The Final Chapter – From the Book of Jonah

The Final Chapter – From the Book of Jonah

The Final Chapter

From the Book of Jonah

 

Two students. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, sat in their dorm room at Stanford University and pledged themselves to the following mission statement: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The result was Google, the most powerful and widely used search engine in the world.

Today, it seems that both large and small businesses are all adopting mission statements.

God has a mission.

(1) Missions; Global missions—God is on a mission to rescue the world from sin and to bless all the nations on earth. When we read the Book of Jonah it’s clear that God is on a mission to redeem Nineveh from its wicked ways.

God ran into an obstacle because his servant, spokesperson, Jonah kept running the other way.

I’m sure God must have said to Himself, “We need to put a stop to this.”  God sent a storm, Jonah was thrown overboard, a fish swallowed him.  Three days and three night Jonah was in the fish.

Then God told the fish to spit Jonah back up on land.

Jonah was disobeying and the fish was obeying.

What’s up with that?

Assuming that Jonah was dropped off in Joppa, he has a 500-mile journey ahead of him.  Imagine walking, in Iraq for 500 miles.  It was very hot.  He walks into this strange city with its pagan ways.

He walks through the city crying, “Repent, because in forty days God is going to bring judgment unless you repent and stop doing evil.”

Here’s the deal, they took Jonah seriously and they repented.

What would be your response if the next morning the news said, “ISIS leaders converted to Christianity”             “I DON’T THINK SO!”

The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.  When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.

Strange. Why would they take Jonah seriously?

God works in so many ways.  We do know for a fact that history tells us that several things were happening in this region at this time.

*  There were three tribes that joined together and they were about 100 miles from Nineveh.  They posed a threat. I’m sure this situation weighed heavily on the king’s mind.

*  There were two plagues that had swept through that area in a 5-year time frame.

*   There was a total eclipse of the sun that might have had an effect on them.

*  Plus, the fact that Jonah was inside the fish for three days, and the gastric and digestive acids of the fish probably made Jonah look like a freak.  When people saw him they did a double take and probably said, “My God, what happened to you?”   His hair and his skin was probably bleached white.  Jonah looked like he just came back from the dead wandering around.

* Lastly, I’m thinking that he is fearless.  If you have been in a whale for three days, walking through Nineveh saying repent is no big deal.

Maybe none or all these combinations caused the Ninivites to repent.

But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.

If the story ended there, you could put a bow on it and say, God was going to bring judgment, instead the people repented, and God showed compassion.

Jonah would leave Nin. saying, I’m glad it all worked out for the good.

Jonah becomes REALLY ANGRY!!

In Hebrew, to be ‘greatly displeased’ is another way to say you are angry, but it also means to do evil or be wicked. The word to be angry literally means to be incensed, to have zealous anger and it refers to the fire or heat of anger just after it has been ignited.

What am I getting at? Jonah was fuming. He was literally . . . hot under the collar

We can admire one aspect of this “prayer.”

At least Jonah was honest. By speaking honestly, he opens a window into his heart. Amazingly, inside this prophet of God we see a black poison.

Look at how he expressed his anger to God in 4:2.

  1. . “I said” – 4:2. He tried to correct God.

Jonah had lectured God when God called him to go to preach in Nineveh.

Jonah informed God of these two facts:

[1] Nineveh deserved judgment, and

[2] He was the wrong man for the job.

Jonah wanted God to conform to his wishes, not vice-versa.

Why is it that we believe that we can convince God that He doesn’t know what He is doing in either His treatment of others or His calling of us?

  1. “I fled” – 4:2. When God refused Jonah’s request, the prophet took matters into his own hands. Jonah decided to thwart God’s plan by refusing to participate. His confession clearly revealed his heart.

He ran from God because he did not want the Assyrians to even have a chance to repent.

  1. “I knew” – 4:2. Jonah was mad because he knew God was always good. Have you ever become angry in your spirit because God blessed someone else? Jonah knew the heartbeat of God.
  2. He knew that God is “merciful” to the guilty.
  3. He knew that God is “compassionate” on weak humanity.
  4. He knew that God is “slow to become angry” even in the face of grievous sins.
  5. He knew that God is “rich in faithful love” on those that are unlovely.
  6. He knew that God is willing to “relent from sending” judgment on those that repent.

