Summary: Summary: "It’s easier for God to get 120,000 pagans to do His will than one believer". A sermon preached at Winchester Cathedral.
Jonah. Jonah 3:10- 4:25. Winchester Cathedral 6/9/3 3.30pm
Everyone loves a story with a twist. An unexpected ending. A sting in the tale
- that’s what Jonah is
- the story is surprising to us- but even more so to it’s original audience: Jews. Because of who the heroes and ‘bad guys’ are in it
The Heroes of this passage…. Those who come out well- are the Assyrians!
- Nineveh was the capital of Assyria.
o World power 8C BC, prior to the Babylonian empire of 7C BC (both of which are within modern day Iraq)
- Known for their atrocities. They really did skin people alive and eat babies, apparently!
Particularly unlikely heroes from a Jewish perspective as
- conquered Samaria, the capital of the N Kingdom of the Jews (Israel) in 722 BC
o deported an tortured all their best people
o re-populated the area with Assyrians who interbred with the remaining Jews > Samaritans. (Hated hybrid)
Jonah had good reason for
- wanting them judged. Not liking them
- thinking they wouldn’t listen
Ah…. But there you go. God’s ways are not our ways. He alone knows the heart of people
- their -openness
- speed of response
- depth of repentance to Jonah’s message is remarkable.
JNH 3:6 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. 7 Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:
"By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."
- all 120,000 of them!
How quick we are to think that people won’t listen… or don’t want to listen. To put people in boxes.
- but, of course…. Only God knows…. And we only know when we go to them and reach out to them
o Illustr: Went into house last week. Into Fen-shui and all kinds of stuff. Thought ‘how hard it is to get through to people nowadays, they just aren’t interested in our Lord’
“What’s this Alpha course? I think my wife would like to come on that”
Of course- there are many different ways people show their interest, and ways in which they can learn… but we won’t know until we go to them, talk with them… and not be quick to pigeon-hole them
Sadly- this can be something we do with our Lord’s church:
- there’s US and THEM. That’s okay for you to do it YOUR way… we do it GOD’S way!
o None of us are worse at this than the bappo church, sometimes!
- Ah! But are you trying to follow our Lord Jesus Christ?
o Then you are my brother. My sister. And God doesn’t care HOW you do it, and neither do I. let’s journey together.
But it’s not just how they react that offends Jonah. It’s how God reacts:
God reacts with characteristic grace and compassion
- it’s in His nature.
- Ex 34;6 The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
This is what riles Jonah so much
- the outrageousness of God’s grace. “You can love and forgive THEM?!”
o he always suspected God was good, forgiving, gracious
now he knows it… and he’s really mad
Yes- Jonah is the one who doesn’t come out to well in this story
The story contrasts:
- the Assyrian’s rapid response to Jonah’s reluctance and disobedience
o he is a true prophet. But he is a reluctant one. Slow to obey!
- God’s graciousness with Jonah’s grumpiness that God
o Cares for the whole world
o Is eager to forgive
We can be of the opinion that God, Himself, is quick and eager to exclude people
- but he’s not. He is eager to include ALL who will
o like the prodigal’s Father- he runs to them with his garment tucked into his belt.
The contrast between the well-meaning Jonah and the Lord God Almighty is illustrated in a vine:
- Jonah likes the vine (Missionaries in Chad and Lebanon. How they value the shade!)
o It, personally, saves him form the heat of the day
o He gets quite attached to it…
…. But God says “it’s a PLANT!”
- “If you love THAT, how much moiré do I love the people who don’t know their right from their left”