Jonah 3

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).

 

First, Jonah obeyed God and spoke to the people of the city. Jonah 3:1-4, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a great city – a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.’” Now remember, this was the original message that God had commanded Jonah to preach way back at the beginning, but he decided to disobey. One thing led to another, the boat, the storm at sea, the big fish, the belly prayers, the beach, and so on. Now we can understand why Jonah was hesitant to obey God – his assignment wasn’t very attractive. Going into a foreign city, an evil city, and threatening everyone with destruction from God isn’t the ideal vacation package. For Jonah, a cruise ship vacation sounded a lot better, at least until the storm came up. But Jonah had learned his lesson. It says that “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” and he didn’t run or rebel against God again. He learned his lesson. Isn’t it great to know that we can learn the lessons of life, that we don’t have to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I’m sure you have made plenty of mistakes; you’ve made lots of dumb decisions. I’m sure if you are like me you’ve sinned and suffered the consequences for those sins in some way or another, and you’ve regretted sinning. But one of the great things about living the Christian life is that with the help of God we don’t have to keep on making the same mistakes over and over again. We can learn, God can teach us right from wrong, so we don’t have to continue to foolishly sin in the same ways over again. If you’ve been divorced once, you don’t have to get remarried and then divorced again and again. You can look honestly at your first marriage and see where it went wrong, see where you went wrong and confess your sins or foolish choices and learn. If you’ve done something illegal or immoral and you were arrested, convicted or went to jail, you can learn from these lessons in life and not make the same foolish choice again. You can sin, disobey God, rebel against the will of God like Jonah did, suffer the consequences, get humbled, confess and repent of your sins, and commit the rest of your days to God and God’s will. You don’t have to keep on sinning in the same way over and over again. God will teach us to say “No” to temptation if we’ll let him. Are you learning the lessons of life God is trying to teach you? Are you giving up those sins that used to trip you up in the past? With God’s help, with the power of the Holy Spirit guiding and directing and inspiring your life, you can. Jonah learned his lesson, so too can we.

 

Second, the people responded to God’s Word in humility and repentance. Jonah 3:5-9, “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. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles. Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 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.’” Can you believe it! The wicked, evil city of Nineveh heard the preaching of Jonah, believed the message and repented of their sins! It’s almost too good to be true. Now in order to get the full effect of this supernatural miracle, you have to understand who these people were. They were citizens of the great and cruel Assyrian Empire; Nineveh was the capital city. These people were mean, like in the song “A Boy named Sue” by Johnny Cash, they’d kill you just to watch you die. So Jonah probably thought he was going to his death by entering the city and preaching his message against the population. But surprise, surprise, the people listened, learned and reformed their ways, from the least to the greatest in the city. How can this be? What could explain their dramatic change of mind and life? We’ve all heard of people changing their lives, but an entire city, from the lowest to the highest citizens, all at once, dramatically changed from a life of sin to obedience to God? It’s a miracle. One person I was talking to suggested that after Jonah’s visit in the belly of the whale with all those digestive chemicals inside, he probably was all bleached out and might have looked like a ghost or ghoulish and scarred the devil out of those people. That’s why they reformed their ways. I doubt it. We’ve all seen albinos, or people with super white skin, so it’s different, but not enough to shock a whole city into repentance. No, it’s a supernatural move of God; it’s a miracle of the Spirit. God’s Word plus God’s Spirit changed those people. They got the fear of God in them. If you’ve ever experienced conviction of sin and the fear of God, you’ll understand a little what happened. If you’ve been convicted of sin it’s like an arrow piercing your heart, you feel rotten. If you’ve ever had the fear of God put in you, it scares you because you get a glimpse of Judgment or hell. These people got both conviction of sin and the fear of God in them all at once – that’s why they repented and turned to God. They had the good sense to respond to God’s conviction of sin. I hope you do the same when God convicts you of sin or puts the fear of God in you. Don’t reject or resist it. Don’t harden your heart towards God when the Spirit moves in your heart; it’ll only be worse for you if you do. Respond to God when His Spirit speaks to you. The people of Nineveh did; they did the right thing. Is God convicting you of any sins in your life today? If so, confess them, repent of them, turn to God immediately. Don’t put it off. Don’t play with God’s grace.

