Summary: Our God is a God of 2nd and 3rd and . . . chances.
First Baptist Church
July 21, 2002
As of last Friday, how are your investments doing? If you invest in the stock market you’ve lost money — lots of it. If you had $100,000, 2 years ago, you now have about $70,000. While our economy may be in a recession, while there may have been concern after September 11, the main reason the markets have gone down is because of a lack of trust in big businesses. Over the past year we’ve learned that people will do whatever they can to make themselves look successful.
Think about what has happened in the past months and weeks —
Enron is the largest recorded American company to go bankrupt. Now if WorldCom files for bankruptcy, that will be the largest. The chief financial officer at WorldCom hid billions of dollars in liabilities and took them off the corporate books, falsely inflating the company’s cash flow. Auditors from Arthur Andersen -- you remember them from Enron -- missed it. And WorldCom deceived some of the biggest banks in America. Similar news is coming from Tyco, Xerox, Global Crossing, J & J, among others. Arthur Andersen, convicted of a felony in the Enron case, will probably shut their doors. And now, of all people, there are cartoons of Martha Stewart showing her tidying up a jail cell.
So what does all this have to do with our reluctant hero, Jonah? Well, he was called upon to go to a foreign land and tell them judgement day was coming. The people of Nineveh were to repent from their wicked ways. But Jonah didn’t want to go, he didn’t want God to forgive these people. What about you, do you want the likes of Arthur Anderson and other accountants forgiven? What about Ken Lay, the CEO of Enron, who claims he didn’t know what was going on? Or even Martha Stewart, who most likely, with the help of inside information made 1/4 of a million dollars by selling a stock that was about to nose-dive . . . how about forgiving them. Have you noticed the size of their homes?
Because of some of their actions, you and I have lost $1,000’s of dollars. In the same way, Jonah did not want God to forgive the people of Nineveh.
If you recall, in chapter 1, Jonah heard the word of God, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it," but Jonah rejected it and ran. He jumped on a ship headed in the other direction. God didn’t let Jonah get away, so He sent a huge storm, ultimately leading Jonah to implore the sailors to throw him overboard. So they cast him into the sea after praying to God to forgive them for harming Jonah. The moment Jonah hit the water, the sea stopped its raging, and these pagan idol worshiping crew members, came to know the Lord. They worshiped Him and vowed to serve him. In the midst of this prophet’s disobedience, a whole ship’s crew came to know the Lord.
So a great fish is appointed by God to swallow Jonah and he was in the belly of this fish for 3 days & nights. During this time he prayed to the Lord and praised Him.
One of the miracles is the fact that the fish didn’t digest Jonah, but he vomited him onto the dry land, and Jonah was probably like a beached whale, wondering which way to Nineveh!! And that is where we continue this morning.
One of the things that is clear in the book of Jonah and really throughout the Bible, is that God is a God of 2nd chances, in fact maybe it would be more accurate to suggest He is a God of almost unlimited chances. I’ll explain that in a few minutes. Jonah received a 2nd chance and so do the people of Nineveh, and think about how many times in our lives we have messed up. . . and pleaded with God to forgive us and we come to the amazing understanding . . . that God has forgiven us.
Pastor John Ortberg wrote, "Redeeming is what God is into. He is the finder of directionally-challenged sheep, the searcher of missing coins, the embracer of foolish prodigal children. His favorite department is ‘Lost and Found.’ If there is one way that human beings consistently underestimate God’s love, it is perhaps in His loving longing to forgive."
Jonah finally arrives at Nineveh and he finds a city of about 200,000 people going about their business. As he looks around, he sees temples, shrines and statues. These people believed in sea gods, moon gods, rain gods, sex gods and you name it, they had a god for it. And they were serious about their worship and religion. However, they were slaves to their gods, because their idols were unforgiving. If there was no rain, they assumed the gods were angry. Of course, there was no rhyme or reason for the reactions of their gods, for a simple reason, the gods had no power.