Summary: Because of Jonah’s rebellion and disobedience to God’s will, Jonah couldn’t see what God was asking him to see. Are you looking for what God wants you to look for or is your vision blurred by selfish disobedience?

(adapted from a message by Stuart Jones)

TEXT: JONAH 4:1-11


OPEN: A. A five-year-old boy was having a difficult time being good. He didn’t want to do anything his

mother asked him to do, he was defiant toward her authority, and he just refused to cooperate with

his Mom in any way.

The mother became extremely frustrated and knew that disciplinary measures had to be taken.

She took the boy’s favorite little chair and sat in the corner of the living room. She placed the boy

in the chair and told him that he was not going to get out of that chair until learned how to behave.

Several times, the boy tried to get out of the chair but his mother would put him back right back

down on the seat of the chair. Finally realizing this tactic wasn’t going to work, the little boy

crossed his arms and sat and stared angrily at the wall in the corner.

His mother began to do some housework but was always where she could watch her son. He

knew she was watching and it made him even angrier. Finally, he blurted out, “I may be sitting

down on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside!”

B. Today, we reach the end of our series of messages called: “Discover Obedience: Jonah – Not Just

Another Big Fish Story”

--quick summary

1. In Chapt. One, God comes to Jonah and gives him the mission of declaring God’s pending

judgment on the city of Nineveh – capital of the Assyrian Empire

a. Even though Jonah has been a prophet of God, he know refuses to do what God wants him to


b. Instead of heading north and east to Nineveh, Jonah heads south and west toward Tarshish

c. Because of Jonah’s disobedience, God sends a fierce storm that frightens seasoned sailors

--They discover Jonah is the problem and after some prodding from Jonah, they throw him


2. In Chapt. Two, Jonah is on his way to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea

--He accurately describes what the bottom of the sea looks like

a. Jonah cries out to God

b. God sends a great fish to swallow Jonah

c. After three days and nights in the belly of the fish, Jonah has thought things over and decides

he’s ready to do what God has asked him to do

d. God has the fish pull up to a beach, and using the first automatic eject system, has the fish

vomit Jonah up onto dry land

3. In Chapt. Three, Jonah preaches in Nineveh and the Ninevites, from the servants to the king,

repent of their ways and God offers His mercy to the people of Nineveh

C. Jonah 4:1-12 – “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, ‘O

LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to

Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in

love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better

for me to die than to live.’ But the LORD replied, ‘Have you any right to be angry?’

Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its

shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a vine and

made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very

happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so

that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on

Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, ‘It would be better for me to die than

to live.’ But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?’ ‘I do,’ he said. ‘I

am angry enough to die.’ But the LORD said, ‘You have been concerned about this vine, though

you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has

more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left,

and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?’”

D. Jonah is back to his old self

1. Insight into Jonah’s heart and mind

--Jonah 4:1-3 – “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD,

‘O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee

to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and

abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my

life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

2. So what does Jonah do?

--He goes out to a hillside east of Nineveh, pitches a tent, and waits to see what God is going to


a. Remember Jonah’s message?

--40 days and Nineveh will be no more

b. The Bible tells us that Jonah only preached for three days

--that left 37 days to wait to see what God was going to do

c. The longer Jonah sat and waited, the angrier he got

--the people had repented and God was granting them mercy

3. Jonah wants Nineveh and its people destroyed

--wiped off the face of the earth – never to be seen or heard from again

E. Compare Jonah’s anger with God’s mercy

--Even toward Jonah

1. Even though Jonah had given up on God, God had not given up on Jonah

a. Jonah’s campsite wasn’t the best – he was exposed to the harsh sun and winds

b. So, God brought forth a large plant so that Jonah could be in the shade and protected from the


c. Then God brought forth a work to eat and kill the plant

2. Why did God do that?

--two important reasons:

a. Just like when Jonah was in the depths of the sea and the belly of the fish, God was trying to

show Jonah what it was like to be lost: hopeless, helpless, and miserable

b. God was teaching Jonah about obedience

1). The story of Jonah is not the story of a man and a fish

--this is the story of a man and God’s will for his life

2). Jonah had obeyed God but hadn’t joined himself with God by accepting God’s will for his


3. It’s one thing to begrudgingly obey God – to follow through reluctantly with a frown on your

face and another thing to accept what God wants you to do – joyfully, willfully, passionately.

