Summary: How God’s compassion reaches out to all people.
Iliff & Saltillo UM Churches
February 16, 2003
Identify with God’s Heart for the World
How to: Become a World Class Christian
INTRODUCTION: We are all probably more like Jonah than we want to admit. When God calls us to do something we don’t especially want to do, we make an excuse or we try to keep God at a comfortable distance by becoming indifferent to his nudges, by packing our lives up to the brim with “acceptable” busyness, by going in the opposite direction entirely, or by disassociating ourselves from people who “remind us” about God.
Jonah was a prophet. He was supposed to go preach the gospel to people, but when Jonah got this message from God, he said, “No Way. Not to these people. They don’t deserve it.”
Just who were the people of Nineveh? Why did he feel this way?
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. There were 120,000 people there. The Assyrians were evil, wicked people who were Israel’s most dreaded enemy. They threatened Israel and eventually conquered it in 722 B. C. The Israelites had many reasons to hate the proud Ninevites. The Assyrians flaunted their power before God and the world. They were known for their heartless cruelty. Israel lived in fear of these terrorists for years. Jonah hated the Assyrians and wanted vengeance, not mercy. When Jonah heard God tell him to go to pronounce judgment upon them within 40 days if they didn’t repent, he headed out of town immediately--but went in the opposite direction. He headed for Tarshish 2000 miles away. If he wasn’t available, how could he do the assignment? What would you have done? Would you have excused yourself and then justified it by saying, “they didn’t deserve it anyway.”
Jonah knew that God had this special project for him, but he just didn’t want to do it. What is your attitude toward those who are especially wicked? Do you want them destroyed? What about the people we have been hearing about on the news for the last few months? Do we consider them outside the sphere of God’s grace?
When Jonah got back from his unsuccessful trip toward Tarshish, God gave him a second chance. Sometimes God gives us a lot more chances than that. God was not ready to write the Ninevites off just yet.
STORY: A man hated his wife’s cat and he decided to get rid of it. He drove 20 blocks away from home and dropped the cat off. The cat was already walking up the driveway when he got back home.
The next day he decided to drop the cat 40 blocks away but the same thing happened. He kept on increasing the number of blocks but the cat kept on coming home before him.
At last he decided to drive a few miles away, turn right, then left, past the bridge, then right again and another right until he reached what he thought was a perfect stop and dropped the cat off there.
Hours later the man called his wife at home and asked her, “Jen is the cat there?”
“Yes, why do you ask?”
Frustrated, the man said, “Put that cat on the phone. I’m lost and I need directions.”(source unknown)
Jonah didn’t need any directions. He knew exactly how to get to Nineveh--he just didn’t want to go--what he needed was the willingness of heart to just go and do it.
Jonah had become completely indifferent to the fate of God’s creation outside of Israel. Israel thought that they were better and yet they refused to obey the Lord. The Jews didn’t want to share God’s message with the Gentiles. Jonah thought that God shouldn’t freely give salvation to such wicked people. This attitude has been common within the church. Are we like this? Most of the time we would quickly say, “No way. I love everyone,” but just when we say that, God gives us a test--he brings some person across our pathway and we find out how loving and kind we really are. The God of Israel was the God of the whole world.
1. Jonah Went Reluctantly: We are like this a lot of times. “OK, Lord, I’ll do it, but I sure don’t want to.” Jonah did not go to these people wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. On the first day Jonah proclaimed his message. “Forty more days is all you have and Nineveh will be destroyed.” Jonah was not proclaiming the Lord to hose that didn’t know Him. There was no indication that Jonah made any effort to reach the royal presence. This was probably because he didn’t want anyone in authority to make a decree that would cause the people to repent. The king heard about it after awhile. (vs.6). “When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh. The decree said “...let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (vs. 8) “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (v. 10).