You Can Run But You Can’t Hide
Rosemount Missionary Church
Dirty dishes are probably the greatest test for any serious and dedicated homemaker. After you have probably slaved all day getting the place in order or had to work outside the home and then had to prepare that sumptuous meal; finally you were able to sit down to eat and it felt good. Then you remember - the dirty dishes. Perhaps it is not a problem if you have a dishwasher: mechanical or human (spouse or children). But if you have to do them, especially those pots - it’s a test of anyone’s dedication to duty.
No matter how well you enjoy your job; there comes a time when your feelings of goodwill and natural enthusiasm to do your work are not enough. There are days when you don’t feel up to it. When you feel like calling in sick, taking the day off. And sometimes you might be able to get away with it; but many times the importance of the task, simply demands that you do it - whether you feel like it or not.
The story of Jonah is that kind of story. It tells about one man’s failure to do what he should. His task was to warn a whole nation of the impending wrath of God because of their sinful ways. But he chose not to do so. But probably even more revealing than his inattention to duty, is the fact that it is most likely that it is he himself who is responsible for writing the story. So he admits to his own failings. Jonah’s problem is our problem. He was given a task, it depended on him; BUT he abandoned the ship (so to speak), he abdicated his responsibility, he was absent from duty.
Ø Jonah’s sin is not our sin – we have passed the stage of excluding people on the basis of class, colour, educational status or nationality. Those up there or down there; haves and have-nots; the in and the out. We can’t identify anyone we don’t want to preach to. So then, what is the relevance of the text to us?
Ø We are concerned about Growth – we define growth as simply the creation of more persons or groups like us – expanding our numbers and filling out our buildings. Yet growth should more properly be defined as the impact of gospel in creating change in lives made better, fuller and more meaningful. Making us more civilized
Ø So as means to growth we engage in the evangelism from which Jonah runs away. But for many, evangelism is simply an exercise in marketing. Telling the benefits of our church so more people will join. Evangelism is about reaching new people and with the transforming message of the gospel. Evangelism helps us as much as it helps those who accept. It increases our numbers [baptism and statistics]; but to be thoroughly meaningful, it must lead to incorporating the newly baptized as brethren – teach brotherhood.
Ø From the story of Jonah, we are confronted with one temptation that we would do well to ignore. We must resist the temptation to be comfortable with our answers to people of the world about this world. To be so smug in the correctness of our message that we fail to engage in thoroughgoing and disciplined thinking though of the meaning of our faith. We are driven by the fear of change – fear of new vulnerability.
Ø Hence we must move from evangelism – ethical development. That is, move from simply throwing out the net to teaching those who would come, to embrace a new lifestyle; training them to become civilized; socializing them to conform to the image of Christ – and all of this issuing from an understanding of the Gospel.
Ø Giving something – daring to break new ground – jealous for God
In running away from responsibility, be careful of your motivation. Why it is that you choose not do what it is you are supposed to do? Why did Jonah run away? We only get a hint of his motive in 4:2. He did not want the people of Nineveh to repent having been warned of the impending danger. What was his motivation?
1. He sat in judgment of them and found them undeserving. Heathen and wicked.
2. Only instance of a prophet being sent to a heathen nation. Not only for the sins of Nineveh but also for the shame of Israel. A heathen city would hear the gospel once from a stranger and repent yet Israel would hear it repeatedly and not turn away from their sin.
3. Jealous for the prerogatives of his country - not willing that the Assyrians should share in the honour of divine revelation and forgiveness. Nationalism gone mad.
4. Give Jonah some credit, he understood God - and that is why he decided against obeying. Angry with Sin - Demands Justice - Mercy season Justice.
5. His reaction tells us about the understanding of Religion in that time. Religion was territorial. Each territory was defined not only by its border but by its God. When nations were at war on earth, the gods were at war in the heavens. Vs. 5 “…every man cried to his own god.”
6. Even Jonah’s confession in vs. 9 indicates this. God was a national emblem. His words were a confessional statement – cliché. And for many of us it is what defines us.
7. God of Israel is the God of all people. Vs. 4 “God sent out a great wind.” vs. 14 “they cried out to God…” vs. 17 “the Lord appointed/prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah.”
8. True Religion is that which is defined by what it does for others [good Samaritan]
1. He couldn’t care less about their impending destruction. Vs. 5 “But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship, and he was fast asleep.” Sleeping deeply/snoring. [Sisera – Judges. 4:21]
2. Went with the mariners, the passengers, the merchants, whomever they were that were going to Tarshish. Jonah forgetting his dignity as well as his duty, herded with them. Indifference to the humanity of our brothers and sisters.
3. Concerned about his reputation as a prophet – unfulfilled prophecy.
4. He was interested in keeping things as they are. It is easier to curse the darkness. This is safe and predictable. But gone are the old sins – dress. The sins of our generation are Consumerism, secularism, and godlessness. Love of things, love of the world’s system and love of self. Being enticed by human desires; trusting in human wisdom and achievement; locking out God with only room for number one.
5. He would rather die than help them. No evidence of change – he prayed only in belly of fish. Yet their humanity wouldn’t allow them to kill him. They wanted to save everybody – so they keep rowing. Vs. 14 EVEN THE UNGODLY behaves better than some Christians.
6. Doesn’t want equality. Stand on the same ground – not MERIT but MERCY. [Makes it easier to vilify and write off. In order to murder – must first make them enemies. Basis of relationship would have to change.
1. He chose the easy way; and providence seemed to give him an opportunity to escape - found a ready ship to take him to Tarshish. The ready way is not always the right way.
2. He fell prey to his insular view of God. He felt that if he left Israel where Yahweh dwells, he might get away from God’s scrutiny. Psalm 139:7-10 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
3. Downward Spiral. Down to Joppa; bottom of ship; bottom of sea; fish’s belly…
4. Jonah offering of himself to be thrown overboard not related to the calming of the sea. Its God’s doing. [Jesus in the boat; Moses at the red sea]. No act of man needed to force the hand of God. Bear in mind that the whole story is meant to show God’s dealing and God’s actions. God’s sovereignty. Vs. 6 “…captain said…call to your God…so that we will not perish…” God does not act by the fiat or will of man; at the beck and call of his creatures; by the summoning of Him by special words and memorized mantras. God does what he does; and that which he wants to do.
5. The story counters the convenience of Jonah by foreshadowing the sacrifice of Christ. The story connects the plunge of Jonah into the belly of the fish to Christ’s plunge into the grave – three days. Salvific act via the mercy seat, becoming the propitiation for man’s sin.
Ø REJOICE - Salvation from self – God provides an escape - fish
Ø KNOW – Sailors were converted – even when we run away God uses us
Ø DO - Articulate answers in relation to questions of context; felt needs of constituents.