July 23, 2017
A Greater Jonah
Jonah, a prophet, called by God, has just experienced the transforming power of God’s grace in his own life. God has spared Jonah’s life in the heart of the sea through the supernatural means of a fish. Jonah’s physical life was spared, but more importantly, his spiritual life was raised from the dead. Despite his rebellion, disobedience, and apathy, God is going to use Jonah as an instrument for his good news and glory. Jonah was restored in the belly of the fish and now realizes that he can’t escape God’s saving grace and mercy. Because of this experience, Jonah is now ready to be a messenger of God’s mercy to the pagan Ninevites, of whom Jonah was was more than apprehensive to visit a few Chapters ago!
If you haven’t already, Read Jonah 3. The main points of the sermon are summarized below:
God’s Second Word
Through the study of Jonah, God is clearly demonstrating his sovereignty and his grace for sinners. He is doing it through his creation and specifically through Jonah. Despite his disobedience and goal to flee God’s presence, God uses Jonah as a vessel of salvation to Gentiles. In Chapter 1, God uses Jonah to show grace to pagan sailors, and now God will use Jonah to produce salvation amongst the pagan Ninevites. It’s amazing to see God producing his will and purpose despite our efforts or lack thereof. Nothing can thwart the will of God. Sometimes we endure affliction, but God uses that to refine us and continue with his purpose, as he did in Jonah, who seems to be changed and ready to obey God’s command as a result of God’s grace in his life.
The formerly disobedient prophet is a great example to us of God’s persistence in our own lives. We are hard-hearted, our eyes are often out of focus, and are ears are clogged to God’s voice in our own lives. God speaks, and most of the time, we don’t obey the first time. Much like children, we are stubborn and often disobedient. But as we see in Jonah 3:1, God is persistent and gracious to us! His Word is life to our soul and He will speak to us and awaken us through whatever means to get his message to us! God clearly shows Jonah this in verse 1, by sending His Word to Jonah a second time. Not only did God forgive Jonah and restore him, but he reinstates him back to the office of prophet and continues his original purpose in him! Let it be clear that God will finish the work he began in you despite your faults and failures.
God’s Powerful Word
God’s command in Jonah 3:2 is slightly different from his original command in 1:2. Instead of being asked to “call out against it”, Jonah is told to “call out against it the message that I tell you”. Because of the grace that God has shown Jonah, He is calling him to a faithful obedience to trust in his Word. What faith Jonah must have had to go to Ninevah, a large, pagan, evil city, and trust that God would give him the words to speak. God expects the same faith from us in response to His Word and promises. In verse 4, we are told what the message is. It’s only five Hebrew words, and it seems like pure destruction upon Ninevah. But God’s Word is sharper than a two edged sword and pierces through us to expose our guilt (Hebrews 4:12-13). God did a powerful work through the obedient preaching of his Word alone. Jonah didn’t need to do any convincing, he didn’t need to argue, or persuade. He relied on God to speak and convict through His Word!
In our modern world of non-offensiveness and acceptance, it is rare for the gospel to be spoken so bluntly. We often think that we need to pad God’s message of repentance to the ears of lost sinners. We often think that simply “showing the love of Christ” and kindness are the means to which people come to faith. But we are often proved wrong. Showing the love of Christ to lost people is great and so is kindness, but if it isn’t accompanied by the gospel, we are doing nothing more than loving people to hell and placing bandages on outward wounds, when it’s their soul that needs saving. In order for the gospel to be good news, people must understand the bad news of their sin. How can Jesus be good news to someone who doesn’t see themselves as a sinner? How can one understand the message of the cross, if they don’t understand that they are dying in their sins and headed for hell. How can they truly know their Savior, if they don’t understand that he took their place and they deserve the punishment?! May God give us boldness to proclaim his full gospel, without hesitation, and allow his Spirit to bring transformation! We are called to be Jonah’s and spread God’s message to the lost.
The result of God’s Word on the pagan Ninevites is repentance. We see from the King to the common person a revival of repentance in the latter portion of Jonah 3. How did it happen? It happened through the simplicity of God’s Word. It didn’t take an experience or a band playing to bring conviction to the people. All it took was the obedience of teaching God’s Word. Keep in mind, these people were not Israel. They had no temple, no prophets to guide them, no ceremonial or sacrificial systems that were appointed by God. There is no mention that a prophet ever visited, because a prophet usually spoke to Israel. The Ninevites didn’t understand all of the commands of God and his requirements found in the Law. But they showed genuine repentance, which is an genuine response of faith. Everyone knows there is a God (Romans 1:19-23) and God’s image has been stamped on every human being and his law on ever person’s heart. So, upon hearing the Word of God, a rightful response of humility, remorse, and guilt were shown. Do we display that same attitude towards our sin? We should feel convicted for our lack of repentance. As Jesus said in Luke 11:30-32, the gentile Ninevites will judge those who don’t repent and put their trust in him, because he is better than Jonah! He is the fulfillment of God’s Promises and Word (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Jesus in Jonah 3
As stated above, Jesus is a better Jonah. He is the one through whom Jews and Gentiles are saved…even the evil Ninevites! He is the prophet who calls out for repentance because he bore the weight of our sin on the cross if we have put our faith in him. In Jonah 3:9, The King makes an interesting statement. He poses a question about God sparing the lives of the Ninevites, and then states that maybe God will relent of his anger so we may not perish! Despite God’s warning of judgement, there must of been a hope of mercy somewhere for him and his people. Maybe Jonah said more, maybe news of Jonah’s story from the fish got around, or maybe he saw the hope in the fact that God sent someone to warn them. If God wasn’t going to offer mercy, he could have let them die in their sins, rightfully. God sent Jonah to warn the Ninevites, but they didn’t perish, because of the greater Jonah. They didn’t perish because God sending His Son to pay their debt for sin (John 3:16-19). They understood their guilt and turned to the light. And because of him, all nations are offered the hope of Salvation. Thank you God for sending us a messenger of judgement, but also of your mercy and grace, which is found in the person and work of Jesus!
- In what ways has God shown you grace through second chances? Explain.
- Have you experienced transformation through the simplicity of God’s Word? Explain.
- What prevents you from sharing the gospel with others around you? How can you share the gospel in a simplistic way without omitting necessary parts? Explain.
- Why is repentance such an important part of our faith and response to the gospel? In what areas do you struggle repenting of in your life? Explain.
- How do you see Jesus in Jonah 3?