Summary: Rebellion against God’s will can have serious consequences but God can rescue and restore us when we turn back to him.
Friday night Jody and I went with some friends out for dinner. There is nothing unusual about that but these friends have a boat and they wanted to take their boat and ride in it from Concord Marina down the Tennessee River to Lenoir City at a marina at the Ft Loudon Dam. It sounded like a wonderful outing to us. The ride down was wonderful and the meal was good. But, not long after we launched for the return we began to hear thunder and see lightning. It got closer and closer until we were right in the middle of a terrible storm. Hard blowing rain. Lightning striking all around us. I thought about Jonah. I wondered if we would make it. My friend Joe asked if I had seen the movie, “The Perfect Storm.” That boat didn’t make it. I prayed. We made it.
Last week we began a series in the small OT book of Jonah. It is only 48 verses long, not more than a couple pages near the end of the Old Testament. Last Sunday, my message was titled “The Risk of Running from God.” We dealt mostly with chapter one. God had told Jonah, the prophet, to go to Ninevah and preach. He hated the Ninevites and ran in the opposite direction. He booked passage on a ship west toward Tarshish when he was supposed to be going overland east toward Ninevah. But, you can’t run from God and prosper. Something always happens. God sent a storm. The ship was about to sink and everyone on board about to perish. That’s when Jonah got tossed overboard when it was discovered that he was the guilty one. The sea was calmed and the ship spared, but not Jonah. Jonah hit rock bottom. He was dead in the water.
The title of today’s message is “After you hit rock bottom.” Maybe you have been there. Maybe you can identify with Jonah. For Jonah there was a Sad Justice, followed by a Severe Mercy.
I. A SAD JUSTICE (1:10-16)
A. Jonah’s Demise (10-11). Jonah had been on a downward path (Down to Joppa, down to the ship, down to the bottom of the ship, away from God.) These sailors wanted to help him. They ask, “What shall we do for you?” It was a second chance to get right with God. Jonah says no to God again.
B. Jonah’s Decision (12). Basically, Jonah decided that he would rather die than obey God. He said, “Throw me overboard!” His life was a wreck. He just wanted to end it.
C. Jonah’s Destruction (1:17, 2:3,5-6a). When we step away from God, we are on the road to destruction. The more stubborn we are the more difficult life becomes. One bad decision leads to another.
Illus.- Bishop James Pike was an Episcopal Priest who became a well known Bishop several years ago. But he began to deny or at least question basic doctrines of the church such as the virgin birth of Christ. There were charges of heresy but no trial. He was permitted to continue as Bishop. He developed a drinking problem and joined AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). He went through three marriages. One son committed suicide. Bishop Pike drifted into the occult and claimed to have made contact with his departed son through a medium. Finally, he left the church and died.
If we were God, this book would probably have only one chapter. Jonah rebelled and got what he deserved. The end. But God doesn’t usually do things the way we would.
II. A SEVERE MERCY (1:17-2:10)
Jonah was fortunate. God chose to deliver him although it was in a most severe fashion. We jokingly tell of the story of Jonah and the whale. It is a favorite children’s story. Many don’t believe the story. Impossible they say. But let me read for you from a story done by the Encyclopedia Britannica. (Read)
Listen to how Charles Swindoll describes Jonah’s experience. “Pitch black. Sloshing gastric juices wash over you, burning skin, eyes, throat, nostrils. Oxygen is scarce and each frantic gulp of air is saturated with salt water. The rancid smell of digested food causes you to throw up repeatedly until you only have dry heaves left. Everything you touch has the slimy feel of the mucous membrane that lines the stomach. You feel claustrophobic. With every turn and dive of the great fish, you slip and slide in the cesspool of digestive fluid. There are no footholds. No blankets to keep you warm from the cold, clammy depths of the sea. For three days and three nights you endure this harsh womb of grace.”
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures but shouts in our pain.” Jonah is in pain. God is shouting. Jonah finally hears. What did he do?