 

Third, God heard their prayers and saved them from judgment. Jonah 3:10, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.” Now remember that the people of Nineveh only heard Jonah’s message of judgment; there was no condition for their salvation. But they quickly repented of their sins and humbly turned to God for mercy on the assumption that perhaps God would save them if they responded correctly. So we see in addition to repentance, we also see faith. They trusted God, trusted his mercy and grace. We can assume the same with God today based on the promises of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. I think of the great revival promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” God responds to confession, repentance and faith. Have you done what the people of Nineveh did? Have you felt the convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God pointing out your sins? Have you felt the fear of God when you think about your future and the possibility of Judgment Day in the great beyond? Has that moved you to confess and repent of your sins and disobediences in respect to God’s Law? I hope so, because that’s the only way God can save your soul. You need to come to the point in your life that you feel remorse for your sins. We know the people of Nineveh felt conviction of sin because they took the drastic step of putting on sackcloth to show how serious they were about repenting. Sackcloth is scratchy; it’s totally uncomfortable. It’s not something you’d normally wear, but by it these people were trying to show God they meant business, they were serious. Are you serious before God concerning your sins? Or do you take a typical casual attitude towards sin? You can’t be saved from God’s Judgment unless you take your own sins seriously. Is God convicting you of any sins today? Do you have the fear of God in you? There’s a healthy respect for the Almighty that we should all have. Do you have it? If you do, you’ll confess and repent of sins, and you’ll come to God in humble faith for salvation. Have you done that yet? What’s amazing is the king in Nineveh. He heard the message of Jonah a little late, because it says the ordinary people were already ahead of him in repenting. But when he heard Jonah’s message he quickly got organized and took repenting to a higher level – everyone must repent in sackcloth, and he added ashes too just for safe measure.

 

We marvel at the seriousness at which these people of Nineveh dealt with the Word of God as presented by the prophet Jonah. I wish our people here in the United States at this time would get serious about sin in the same way. Instead, what we typically see in our society today is either a casual attitude towards sin, or totally neglect or rejection of the whole topic of sin. Many people laugh at sin as some old-fashioned idea. People mock the whole idea of Divine Judgment to come as the remnants of an old idea of God found in the Old Testament and parts of the New Testament. We’ve advanced a long way in today’s modern technological society, but unfortunately we’ve gone the opposite way in respect to spirituality and morals. People one hundred years ago knew more about God’s will and took it more seriously than we do today. What about you? Are you just like the wider modern society today? Do you take a very casual attitude towards sin? Do you rarely if ever confess your sins before God? Some people go to a psychologist or counselor to remove their guilt complex over their sins, when in fact they need to confess and repent before God. Now there is such a thing as false guilt, but the Bible teaches us the difference between true and false guilt. False guilt isn’t as big a problem as guilt caused by real sin. We need to get into the habit of confessing our sins daily in order to keep a clean slate before God. There’s no question that America needs a massive revival on the scale we’ve never seen before. There’s no doubt that unless it happens God’s judgment will come upon our land. I’ve already quoted the verse, “Behold, your sins will find you out,” Numbers 32:23. That also applies to nations, not just individuals. America’s sins will fall back upon it if it doesn’t repent. Now I’m no prophet, I don’t know if the revival we need in this country will come or not in time to spare us, but I know one thing, we don’t have to wait for national revival to have revival at the local level here in this church and individually in our lives. Whether revival comes to America or not, it can come in your life if you’ll do what these people from Nineveh did. They listened to God’s Word. They confessed and repented of their sins. And they turned to God by faith for salvation. Have you done these things – all of them? Do you need to confess and repent of sins today? What sins is the Holy Spirit convicting you of today? You’ll never experience revival unless you deal with sin in your life. Have you turned to God with your whole heart lately? It may mean turning off the television, unplugging from the Internet, turning down the music, or whatever you have to do to get quiet, and then getting honest before God. Tell God you’re sorry for your sins, tell him you turn away from them today, and then ask him to save you by faith in Jesus Christ. Even if you’ve done that before, it doesn’t hurt to do it again. God still change lives today, just like he did thousands of years ago. He’ll change your life today if you’ll let him. Let’s pray.

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