Summary: The sixth message in the 2010 Lenten series

This morning we begin with a few moments of review and reflection. First I am going to review the messages of this Lenten series and then give you a few moments to reflect on this Lenten series by taking time to write out your thoughts for your personal use.

We have spent this Lenten season with Jonah that interesting, and very human, prophet.

(Slide 1) The first Sunday we were introduced to Jonah and we approached Jonah with a reminder of just how challenged we are sometimes with an over abundance of communication, electronic, social, and otherwise these days. An over abundance that makes listening not just to others but to God a very difficult thing to do. Our text was Jonah 1:1-3 and we noted that Jonah “hung up” on God and took off to get away from Him and His request to go to Nineveh and proclaim God’s message to them.

(Slide 2) The second Sunday we went to Jonah 1:4-16 and spent time with Jonah as he dug in his heels and refused to obey God’s message. I suggested this working definition of disobedience:

Refusal to obey is a willful and defiant act of disobedience whereas the failure to obey some times some times comes out of circumstances that prevent full obedience such as when you “fail” to complete your job due to equipment failure (or the unwillingness of a co-worker to do their job!)

Disobedience was the main theme of our time together as we considered how willful disobedience to God’s call affects our relationship with Him, and like Jonah and the ship’s crew, affects our relationship with others.

(Slide 3) On the third Sunday we focused on Jonah 1:17

Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. (NLT)

“God sticks with us” is what we were told and God stuck with Jonah as we heard him pray honestly and earnestly from the belly of a fish.

And it is this kind of praying (Slide 4) that was our focus for our fourth Sunday from Jonah 2:1-10 when I asked the absurd question, Have you ever prayed in/from the belly of a great fish? In that message we were challenged to think about the power of sincerity and persistence in prayer during those “in the belly” moments of life.

(Slide 5) Then, in last week’s message, we were told that there is a second half still to be played even when we have failed. That God wants to give us a second chance as evidenced in Jonah 3:1 “Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time…”

So (Slide 6) here is the question for your reflection this morning, “What has the Lord shown you from the life of Jonah these past six weeks and what are you doing with it?”

Take a few moments and write down your response to that question.

Now as we prepare to hear today’s text from Jonah 3 and verses 5 through 10, I want to talk for a moment about literature. (Huh, PJ?)

When you study the structure of a story, one of things that you study is how the story unfolds, right? You study, discuss, and ponder the implications of plot, character, setting and the like.

One key aspect of studying a story is to study the change in directions of a character’s path, the setting, and other factors that illustrate that a major change may be on the horizon. Climax is the term that is often used to describe the high point of the story when the main character’s life (or story plot) reaches a decision point that affects the rest of the story.

I believe that this third chapter of Jonah is the climactic turn of the entire book for it is here that Jonah, after running away from God’s command to go to Nineveh, gets a second chance. What is he going to do now that the word of the Lord comes to him a second time and says, “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message of judgment I have given you.”

What is Jonah going to do? He tried running once and look where it got him! Nowhere… well at least back to shore.

He can try to run again or he can change his direction. What does he do? Our main text for this morning tells us:

This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they decided to go without food and wear sackcloth to show their sorrow.

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