Archive for July, 2011

Jonah 4

July 11, 2011

Title: Jonah 4

Text: Jonah 4:1-11

Time:  July 3rd, 2011


Today we finish up on the Book of Jonah in the fourth chapter where Jonah has been through a lot. He’s received a calling as a prophet to announce judgment to the wicked city of Nineveh, but disobeys instead. Then, he hops a ship to nowhere to escape the will of God, only to encounter a fierce storm that eventually leads to him being thrown overboard into the sea. He then encounters a large sea creature that swallows him and he spends three days in the beast’s belly. In answer to prayer God exits Jonah out of the creature onto the beach and calls Jonah again to be a prophet to Nineveh. This time he obeys, fulfills his calling and preaches judgment to the citizens. Miracle of miracle the people repent of their sins and turn to God in faith – and God saves them. And this is where we pick up the account today. Jonah 4:1-11 (read). Now this final chapter of Jonah is a little complicated, a lot harder to understand than the previous three chapters. It’s not something so easily explained to children as the earlier portions of the story. That’s why most Sunday School teachers probably finish the story of Jonah and whale at the end of chapter three, where God spares the city from judgment. But that’s not quite the end of the story, because Jonah doesn’t go straight home after the city is spared. Instead, he hangs around a little longer – not in the city, but just outside the city, and waits to see what happens further. And he becomes mad. Why is Jonah upset? We’ll talk about that today. Why does Jonah wait from a distance outside the city? I’ll try to explain that also. In this fourth chapter we see an inner struggle in the mind and emotions of Jonah, because things didn’t turn out how he had expected. Remember, he wasn’t too excited about going to Nineveh in the first place, but eventually he was brought to the point of obedience by God. Then, after he followed the will of God he was hoping to be witness to the destruction of the wicked, but that didn’t happen. So it seems as if he can never get his way – or in other words, his will never coordinates with the will of God, so that he’s always constantly frustrated. That’s a common feeling among members of the human race. Perhaps you’ve also felt frustration towards God for not working life according to your will. If you’ve felt that, you are typical. We’ve all felt that at times. But Jonah had to learn how to be a mature adult believer, just like we all have to learn how to be adult believers today. It’s one thing to have faith in God, it another thing to have a mature faith in God. According to surveys of American Christians, our nation is full of people who profess faith in God, but it’s mostly a nation of immature believers. Or in other words, lots of people have faith in Christianity, but few have a mature faith. We need to learn like Jonah needed to learn, that faith isn’t about having one-time faith experiences, but rather having an on-going, maturing faith experience with God. Jonah had grown a lot from his early rebellion to his later obedience, but he was a long way from a mature faith. Lots of us are in the same situation in respect to our faith. Many of us have had faith experiences, maybe a conversion or profession of faith years ago, but have we grown much in the meantime? We may have even grown some along the months or years, but that doesn’t mean we’ve arrived. It’s easy to settle into a complacent pattern after conversion, after baptism, after joining the church. But we need to realize, like Jonah did, that the school of faith isn’t over until we reach heaven. We need to think of ourselves as still students, as learners – which is what the word “disciple” means in the original New Testament Greek. Jonah learned that even after all the lessons he’s learned, he still needed to become mature, because as we’ll see, he acted very immature in his response to God’s saving the city. Let’s see if we can’t learn a few things from this last chapter. (more…)


Jonah 3

July 11, 2011

Title: Jonah 3

Text: Jonah 3:1-10

Time: June 26th, 2011


Last week we left the prophet Jonah on the beach, spit out of the great sea creature. Why was Jonah in the whale? Because he had previously been thrown overboard from the ship. Why was Jonah thrown off his ship? Because he had caused a great storm to rise on the sea, because God was punishing him for his sin, and the only way to calm the storm was to offer Jonah as a sacrifice. What sin had he committed to arose God’s wrath? Jonah had disobeyed God’s command to go to Nineveh and preach against it. So Jonah is swallowed by a great fish, prays from inside the belly of the beast, and God hears and answers the prayer by exiting him out on the shore. I bet Jonah at that moment was saying to himself, “I should have listened and done what God told me to do in the first place.” I think that’s the big lesson we get from the first two chapters of the Book of Jonah – whatever the will of God is for your life, do that! Don’t play around with sin, rebellion, disobedience or anything other than doing exactly what God says to do. When we look back upon our lives we see plenty of times when we, like Jonah, didn’t do the will of God. A big part of Christian conversion is recognizing that we are sinners and that we sin. A big part of becoming spiritually mature is recognizing that we disobey God whenever we contradict God’s will when we choose to follow our own will against God. We are all guilty of that, which is why we need the Savior Jesus Christ to save us from the guilt and punishment for our sins. But we’ve also seen the consequences that sin brings into our life, and like Jonah, we regret that we’ve sinned against God. Now another lesson we’ve learned so far looking at the life of Jonah is that God doesn’t give up on us just because we’ve sinned. He stays with us and works on us to get us back on the right path. That’s what he did with Jonah and that’s what he does with each of us. If we are wise we’ll recognize the error of our ways and cooperate with God in our own rescue. I hope you’ve come to the place in your life where you recognize your sins, you’ve repented of them, and asked God for forgiveness through Jesus Christ. I hope you’ve committed your life to follow God’s way by faith. Today, we’ll look at how Jonah finally does obey God and does what he was originally called to do, which is preach against the evil city of Nineveh. For Jonah, he got a second chance, or a do-over in life. God gives each one of us a second chance in life too, if we turn to him in humble faith. He’ll even give an entire city another chance, as we’ll see in the passage today. Jonah 3:1-10 (read). (more…)