--A lot of us in the church have been obedient to what God wants us to do but have hated every

step of the way.

a. Jonah is angry because he has (begrudgingly) done what God wanted him to do. Now, God

won’t reciprocate the favor

--We try to bargain with God: “OK, God. I’ll do what you’re asking but you’ve got to do

something for me. Tit for tat. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

b. Grudging obedience is disobedience.

1). We cannot love God without keeping His commandments, nor can we keep His

commandments without loving God, without obeying Him out of a sincere affection for


2). Dt. 10:12 – And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the

LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with

all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees

that I am giving you today for your own good?”

3). Eph. 6:6 tells us that we should be “doing the will of God from[our] heart[s].”

F. God is teaching Jonah that he’s going to have to make some changes in his life

1. If our desire is to serve God and walk in obedience to Him and to do that willingly, there are

similar changes we need to make in our lives

2. If we’ll allow God to make the necessary adjustments in our lives so that we work in harmony

with Him, we’ll find out what true abundant living is all about

3. Let’s see what God is teaching Jonah and by extension what He is teaching us


--come to the understand that God is God and you are not

A. Jonah didn’t like what God was doing

--he didn’t like the choices that God had made, he didn’t like it that God had spared the people of

Nineveh and was dropping notes in God’s suggestion box concerning the subject on a continual basis

1. One thing I can assure you is that Jonah is not your typical preacher

--He had just held a three-day revival with the same sermon each day and the whole city repented!

2. Any other preacher would have been writing an article to submit to the Christian Standard about how

to hold a revival

a. He’d be looking to get his sermon listed on the best preaching websites

b. He’s going to find recognition somewhere

3. Not Jonah

--Jonah’s hopping mad because the sermon worked!

4. On a side note, I want to let you know that at the end of this message, we’re going to sing a song of


a. If 120,000 come forward, I’m not going to be upset

b. If 120 come forward, I’m still not going to upset

c. In fact, if only one person comes forward, I’m going to be ecstatic

--by the way, Jesus said that when someone repents, the angels in heaven throw a party!

B. God asks Jonah: “What right do you have to be angry and upset over this matter?”

--What is causing Jonah’s anger?

1. His enemies would find God’s favor

2. His reputation was at stake

a. The biblical narrative only tells us that Jonah brought the message of judgment. It never mentions

that he told the Ninevites how to avoid the judgment.

b. Jonah would be thought of as a false prophet because repentance brought God’s mercy

3. If word got out around home that he was even partly responsible for the salvation of Israel’s great

enemy, he could be considered a traitor

4. God had every right to be angry and to express his anger against the Ninevites but instead chose to offer


--Who is Jonah to be angry with the Ninevites when God is pleased with their response of repentance?


--we live by grace and not by judgment

A. Jonah wanted the Ninevites to get what they deserved

1. These were people who had killed or brought harm to Jonah’s people

2. This change is a change that hurts but its something that we have to do

3. God had every right to be angry and to express his anger against the Ninevites but instead chose to

offer forgiveness

--Who is Jonah to be angry with the Ninevites when God is pleased with their response of repentance?

B. Let’s make an assessment of our own hearts

--There is some blank space on the back of your bulletin. On the left-hand side of the paper, make a list

of numbers from 1-10. Then above that write the letters “G” for Grace and “J” for Judgment. The

question is: How do you want God to treat people around you – with grace or with judgment? I’m

going to give you 10 situations and you choose a “G” or a “J”

1. To the people who live in your household

2. To the people you go to church with

3. To the people who live in your neighborhood

4. To someone who has made up lies and spread lies about you

5. To someone who has different religious views than you

6. To someone who has different political views than you

7. To someone who has damaged your marriage in some way

8. To someone who has brought physical or emotional harm to your children

9. To terrorist groups

10. To the leader of the nation of Iran

C. Separated by thousands of years and thousands of miles, it’s easy to claim that we don’t have the same

problem as Jonah.

1. We need to change from wanting to see people paid for what they have done to wanting to see people

know and accept the grace that’s available to them from Jesus Christ

2. It’s when we look at people and have a desire for them to receive Jesus instead of what should be due

to them

3. God had offered much grace to Jonah

--but in Jonah’s mind, the people of Nineveh did not deserve God’s grace

4. Not one of us is worthy of God’s grace

--it only comes through God’s love


--we have to be able to see God’s big picture and not our small one

A. What kind of vision do you have?

1. Jeremiah and Jesus looked over the city of Jerusalem and wept over its spiritual condition

2. The apostle Paul looked over the city of Athens and was greatly distressed over its spiritual condition

3. Jonah looked over the city of Nineveh and was full of anger

B. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways

--but God can see everything and comprehend everything and we can’t

1. Therefore, He is in the best position to decide how things should happen and what is best for our lives

2. Walking with God is a lot like a fancy tapestry. We are on the underside looking up. All we can is a

huge tangle of threads and can only make out shadowed images on the other side. God is at the top

looking down at how the strings work together to make a beautiful work of art

D. Do we see the sin but not the sinner?

1. Jonah is angry about the wrong things

2. We do the same thing

--We get upset over issues like alcohol and drug abuse, gambling, homosexuality, abortion and other

related topics but we neglect the people who are lost.

