaching such an attitude? If our primary concern in worship is our consumer preferences rather than the God whose name we praise, if we gaze upon the wicked around us and see mainly a threat to our Christian lifestyles instead of perishing sinners in need of the gospel, and if we pray for forgiveness of our sins but justice for the agents of a wicked culture, then it cannot be doubted that the Pharisaical spirit of Jonah is in us.
Secondly, Jonah’s resentment reveals a deep ignorance of God. He understood the Lord as his God and Israel’s God, but not the God of Nineveh. Martin observes:
Jehovah is the God of the spirits of all flesh, and ruleth over all the nations. Any other or more limited idea of His government, reduces Him, if not to the level, at least to the company, of the local, territorial, geographical gods of heathendom. And thus, by taking a wrong view of the relation of heathendom to the living and true God, the God of Israel, Israel virtually imbibed the very views of heathendom itself.
The true God is God of all the earth and all peoples. If it glorifies him to extend saving grace to Israel and those who have taken the name of Christians, it glorifies him just as much to extend the grace of the gospel to every sinner in the world.”
D. Notice that something was a bit different about the instructions.
1. In the beginning he was told to go to Nineveh and call out against is.
2. Here at this point Jonah is told to go and call out against with the message that I will tell you.
3. It was a message of destruction. But that is what is required in presentation of the Gospel itself.
4. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes: The essence of evangelism is to start by preaching the law; and it is because the law has not been preached that we have had so much superficial evangelism.… So evangelism must start with the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the demands of the law, the punishment meted out by the law and the eternal consequences of evil and wrong-doing. It is only the man who is brought to see his guilt in this way who flies to Christ for deliverance and redemption.
5. O. Palmer Robertson remarks:
6. It was not the force of the argument presented by the prophet that moved the people. It was the power of God’s truth that pierced to the heart. Never rely on your own persuasive powers as the way to save sinners. Never wait until you have confidence in yourself to speak up for Christ. It is God and his truth that people believe. You must remain only the instrument.
E. Notice that they “Believed God” and they repented.
1. “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
G. If we were Presbyterians we could wonder why, or make excuses why the Ninevites were not instructed to circumcise or baptize their offspring, and wonder why this did not extend through generations of Ninevites because we know later that because of increased paganism Nineveh was destroyed by God.
H. The Covenant Grace of God spans and covers all the redeemed of the Lord from any age.
And the sign of the Covenant is Repentance and Faith and that is God’s doing.
Jesus declared this to be true eternal life giving faith and repentance.
When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
I. Jonah continued to struggle with God’s Covenant Grace
1. This prayer is very different from Chapter 2.
2. How often do we see ourselves as more deserving than others?
Close: God prepared gourd.
God prepared a worm.
God prepared a vehement east wind.
Ultimately God was preparing Jonah.
Spurgeon Quote--- Jonah was a man of faith and a man of prayer, and God honored him exceedingly by making his word to turn the whole city upside down. For my part, I hardly know of any other man who ever had so high an honor put upon him as this man had. It is just possible that, if you or I had made a king on his throne to come down from it, and robe himself in sackcloth, and if we had seen a whole city—men, women, and children,—all crying out for mercy as the result of one sermon from us, we might have been as greatly foolish, through the intoxication of pride, as this man was foolish through a vehement zeal for God, which happened to take a harsh shape, instead of being tempered, and softened, and sweetened by a recognition of the great love and kindness of God, and by a sweet delight in those gracious attributes of his character. Jonah was grandly stern amid a wicked generation; he was one of God's "Ironsides." He was the man for a fierce fight, and he would not hold back his hand from the use of the sword, or do the work of the Lord half-heartedly; he was one who wished to make thorough work of anything he undertook, and to go to the very end of it. We want more of such men nowadays; he was not lacking in backbone, yet he was lacking in heart; in that respect we would not be like him. He was singularly strong where so many in these days are grievously weak; perhaps he is all the more criticized and condemned because that virtue which he possessed is so rare to-day. The faults he had were on that side on which most modern professors do not err; and therefore, Pharisee-like, they are content to condemn the man for that which they do not themselves commit, Because they are not brave enough and strong enough to fall into such a fault.