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Jonah   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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As we continue with our worship of the Lord this morning, I want to invite you to turn with me to Jonah 4:1-11 as we finish this series this morning.
Jonah has been an interesting book to say the least. As we said at the beginning of the series, most people when they think of Jonah they typically think about Jonah and the Whale, right? I mean, we are talking about a guy who was eaten alive by a whale and was in its belly for three days and three nights. That seems to be pretty crazy. But it is not the only crazy thing that has happened in this story. There are all kinds of crazy things that have happened.
In chapter 1, we have God… the maker and creator of the universe, call out to one of His Prophets, Jonah, and gives him a message to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. That alone is mind blowing. GOD saw the people of Nineveh in their wickedness and was willing to send HIS prophets to them. That is an act of grace. And this is where the crazy starts. Jonah, instead of listening to God, he picks up his stuff and runs in the complete and total opposite direction. God says go to Nineveh. Jonah plans to run to Tarshish. Jonah gets on a boat at Joppa. Is heading out to sea when a huge storm comes. Everyone is freaking out. They think the boat is going to sink. They are all running around praying to their idols, throwing stuff overboard. Jonah is down in the bottom of the boat sleeping life away. Crazy right?!
The sea captin comes and wakes him up. Tells him to go and pray because they have no idea what is going on, and they want this storm to stop. As Jonah is up on the boat. They cast lots. The lots single Jonah out. Jonah tells them to throw him into the sea. The sailors don’t listen.... at first. They try to get back to the shore. They can’t. So, in Jonah goes. Everything is at peace. No more storm.
As Jonah is in the water, and as chapter 2 tells us, as Jonah is sinking into the water. As he is drawing near to death. He cries out to God. He wants mercy and grace. God saves Jonah by the whale. Jonah gets to stay there three days and three nights.
I don’t know about you, but if I were in the belly of a whale for that many days.... I would really be considering my life choices. And that is what Jonah seems to do. He repents. He commits his life to the Lord again. You see, this is a crazy story.
Then in Chapter 3, God tells the whale to vomit Jonah out.... which is gross. but that is what happens. God then tells Jonah to go to Ninveh and proclaim the message that He has told him to proclaim. Jonah has learned. He is not getting out of this assignment. It does not matter how much Jonah may hate these people, God is sending him there. So, Jonah goes and he does exactly has he is told. He proclaims the message that God has given him. “Destruction is coming. In 40 days Nineveh will be overthrown.” It is short and sweet. Turn away from your sinful ways and turn to God or face His wrath. There is no sugar coating of this message. Here you have this stranger, walking into a foreign land and calling out against it. You have no idea on what is going to happen. This sounds like a death mission.
But, what happens?!! They repent!!! They heed the word of the Lord and they turn from their sins. They turn to God. They are fasting and mourning over what they have done. No one saw this coming. It is crazy!!! God sees their hearts in this matter. In response to their faith and true repentance, God turns away His wrath.  It is an amazing Chapter, isn’t it? It is the story of us all. This is how God deals with people, and you would expect some rejoicing over this….but that is not what we find at all in this story…again, the story takes an unexpected twist.
Let’s read this text together. Hear the Word of the Lord this morning.
4 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “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. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” 5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jon 4:1–11).
As we think about this text this morning, let’s take a moment to quiet our hearts and minds before the Lord and ask Him to speak to us as we study His word.
Let’s pray together. What in the world just happened, right? What should have been a moment of excitement, of rejoicing, of being pumped up, just took a turn for the worse. We know in Scripture it says that “the angels in heaven rejoice over one……sinner who repents…”, but not Jonah. I don’t know about you…but I know this from preaching….man if I went and proclaimed a message and a whole city turned….I would be on cloud 9…..but that is not what happens here…what happens?
The text say’s that Jonah becomes furious…He is ticked….He doesn’t want them to receive forgiveness…he wants them to receive judgment. Out of his anger, be beings to pray. I like how on translation put it….it reads this way, “He prayed to the LORD, "Come on, LORD! Wasn't this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. (Jon 4:2 CEB)…Jonah is mad and upset with God because of who God is. HE knew that there was a possibility that judgment wouldn’t come to them…that is why he ran in the first place, and now…Jonah prays that God would take his life. Listen to what he says, “it is better for me to die than to live.”
Get this picture in your mind. The only thing I can think of when I read this text is a two-year-old at the store who didn’t get what they wanted. Here he is throwing this temper tantrum being overly dramatic…. I just picture  kids throwing themselves down on the ground….kicking screaming…pulling away…. I knew you guys know what I am talking about….you have either been there or seen it…and the only thing you can think… “Is what in the world is wrong with you child?” It doesn’t matter if it is your kid or not, that thought runs through your mind…
In to some degree….that is what God’s response back to Jonah’s prayer is. He just asks him, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Or, in other words….what is wrong with you? This is crazy. What bases do you have for acting the way that you do?
Well, Jonan just walks away at that point….and it appears that he is still holding on to some hope that God may just change His mind on what is going to happen. Jonah goes up to the east side of the city… builds a little shelter….and waits.
While he is there, God appoints a plant to grow up to help shelter Jonah from his trouble. Jonah is not in Ohio, or North America…he is in the middle east…and it is hot….but this plant comes and Jonah is pleased with the plant. Some translations say that he is very happy about the plant. I picture this grumpy old man…who has spent all day complaining…but finally sitting down in his favorite chair….and just having a smile on his face…as if this is good….this is right….but then….just as Jonah is happy about the plant…at least he is not in the heat…God appoints a worm to come and attack the plant so that it dies, but not only that…but also God appoints a scorching east wind on Jonah….All of the comfort that Jonah was experiencing was taken away.
