We had the best VBS in several years. Thanks to Cristi, Vickie, Holly, Gabe and a full staff of helpers and workers! This VBS Sunday is special, because of the culmination of ministry to children and adults and the enjoyable picnic to follow. The theme and message this year was on Jonah. God spoke to Jonah, who decided he did not want to obey God’s Word.
How many of you would be willing to move to northern Iraq right now? The country is being taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which is a violent extremist group worse than Al-Qaeda. None of us would willingly parachute in to Tikrit and begin evangelizing the Muslims – unless God made it very clear. That is what God told Jonah to do. What has God made clear to you?
1) God called you to tell others about the Lord Jesus Jonah 1
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3 But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jon. 1:1-3 NKJ)
God told him to go, but he didn’t want to go. He went “from the presence of the Lord.” David said, “Where can I go from your presence?” Children may run away from parents, but they cannot get away from the Lord. Jonah did not want to help the Ninevites, because they were a wicked people.
Now it’s easy to be hard on Jonah here. But consider his position. He knew what kind of people those Ninevites were. They were violent, terrible, no good people. Because of the children here today, I won’t describe what the soldiers would do to captives. Jonah probably thought, “The Lord is merciful and they don’t deserve mercy, they deserve judgment!” Jonah had a meltdown. He blew a fuse. He popped his circuit breaker and went the opposite direction.
So, consider Moses who argued and made excuses to God why he was not the person to lead Israel out of Egypt. Or consider Gideon, who argued with the Angel of the Lord that his tribe was the least of the tribes and he was the least in the tribe. Or consider Jeremiah who argued with God that he was too young to be a prophet to the nations. Jonah didn’t argue, he just ran! And did Jonah ever run!
How easy is it to run from the presence of the Lord? Silly Jonah. He went down, down, down. Down to Joppa, down in the boat and down in the sea – all because he disobeyed God.
4 But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. (Jon. 1:4-5 NKJ)
If you run from God, He has infinite resources to bring you back to His will, if He desires. The ship was breaking up! The sailor cried out to their god and threw the boxes of stuff overboard. All the cereal, Xboxes, ipads, ice cream…
Jonah was emotionally drained from running away from God, so he fell fast asleep. The sailors called him up and asked him what he knew and he confesses his guilt.
6 So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” 7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. (Jon. 1:6-7 NKJ)
The captain was bothered that Jonah was sleeping in the midst of the storm. If God does not have our attention, He will use non-believers to get our attention and even use non-confirmed ways (lots) to pick you out as a culprit, if that is God’s will.
9 So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”– for the sea was growing more tempestuous. 12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” (Jon. 1:9-12 NKJ)
Jonah confessed to them that he had fled from God’s presence, because Israel associated God with the land of Israel. Jonah said the sea would become calm – and what was Jonah? A prophet! He knows what he is supposed to do, which shows his conviction.
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they cried out to the LORD and said, “We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and took vows. (Jon. 1:13-16 NKJ)
The sailors had more respect for life than Jonah. Jonah didn’t care of the Ninevites perished! When Jonah was off the ship into the sea – the sea was instantly calm, just as Jonah had prophesied. They feared the Lord.
Be sure your sins will find you out – Jonah. You cannot run from what the Lord makes clear. Even if your sin, God will accomplish His will. Why? Because He is sovereign. He will have His way. You have a choice to repent now, or sometime in the future. Paul wrote, “Every knee would bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Phil. 2:10-11) Why not do it now?
17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jon. 1:17 NKJ)
2) You will come to repentance for disobedience Jonah 2
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.” (Jon. 2:1-2 NKJ)
He came to his senses, just like the prodigal son, who was feeding pigs and desiring to eat the pig’s food. Just like David, who confessed His sin of adultery and murder to God. Just like Peter, who confessed his sinfulness to the Lord. Just like the tax collector who could not raise his eyes to heaven, said, “Be merciful to me a sinner!” And Jonah said,
7 “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple. 8 “Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy. 9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.” (Jon. 2:7-9 NKJ)
I was brought to my senses. I will do what I promised to do – obey the Lord. So God spoke to the fish. (The boys really like verse 10, because they changed the “v” word to a “p” word. Something about boys!
10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. (Jon 2:7-10 NKJ)
3) God’s mercy to you is for others too Jonah 3-4
Jonah yelled out, “In 40 days and Nineveh will be overthrown!” And guess what? The people looked at Jonah and saw what happened to him from being in the great fish. They saw that his skin was bleached from the stomach juices and they likely thought, we better listen up so what happened to him won’t happen to us.
And what did the people do? They repented! They cried out to God, because they didn’t want to be destroyed. What did Jonah do?
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 2 So he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. (Jon. 4:1-2 NKJ)
“I knew it!” Jonah thought.” You’ll be merciful to those wicked, terrible, no-good Ninevites!” You should be merciful to us, but not them!
3 “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” 4 Then the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jon. 4:3-4 NKJ)
The Lord asked a question and Jonah was too discouraged, dejected and depressed to answer. He just wanted to die. So he walked out of the city to sit up on a hill to see if just maybe things will change and God will rain destruction on the city.
5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jon. 4:5-8 NKJ)
Jonah made a shelter for himself to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord raised up three things. First a plant to provide shade, which Jonah liked. Second, a worm to destroy the plant, which Jonah didn’t like. Then an east wind that wilted the plant and Jonah became faint. And he again declared death was better than watching God’s mercy.
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” 10 But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left– and much livestock?” (Jon. 4:9-11 NKJ)
Jonah still didn’t realize his sinfulness and lack of mercy. He did not realize his privilege to lead them to the Lord. He did not realize that the souls of people were more important than his own comfort. Here’s the point.
God’s mercy to you is for you to give to others!
James said it so well, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (Jam. 2:13 NKJ) Are you showing mercy to those that you don’t get along with very well? Who can you show mercy to today? To whom can you show forgiveness and seek restoration? God’s mercy is unbelievable and gives us great hope!