The fact of the matter is this, he was mad because he could not change God’s attitude toward sinners. Jonah hated the Assyrian sinners, while God loved the Assyrian sinners. The prophet refused to see them as God saw them – candidates for grace.

The reason why Jonah didn’t want to go to Ninevah he was not afraid what the Ninivites would do to him but what God would do for the Nivivites.

Jonah knew God far more than we give credit to.  He knew how God was going to respond to these awful, terrible people.

4:1 Listen to this next verse, it is the theme, the nutshell of what this book is all about. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God.  Slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. A God who is abounding in love, and God whose heart breaks when judgment must be brought.  Only as the last resort. I knew it.

I am so angry with you.

If you ever wonder about God’s love for you these verses belong to you. If you ever wonder when you get outside of God’s grace whether He’ll accept you back, these verses have your name of them.

Instead of rejoicing in the character of God with God.

What’s Jonah’s response?

Jonah says, Now Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.  Every other chapter Jonah is wanting to commit suicide.

*  Jonah was surrendered to the law of God, Jonah had never surrendered to the purposes of God.

*  Jonah was surrendered to the will of God for his life, he was surrendered to the moral will of God for his life, following the law of God then commandments. But he never surrendered to the big picture of God, of God wanting to redeem this whole world.

Consequently, he became very judgmental.

Have you ever met any judgmental Christians?

How do you become judgmental?

You become judgmental by being a very good person, but never surrender to what God wants to do in the lives of other people who are not as good as you or live according to your standard.

You become judgmental by becoming a very good person, but have no compassion to those who are far from faith.

I’ve seen many people become Christians and begin to do all the right things. But in their attitudes, they become judgmental.

They forget just a few 24 hours ago, they were drowning in their own sins.

They fail to see God’s mission.  God’s mission is not to just save them, but to save all people, from all nations, regardless of nationality, race, sexual preference, social economic status.

A danger of being a good church person or moral person, that we become so self-absorbed it becomes all about us and we fail to see God’s bigger picture of global evangelization.

Here’s the deal, we can surrender to God’s purposes for our lives but never surrender to God’s bigger picture of bringing grace to those who desperately need it.

Then we set ourselves up by becoming judgmental.

You become part of the problem, an obstacle, instead of joining with God and being part of the solution.

God says to Jonah, Jonah is it right for you to be angry?

*  Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago you were in the outs with me. 

*  Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago you needed my kindness. 

*  Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that I showed you compassion and forgiveness.

*  Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago I needed to be patient with you.

Of all people, you should have known better Jonah.

Now you are angry with me because I am extending my grace to those who desperately need it. Is it right for you to be angry?

Jonah doesn’t answer the question and instead goes up on a hill overlooking Nineveh.   The Bible says he just sits there and waits.

Again, this is modern Iraq which is very hot.

The Bible says God sent a gourd, a plant.  It’s a plant that has tremendous large leaves. To his delight the plant grew and he found some shade from the hot sun.  He loved that plant.

God sent a worm and the worm ate through the plant within 24 hours and the plant wilted and died. Jonah becomes angry again.

Then the Bible says God sent a wind.  See how God is laying out this story.

God sent a storm, God sent a fish, gourd and worm, God keeps sending things.

Then God sends this wind.  In this region, when the wind picks up the temperature can increase by 10 to 15 degrees within a half hour.

The temperature increases because of the wind and now he is absolutely miserable and God speaks to him. Here is the moral of the story. This is where the mirror comes up for all of us to look at.

But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”

But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.

You have been so concerned about this gourd though you did not tend to it.  You did not make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.

But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?

The end.  The end of the book

What are you supposed to do with that?

What do I do, that is just the end of the book?

I thought about just reading it and walking off the stage.

Here is what God was saying Jonah, you are concerned about all the wrong stuff. You are a good man.  You are a prophet.

In fact, a whole book of a Bible is going to be named after you.

Jonah, your concerns don’t reflect my concerns.

Jonah, you are concerned about all the wrong stuff.

I’m concerned about this generation of people.

What are you concerned about Jonah?

*  Gourd. Me. I’m hot. I don’t like it here. But I’m here anyway.

*  Jonah I’m concerned about this generation of Ninivites.

What are you concerned about? Me.

*  I have to walk 500 miles back home.

But Jonah I’m concerned about they don’t know their left hand from their right.

What are you concerned about?

  1. My welfare.

God comes to me and says,  “Vince what are you concerned about?

