Summary: A first person narrative sermon in which the person of Jonah encourages his hearers to share God’s saving message with an attitude of compassion.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,
Today we consider what our Lord says to us through the prophet Jonah.
Dear friends in Jesus, the Messiah,
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you concerning my work as a missionary and evangelist. My name is Jonah, the son of Amittai. Many of you may have heard about my experience inside the great fish, which some have mislabeled a whale. Yet if you have read my short book of four chapters, between Obadiah and Micah in the Scriptures, you realize that the greatest miracle I write about is not how the Lord used the fish to save me. The greatest miracle is how the Lord used his message of judgment and compassion to save the people of Nineveh. He did that despite my sinful, selfish attitude in bringing his message.
So today I would like to encourage you to see how the Lord can use you to share his message with those around you. First of all, I want to encourage you not, NOT, to follow my sinful attitude of selfishness as you think about those who need to hear of Jesus. Secondly, I want to encourage you to boldly share God’s great message, which is for you, for me, for all sinners.
1) My sinful attitude of selfishness
It is hard to admit ones own sins and failures. Yet the Lord has brought me to see how selfish, loveless, and bigoted I was in my actions. I share this with you so that you can learn from my example and fight against those sins before they lead you done the deadly path I followed.
When the Lord first called me to go to Nineveh, I did not want to go. It wasn’t so much laziness or being caught up in my day to day life or fear of what they might do to me. I just did not want those people to learn about the true God. They were the Assyrians, mind you. They were the people that had hurt my country, enslaved some of my fellow citizens, and extracted tribute from all of us. Now they had weakened and we we’re finally coming out from under their yoke. They didn’t deserve to hear God’s Word. And what would my friends think of me, if I tried helping those people? No. In my sinful, selfish attitude I did not want them to hear God’s Word. Then they might repent and the Lord might have compassion on them. I didn’t want that.
So I ran away. I got on a boat heading to the opposite end of the Mediterranean world. Because of my sinful attitude, I deserved for the Lord to send me to the depths of hell. When the sailors through me overboard to save themselves and the ship, I should have died. I should’ve died and gone to hell.
But the Lord showed compassion to me. He sent that great fish and kept me alive in it’s belly for three days and nights. Blessed be the name of the Lord, who saves!
Yet I still hadn’t learned my lesson. I did go and preach in Nineveh as the Lord had commanded me. But my attitude was still selfish and sinful. When I saw the people repenting and knew that the Lord would not destroy the city because the people now believed in him, I became angry. I went out of the city and prayed in anger, “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” (Jonah 4:2, 3 NIV).
Once again the Lord compassionately called me to repentance. As I sat out their in the desert, waiting, hoping for the Lord to destroy the city, he made a vine grow to help shade me from the sun. Early the next morning, though, God sent a worm to chew the vine so that it dried up. When the sun rose and God sent a scorching wind, I was miserable and angry. God asked me, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” I said. But then the Lord replied, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. . . 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?” (Johan 4:10, 11)