Summary: We all run, we all disobey, we all fall short but in His grace God grants us a second chance just as He did Jonah.
I Am Jonah
Part 3: Let’s Try That Again
Pastor Ryan Akers
3rd week of 4 of our current series entitled I Am Jonah. For those of you who don’t know, Jonah is a prophet of God who went on the run when God commissioned him to go preach a message of repentance to the wicked people of Nineveh. Rather than obeying Jonah flees. He doesn’t go east 500 miles instead he travels west 2000 miles to Spain. During that time, God sends a big storm that threatens to destroy the boat he was on along with all the people on the boat. Jonah tells the men to throw him overboard. The men refuse but they can’t get away so eventually they give in and toss him into the sea where God then provides a big fish to swallow Jonah. That in a nutshell is the first chapter. If that chapter reveals anything to us it’s the dramatic contrast between Jonah and the sailors. He was disobedient to the command of God; they obeyed what God told them to do through Jonah. They prayed frequently and fervently; Jonah did not. They had great compassion on Jonah; he seemingly had none on them. In the end, the pagan sailors repented and believed in God, where as Jonah, the Israelite directly called and commissioned by God, would rather be thrown into the sea to die than to preach a message of repentance to the Ninevites.
Chapter 2, which we covered last week, looks at the Psalm of Jonah. This is the poem he writes sometime after this whole ordeal is over, possibly when he actually wrote this book. He is reflecting on how he felt in the fish and how God rescued him from death. In this chapter we see Jonah start to “get it.” Jonah spent 3 days and nights in the fish and during that time he awakens to the reality that even though he willfully disobeyed, God still chose to rescue him. He repents for his disobedience and gives God the glory for his undeserved deliverance. We call this grace. Grace is unmerited and undeserved favor. God rescues me even though I don’t deserve it. God’s grace and compassion is one of the major themes of this whole book.
Two questions that we can ask. One, why did Jonah risk his life to disobey God’s will? I’ll answer that in a second. The second question which I’ll answer at the end of this sermon is, “Why did God give Jonah a second chance?” The short answer to the first question, why was Jonah so against the Ninevites, is because Jonah didn’t believe the Ninevites deserved the opportunity to receive God’s grace. He believed they deserved God’s wrath and destruction.
I said this week one but just to recap quickly the Ninevites were an incredibly cruel and evil people. They would rape and kill women, torture and murder children. They would skin men alive then bury them in the desert to die of bleeding and dehydration. They would cut the heads off the dead and create pyramids outside cities they had conquered. They were polytheistic meaning they didn’t worship the one true God they worshipped many gods. They were enemies to the Israelites, God’s chosen people. So it is no surprise that Jonah, an Israelite, would have a hard time hopping onto the first camel he saw to go and give these people a way out from the punishment that is waiting for them. But even though we would probably say they deserved to be destroyed that’s not what God desired.
Regardless of how the Ninevites lived there is no justification for Jonah’s willful disobedience to God’s command. In fact Jonah’s disobedience only proved him to be nothing but a hypocrite. Hypocritical because he would say, as a prophet and follower of God’s law, that he believed in God’s grace, God’s love, God’s forgiveness but his actions in this case proved he believed that God’s grace should be extended only to a select few. Only to those who Jonah deemed worthy to receive it. And in his mind that would mean only the chosen people, the Israelites were worthy of that grace, not wicked pagans. The Israelites should be saved, the pagans should die. But God is going to show him first hand a different way. In chapter 3 after running from God and then being swallowed by a fish we see the recommissioning of Jonah. Now, he may have repented for his disobedience and he may be doing what God wants him to do but whether or not his heart is really in it remains to be seen. Just because he is obeying doesn’t mean his hate for the Ninevites has changed. We’ll talk about that when we cover chapter 4.