My lawn mower doesn’t work.  Grass looks terrible.

What God is saying to you this morning is:

* I’m concerned about that person that you work with.

* I’m concerned about your marriage relationship.

* I’m concerned about your relationship with your daughter or son.

* I’m concerned that you are losing your first love and you are developing a lukewarm heart.

* I’m concerned about that person you hate the most.

* I’m concerned about those kids who just hang out at the square.

* I’m concerned about the college kids drifting away from any type of faith.

* I’m concerned about those who have walked away from church.

More times than not we answer:

Me, gourd, my comfort.

Bill Hybels wrote the book, Holy Discontent.

When does a person come to a point and say enough is enough?

He writes that he is part of a generation that grew up watching a short, balding, mischievous cartoon character on television.

His name was Popeye – Popeye the Sailor Man.

Popeye had a special girl in his life named Olive Oyl.  She was a real traffic stopper, pickle shaped nose, spaghetti-thin arms – quite the looker!  Whenever someone cramped the style of his special “Goil,” as he called her, Popeye typically took it all in stride.

He had a long fuse, and on most occasions, he stayed cool and collected.  But if things got really terrible for Olive Oyl, then Popeye the Sailor Man’s pulse would race, his blood pressure would skyrocket, and his anger would begin to boil .  He’d take it as long as he could, but once his long fuse burned up, Popeye would blurt out the words that an entire generation had branded into their psyche:

That’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more.

When was the last time you have said those words, That’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more, as you look at the moral depravity of what is happening today.

What do you get angry about?  Holy discontent.

Here’s my question to all the church people, I’m one of them:

Have you ever surrendered, not your morality, your personal will, all that, but surrendered to God by saying,

God I surrender your purposes for this world. Just as I am available to be good, available to be obedient, but I am available to be an extension of your grace and love to people who I personally know need to be touched by your love, compassion, and forgiveness.

Have you ever surrendered at that level?

Eugene Peterson, writes, Jonah’s sulking disappointment came from a failure of imagination, a failure of heart. He had no idea what God was doing–the largeness of his love and mercy and salvation. He had reduced his vocation to his own performance–he was in the right place, doing the right thing–but he interpreted everything through his Jonah ideas, his Jonah desires.

Courtney Ellis, Princeton, New Jersey 

When I attended graduate school for English, there were many occasions when my fellow students openly ridiculed the name of Christ. To my great detriment, I stayed silent. I was quite vocal about my belief in Christ at church and with my friends, but I was terrified of what might happen to my reputation if the people at my school found out I believed in Jesus. … Most of them were just ignorant about who Jesus is. Several of them had never even met a Christian before and assumed that all Christians were the uneducated, judgmental stereotypes we sometimes see in the media. Yet, I was still afraid.

As the program went on, I began to feel guiltier for these silences.

If I couldn’t be obedient to Christ in such a central thing, how would I be able to serve him in other ways? God was faithful in my rocky road to obedience—opportunities to speak up for Christ continued to come my way.

One day a fellow student asked me flat out—right before class, when many other people were around— if I was a Christian. I was at a crossroads. … I had a clear decision to make.

I took a deep breath, and, with God’s help, I said a soft, shaky, “Yes.”

The student looked at me for a second, skeptically.

“Interesting,” she said. “I always thought that Christians were like circus freaks…but you’re actually kind of smart!”

It was a small step, but even the smallest step made in obedience is progress.                              –

Do you think you can make one small step today and realize that God’s plan is a lot bigger than your comfort?  Your desires?

The heartbeat of God is to show his love and compassion to a hurting world.  The only way he is going to get this accomplished is through you.  If we develop attitudes of being judgmental, we are going to be a huge obstacle and hindrance to God’s overall plan.

I would hate to get to heaven and realize I was a hindrance and not an asset to God’s overall plan to win the world.

I’m so grateful that many of you surrendered to God when it comes to your personal life, do you think you can surrendered to God when it comes to locally, globally?  The heartbeat of God is not only to redeem you today to the bigger purposes, bigger than your little world.

 

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The message was originally addressed to the people at United Baptist-Christian Church in Lewiston, NY.  It bears the weaknesses and strengths of oral delivery.  Its purpose is to assist people in their personal bible study and provide preaching and Sunday School resources for people involved in church ministry.

Pastor Vince Eisaman

For More Sermons from United Baptist-Christian Church, CLICK HERE

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