Summary: The Fourth Series in the summer 2008 Series God is.
(The sermon began with the Reader’s Theater piece ‘Who, Them?’ published by Carson-Dellosa Christian Publishing.)
Our main text for this morning is Jonah 4 verses 9 through 12, let us hear the word of God this morning.
‘Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”
“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. And a plant is only, at best, short lived. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
(Slide 1) Whatever one believes about Jonah, you have to admit, it is a ‘whale of a story.’ Why? Because many people find it hard to swallow. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason the Lord allowed the whale to spit Jonah out was that it was tired of all the belly aching.
But one thing’s for sure… Jonah did have a ‘whale’ of an attitude! And what’s even more for sure, is that if we are truly honest, we often same the same attitudes as Jonah did when confronted with God’s call to reach out to those who need God.
I think that Jonah is probably the most human of all the Old Testament prophets. Now please don’t get me wrong, all of the prophets were human and had their strengths and weaknesses just as we do. But there is something about Jonah that I can relate (unfortunately) to more than Isaiah or Jeremiah or Hosea or Habakkuk and that is that I sometimes get afraid and even weary of reaching out to those who need God in their lives and love them like God would have me love them. This is not the place that I need to be and it is not the attitude I should have as a follower of Christ.
Is it true of you?
This is the fourth message in our summer sermon series, God is.
In the first sermon (way back in June), we visited with the Israelites’ in the desert, remember? ‘What has God done for us lately?’ There we were reminded that God is our provider.
In the second sermon, we visited David as he prepared for battle with Goliath and we were told that God is our defender as He is our power, strength, and hope.
In the third sermon, we stopped to visit King Solomon as he dealt with a difficult issue regarding the maternity of a child and we were reminded that God is the giver of many gifts, including wisdom. So, God is a provider, a defender, and a gift giver. What do we learn about God from Jonah?
Before I answer that question, I want to ask each of us this morning to think about this question, (Slide 2) ‘Why did Jonah run from God?’
As the story opens, we find Jonah on the run as soon as God tells him to go to Nineveh and ‘Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.’ Maybe Jonah ran because he did not want to be such an announcer of judgment. I really don’t think that any of us do, do we. But it is still not clear that is the reason Jonah ran from God.
As the story continues, we come to the place where Jonah confesses to a ship’s petrified crew and passengers that he is the reason for the storm. As they question him, Jonah agrees with them that he is the reason for the storm and that they should throw him overboard and all will be well. They eventually throw Jonah over board and the storm ends, which amazes the crew and they make a decision to worship Jonah’s God. But in their questioning of Jonah, they do not find out why Jonah is running from God.
Jonah’s next stop on his amazing journey is in the belly of a giant fish for three days and three nights. Many people dismiss this story as a fable and perhaps from a scientific perspective it would be hard to survive inside a large fish due the chemical compounds that digestive tracts required. But, people have survived some rather unusual and miraculous experiences. Yet even in the belly of the great fish (most likely a whale) we do not know why Jonah has run away from God.
But it is there that Jonah runs out of options. He remembers God, he returns to God, and he repents to God… and God releases Jonah from the belly of the whale.
Jonah then obeys the Lord, goes to Nineveh, and proclaims God’s judgment and the people of Nineveh repent of their sins and turn to God. It is only then, after this takes place, and we turn to chapter 4, do we get a glimpse of why Jonah ran from God who told Jonah to go to Nineveh.