a. We tie the sinner and the sin together.

b. God hates sin but He loves the sinner.

E. If your vision is not right, your life won’t be right

1. Do you realize that no matter how big your dreams are for you life, it is miniscule compared to what

God wants to do through you?

2. Eph. 3:20 tells us that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to

his power that is at work within us.”

3. We become focused on small things.

--God is trying to get us looking at the big picture

D. A few years back, Jim Collins wrote a book called Good to Great

--In that book, Collins relates the research that he made into corporations that were better than good.

They were exceptional and great in accomplishing their mission

1. Each of these companies had several things in common

2. One thing they all shared: BHAGs

--Big, hairy, audacious goals

a. Not goals that just require you to remain on task – that were easily reachable

b. These are insensible almost unattainable goals that we have no idea how we’re going to reach but

we strive for it anyway

3. The United States of America had a BHAG in 1961 – President Kennedy stood before the nation

and declared that we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Two inherent

problems: NASA was not a major recipient of our national budget. We didn’t have any scientists

that lived in America that had any idea how to put ship on the moon let alone a man in a spaceship

on the moon.

Some folks thought it should be enough to just encourage us to catch up to the Russians or to do

better at space exploration. But that goal was not big enough. It wasn’t grand enough.

In 1969, after scientists went scurrying to find a way, man walked on the moon

E. Vs. 11 – God opens Jonah’s eyes to this BHAG vision that was so different from what Jonah could see

on his own

--Jonah 4:11 – “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell

their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great


1. Jonah’s vision problem was that he could only see the people of Nineveh as a dangerous enemy to

destroy as opposed to a great crowd of repentant sinners to be brought to the Lord

2. Jonah knew that God was gracious God

--Jonah had good theology but it stayed in his head and never made it to his heart

3. I think it’s easy to see that it’s possible to know a lot about God and actually never know God

F. God had an incredible mission that Jonah missed and only God could see

1. When you dream for yourself, you dream in the manageable, the attainable, the scheduable

--what can be done with sweat and hard work and patience and time to complete

2. But when God works, He comes up with something that doesn’t make sense and then sends you out

to accomplish it

3. God’s BHAGS

a. I want you to build a boat four football fields long in the middle of dry land and wait for rain

b. March around a fortified city for six days – one time every day. Don’t ever pull out a sword or a

weapon of any kind. Keep silent. On the seventh day, walk around the city seven times blowing

trumpets and I’ll take care of the rest.

c. I’m going to take the sins of every person who have ever lived and will ever live and place them on

the shoulders of one man who will live a sinless life and die an excruciating death after which he

will rise again in three days to overcome sin and death for all of us

d. I want the followers of my Son to go into all the world preaching the gospel, baptizing them in the

name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them everything I have commanded.

CLOSE: A. Jonah was what James described in James 1:8 as a ‘double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

1. One minute, he’s preaching God’s word

--the next, he’s disobedient to God’s word and ready to abandon his post

2. While in the belly of the fish, he prayed to be delivered

--Now, he’s asking to the Lord to kill him

3. He called the city of Nineveh to repentance but wouldn’t repent himself

4. It’s funny – the storm, the fish, the Ninevites, the plant, and the worm all obeyed God.

--Jonah refused to obey God.

B. Jonah and Nahum are the only books in the Bible that end with a question

1. Nahum with a question about Nineveh’s punishment at another time

2. Jonah with a question about God’s mercy to Nineveh in this time

3. The Book of Jonah should force us to see our own power struggle with God

--What part of our being have we refused to yield to God’s control?

C. The Book of Jonah ends abruptly without a definite conclusion

1. In the first message of this series, I shared with you that the Book of Jonah is read in the

Jewish synagogues on Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement

--When it’s finished being read, the people respond, “We are Jonah!”

2. How true!

a. “We are Jonah.”

b. Ultimately, how the story ends depends on our response to God’s will