Now, Jonah is back to being Jonah….The text says that he gets so hot that he is about to pass out, and he wants to die. Again, he say’s “It’s better for me to die than to live.” Jonah has come back to being that two-year-old.
So, God asks him again, “Is it right for you to be angry”, but notice this time God adds a little remark to the question, “ about the plant?”
Jonah does answer God back this time…he doesn’t just walk away.  He tells God, “Yes it is right….I’m angry enough to die.” Now listen, I’m not sure how mad you would have to be that you wanted to die, but I would guess that you are probably really really mad!
Here is God’s response to Jonah, look at v. 10-11 with me. God is trying to point out Jonah’s Hypocrisy…. Jonah is mad about the destruction of a plant….a plant…a little insignificant plant…it’s one thing when you take the time to dig in the ground, plant it, water it…everything that it takes to care for it…but Jonah didn’t even do that….but yet he is upset about its destruction. On the other hand….here you have God…the creator of EvERYONE…that includes those in the city of Nineveh…he had nit them together in their mothers wombs… HE has every right to care about them…and it is not just one…it is 120,000 people plus their animals…if anyone has a right in the text it is GOD, and God chose to have compassion on them because of their repentance and faith.
I want you to see this…in this chapter….in this whole book… we several things about God that needs to be mentioned. We see that God is sovereign over all of creation. Think about…God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh, He Sends the wind, He causes the storm, He Sends the fish, He rescues Jonah, He has the fish vomit Jonah out, He sends Jonah again, He appoints the plant, the worm, and the east wind….this God is a  God who is in complete control over everything little thing…nothing escapes His notice.
But we don’t only learn about His sovereignty, we learn about what He is like. He is a God of grace. He has sent Jonah to Nineveh so that he would preach to them….He saves Jonah, He gives Jonah a second chance, He forgives the people of Nineveh when they turn from their wicked ways to Him, Jonah calls him gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in stead fast love, one who turns away from sending disaster. Is this not what you would want God to be like? Could you imagine if He was different than this? That would be awful!!! This should cause us to stand back in awe of Him and just be thankful to Him for Him being HIM!!! NO other reason… Just getting this picture of God into our minds should cause us to stand back and just worship Him for what He is like.
Not only do we learn what God is like though, we also learn what we are like. We have a tendency to be rebellious to God.  We tend to want to do things are our way. God has given us certain commands, and all of us have lived lives apart from those commands as if we were able to life better on our own. We know that it does work out well for us.
It really doesn’t matter either who you look at in this passage. We can be like Jonah at times. We can ignore the direct commands of God. We have this tendency to get upset with God over what He wants to do in His world. I think even deep down inside of us….we can get upset with God over who He would extend grace to…..I didn’t think that before….but I got to thinking and I put this situation before me….I thought back to 911…and I asked myself….imagine that the attacks had just happened, but those who were responsible did not die. Here you have the people who are responsible for the death of thousands before you…and God tells you to tell them about the forgiveness at the cross…. what goes through your mind…. I would say that there would be some hesitation that would happen on your part. You wouldn’t want forgiveness to be extended, but justice…not mercy! Jonah is having similar feelings. Like Jonah, we too sometimes put value on things that are not significant…we value things over people. You see, we are like Jonah.
But, we are also like the people of Nineveh. In our passage this morning it says that they “didn’t know their right hand from their left hand.” That basically means that they had no clue on what in the world they were doing. They were spiritually and morally bankrupt, but they didn’t even know it.  Through their wicked works, they would have been enemies of God. The bible says the same things about you and I. All of us in this room, according to the Bible, were dead in our trespasses and sins…. that we were children of wrath…. enemies of God.
It doesn’t stay that way though. Just like in the story of Jonah, God extends grace to us too, even in the middle of our rebellion. Listen to what Paul says in Romans, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom 5:8-10 ESV).
We too need this God of grace to be active in our lives….to forgive us of our sins….and to save us from our sins.  He is able to change us from the inside out….and that is possible to us, not because of our works, but because Christ has died for us. He died to set us free…He now commands that we too would turn to Him in faith and turn from our wicked works.
With these two perspectives in our minds I want us to look at this and ask, how does this apply to me? What is God trying to change in my life through His word? That is the point of the Bible, right? That is what we had said at the beginning of the message this morning. It is not about information but life transformation. So, what are we do?
Kids: Let me talk to you first. I want you to know that Christ loves you. That Jesus died on the cross to forgive you of your sins. He is the one who is able to forgive you. HE can forgive you for anything that you have done. God is a God of grace…don’t run away from Him…run to Him. Think about who God is and spend time later today thinking Him for Him being Him. Ask Him to give you grace.
Adults:  I want you to look at your life, and think about who you are more like in the story? Are you like Jonah? DO you get mad at God for what He chooses to do in the world? Do you value the less important things over what is truly important? Do you spend more time concerned with you than you do the salvation of others? I know that is a hard question, but I think it is one that we have to ask ourselves.
Are you like Nineveh? Do you need to turn to Christ for the forgiveness of your sins? Don’t wait on that…don’t put it off another day…turn today.
Lastly, I want you to spend time later today reflecting on God….and spend time praising Him for Him being Him.
Let’s set our hearts and minds on God. Let’s turn to Him….Let’s seek to obey His call.
God is in control. Let’s set our hearts to follow Him.
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