Summary: We can sometimes be guilty of being too busy for people. What can we do to go against that trend and be more like Jesus, because its all about people!
Dwight L. Moody once said, “There is no greater honour than to be the instrument in Gods hands of leading one person out of the kingdom of Satan into the glorious light of Heaven.” As believers who have helped someone in that journey you know this is true. What a sense of excitement and fulfilment that comes when you watch someone experience the wonderful love of God through repentance. In the 2000+ years that the church has been in existence, through all the wars and revolutions and through all the inventions and innovations, our challenge has never changed, “go into all the world making disciples.” Are we more concerned with in here or out there? Jonah was given the challenge of bringing deliverance to a whole city, but he let his attitude and emotions influence stop him. How often are we guilty of the same thing? We’re going to look this morning at how God dealt with his heart and how God wants to challenge us this morning to take up this powerful mandate with courage, putting first things first.
Just a bit of background, Nineveh was one of the most ancient cities in history. It was established by Nimrod, the great grandson of Noah and lasted up until 612 BC. At the time of Jonah it was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire who were known for their waring and ruthless conquests. This great city had fallen into disarray, decay and wickedness. For the first time in biblical history we see God sending a prophet of Israel to bring repentance to a gentile nation. A nation that was the world superpower who had for years oppressed the Israelites. I think you can understand Jonah’s unwillingness to help them out. It would be right to say that these were people that Jonah would have hated, but God loved.
1. We’re Inclusive (vs.1-4)
Jonah was getting a first hand glimpse of the Father’s heart by preaching the good news Nineveh. Unfortunately Jonah was a patriot, which isn’t bad until it becomes exclusive. You see Nineveh repenting looked bad on Israel because they refused to. Foreigners embraced God while the Jews rejected Him. He was used to save the nation he hated while the nation he loved was in desperate need of reform. The favour God shown to these Gentiles; they weren’t God’s people, the chosen ones. You can see how Jonah had a rough time with the idea of them being saved; they didn’t deserve it. Could it be that the Jews would be rejected and the Gentiles substituted in their place? This was a radical idea and Jonah wasn’t happy about it.
Jesus, in contrast, knew the father’s heart, which is simply this: nothing matters more than the indiscriminate reclaiming of His children. Jesus taught us to love our enemy. The purpose for all this is to teach us God’s uncompromising love for every race, creed, colour and gender (Luke 19:10). There is no one that our God does not love, that can’t always be said for us. We feel like Jonah sometimes, not wanting to show love to some people because they aren’t high on our list of favourite people. The classic phrase, “I love them with the love of the Lord, but I don’t have to like them.” We must be like Jesus and remove all of our love boundaries so that the entire world can be won; radically inclusive.
2. We’re Merciful (vs.5-9)
God makes a plant to grow and spread its leaves in such a way as to give Jonah shade from the heat of the sun. It’s important to note that is says, “and God arranged”, and it was not a result of anything that Jonah did; yet he was glad for it. God then arranged for a worm to come and destroy the plant and then sent a blistering wind with hot sun so that He could teach Jonah a lesson. Jonah was angry before, but now he was fuming, in fact he wanted to die. God simply says to him, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah didn’t merit or deserve the plant and shade; he didn’t plant it, water it, or care for it, yet he gets so angry when it dies. It is so easy to forget mercy when things are going well. He was enjoying something that had been graciously given by the Lord and he got stuck on it being all about him.
When we forget the great price that has been undeservedly paid for us we get into a dangerous place, just as Jonah did. We start to enjoy this place of peace and well being and then when something goes wrong we get upset; its unfair. Like the sun and the clouds, hot and cold, clam and storms; we complain about our discomfort instead of realising God’s greatness and remembering His great mercies that we don’t deserve. They are new every morning, but you have to remember them. Did you wake up this morning deserving your clothes, food, house, family, health, and even breathe? If you think about it God has been very good and even when things seem unfair, God is still good, the redeemer of his children and giver of life. Careful not to fall into the trap of making it about what you think you deserve. We need to remember the mercy shown to us so that we can show mercy. We are to be remarkably merciful.