Summary: Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, Year B.
Jonah 3: 1 – 5, 10 / A Change Of Mind
Intro: “Hello, this is Jonah – I am unable to take your call right now, please do not leave your name, number of message, because I won’t be getting back to you. If this is God calling, I’m unavailable because I’m on an extended cruise out of the country.” (beep!)
I. The book of Jonah is a part of a collection called, “The Book of the 12 Prophets.” It is unique. Most prophetic books are about the message; while this one is more about the messenger.
A. Even though a prophet named Jonah is mentioned in I Kings, the story cannot be view as historical. It is more of a parable told to teach a lesson.
B. Jonah is called by God the first time in chapter 1. There and here the exact same Hebrew words are used by God to tell Jonah what to do: “Arise, go, call.” A literal translation of the word “call” is, “call to her the calling that I am wording to you.” In other words, “get up and go to Nineveh and tell her what I tell you to tell them.”
C. I don’t think anyone likes being told what to do. When I was a kid, my mother would tell me every Saturday morning that I had to clean my room. I hated doing it so I would grudgingly do it by shoving stuff under the bed and cramming things in the closet or drawers. I did it; but, not like it was supposed to be done. I guess I was more afraid of my mother than Jonah was afraid of God.
II. Why didn’t Jonah just go? Why was he so unwilling to proclaim God’s judgment on Nineveh?
A. In the years that followed the Babylonian Exile, there was a spirit of bitterness and vengefulness toward foreigners. Perhaps, Jonah didn’t want to see them turn from their ways so God would destroy them.
B. Perhaps another reason is fear of the people of Nineveh who were a part of the nation of Assyria who were known to be heartless and cruel people. After a battle, the Assyrians would take any survivors and impale them or cut off their heads and pile them up in pillars. Often, Assyrian leaders would wear the heads of their enemies around their necks. --- these are not exactly a friendly people nor a great vacation get away spot!
C. VS. 3 – “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Grudgingly, Jonah went. Half-heartedly, Jonah went.
III. The basic message given by God to Jonah is just 4 words in Hebrew. “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”
A. Simply put with no conditions. There is no way out! God had every intention of reducing the town to nothing. Perhaps the people of Nineveh thought God was going to do to them what they had done to others.
B. VS. 5 – 6 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.”
C. The actions of the Gentile Ninevites so impressed God that there was a change of mind, a change of action. The unexpected happened. Vs. 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.”
Conclu: I said earlier this is a parable not a history lesson. What is to be learned from it? You and I are Jonah. When God calls, do we go willingly or grudgingly? When we are challenged are we like Jonah or the Ninevites? Either way, God shall prevail. Perhaps you have a friend who doesn’t attend church; but, is really struggling with issues. Do you think to yourself, “It wouldn’t do any good to invite him to church?” How often do we think that our children, our spouses, or even we cannot be changed by God’s word? Do we lack faith that the word of God and the Holy Spirit can work changes and bring about a change of mind where it is needed? Is God calling, saying: “Arise, go, call.” “get up and go to Nineveh and tell her what I tell you to tell them.”
Just change your attitude, change your mind and go!