Jonah 2

July 11, 2011

Title: Jonah 2

Text: Jonah 1:17, 2:1-10

Time:  June 19th, 2011


Last week I started talking about Jonah and the whale, an account that almost every Sunday School child knows, only we looked at the story a little closer than kids learn in their class, because we tried to understand the dynamics of what was happening, not just that a man was swallowed by a big fish. You see in the Bible there is usually what the passage says and then what the passage means. As Christians we need to learn to dig deeper and go further than just what the Bible says – we need to go further than just reading the Bible – we need to try to really understand what it means. The Book of Jonah is a perfect example of this. We can look at the story superficially and be entertained by it, but if we really want to hear what God’s Word is saying and what it means to our lives today we need to dig deeper than just reading the story as children would in Sunday School. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for reading the Bible, but I’m advocating that we go further and actually study it as well. Last week we looked at how God revealed his will to Jonah and told him to go preach to the evil city of Nineveh. We saw how Jonah had a mind of his own and decided to disobey God and run away from God’s will for his life by fleeing in a ship away. Then we observed how God sent a storm at sea in order to stop Jonah in his rebellion. I didn’t talk very much about how Jonah’s sin of rebellion not only caused trouble for himself but also brought problems upon the others on board the ship, but it’s true. When we sin and rebel against the Lord in life we not only bring problems upon ourselves but we also cause trouble for other people as well. That’s the way it usually happens. You may think that sin is just an issue between you and God – and you are right that sin is a serious issue between you and God – but it isn’t just a personal problem for yourself when things start going wrong as a result of sin, because your sin will also start causing trouble for people around you. This is especially true in respect to marriages and families. You may think that you can sin against God and keep things together so that it doesn’t affect your marriage, family, career and other areas of life, but you are wrong. Like the Bible says elsewhere, “Beware, your sin will find you out,” Numbers 32:23. Look at the Representative from New York who thought he could get away with flirting with women on the Internet. In his heart he knew as a married man, as a family man, that he shouldn’t be doing such things, but he gave into temptation and did. Now the whole thing has blown up in his face and he was forced to resign from political office. His whole career in public service might be over, all because of some stupid, foolish sin. And it will affect not only him but his wife, family, relatives, friends, co-workers, and on and on. I could go on further, but today I’d like to move on to Jonah’s dealing with the troubles he brought upon himself and examine how he came to repent of his sins and get back on the right path again. Jonah 1:17, 2:1-10 (read). (more…)

Jonah 1

July 11, 2011

Title: Jonah 1

Text: Jonah 1:1-17

Time:  June 12th, 2011


I’m starting a short message series today on the Book of Jonah, that’s in the Old Testament, right after Obadiah and right before Micah. The Book of Jonah is only four chapters long, so it’s a pretty short book. Most people know about Jonah because of his connection with the whale, made famous by the story of Jonah and the whale. Most kids in Sunday School learn about Jonah and the whale because it’s one of those lessons that is easy to understand and easy to remember. Jonah gets swallowed by a whale, lives inside the whale, but then gets spit out by the whale – and lives to tell about it. Most people know that much. But fewer people know why Jonah was in a boat or why he was thrown into the sea or why the whale swallowed him. Most people don’t know what Jonah was doing or where he was going when he was swallowed by the whale. And most people don’t know what Jonah did after the whale spit him out on dry land. So there is more to the story than simply Jonah being swallowed by a whale and surviving. There are actually some very good truths for us to learn in the Book of Jonah, truths we can apply today in our lives, in our relationship with God. As we look more closely at the story we can see we are a lot like Jonah in many ways. Even though the events of Jonah happened a long, long time ago, in a land far, far away, we can still relate to these events because they teach us some very important truths. For example, the story of Jonah shows us that God has a will and that God reveals his will to people. God certainly revealed his will to Jonah. But not only that, the story of Jonah shows us a man rebelling or running away from God and God’s will. Does that sound familiar? It should because that’s the story of you and me in this life – and it’s the story of mankind in general and each individual in particular. And then it shows the consequences of running away from God, the problems that causes for individuals and for groups of people as well. Rebellion against God, rejecting God’s will, brings trouble to everyone, the individual who is doing the rebelling and others around him. That also is a familiar theme in our lives if we are brave enough to think about it. When we sin and rebel against God it hurts not only our own lives but the lives of those around us. So there is much to learn from studying the Book of Jonah, which I hope to cover in the next couple of weeks. Of course, there is even more to the story of Jonah than I just described, but I’ve only talked about the first chapter because that’s what I’m going to cover today. Next week I’ll talk about how Jonah reacted to his trials and troubles. And then after that, talk about how he got himself back into the will of God and what happened when he obeyed God. But all of that is to come. Today we look at the first chapter, so let me read Jonah 1 (read). I’ll talk about only three points today. (more…)