ANYWHERE BUT NINEVEH
1. A city slicker pulled up to a farmhouse. He saw a farmer's wife on the front porch.
2. He pointed down the road; "Can I get to Quincy that way?" "Yep." "How far is it?" "25,000 miles!"
3. "What?" How far is it the other way?" "3 miles. It just depends on which way you want to go," she said.
4. We’re going to read about a guy who decided to go the long way.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. 4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 …But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” 7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) 11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” 12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. 17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. 2:10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. 3:1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jon. 1:1-7,9-12,15-17; 2:10; 3:1-2 NIV.
C. PICTURE OF RUNNING FROM GOD
1. Many people find it difficult to take the book of Jonah seriously because they don't believe a man could be swallowed by a whale and live to tell the story. The following is the account of a modern-day man who underwent a similar experience. It was recorded in the Princeton Theological Review, volume 25, 1927, p. 636.
In February 1891, the whaling ship Star of the East was in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands and sighted a large sperm whale 3 miles away. Two boats were launched. One of the boats attacked the whale but was upset by the lash of its tail. One man was drowned and another man, James Bartley, disappeared. The whale was killed and pulled to the side of the ship where a crew with axes and spades removed the blubber. They worked all day and part of the night. The next morning they removed the stomach and hoisted it onto the deck. The sailors were startled when, among the contents of the stomach, was found the missing sailor, doubled up and unconscious. He was laid on the deck and washed down with seawater which revived him… He remained two weeks I raving lunatic… At the end of the third week he had entirely recovered from shock and resumed his duties. He later recounted his experience of being swallowed, being inside the stomach, where he could easily breathe but the heat was terrible. His skin was exposed to the gastric juices and his face, neck and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness and never fully recovered their normal appearance. Otherwise his health did not seem affected by his terrible experience.
2. Jonah means "A Dove.” Jonah is a picture of the Believer. The name, Amittai, means "My Truth."
3. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Genesis 10:11-12 tells us it was built by Nimrod, an evil despot. Jonah 4:11 says it had 120,000 inhabitants. It was approximately 48 miles across. Its moral character was comparable to Sodom & Gomorrah - "Their wickedness is come up before Me" Jon. 1:1; Gen. 18:20-21.
4. "Rose up to flee" – reason? 4:2, Jonah knew God would have mercy if they repented. "Tarshish" = Southwest Spain.
5. So Nineveh and Tarshish were on opposite ends of the Mediterranean Sea, 2200 miles apart.
6. The Day you begin disobeying God:
a. You begin paying the price.
b. You can never sit still. You're on the run. There's no peace or rest.
c. God is sending a Storm!
7. It even seemed that God was assisting Jonah in his rebellion: when he went to Joppa a ship was waiting to take him to Tarshish!
8. But a convenient escape isn’t evidence God has changed His mind! " There’s a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” Prov. 16:25.
I. WHAT NINEVAH REPRESENTS
A. A PLACE WE DON’T WANT TO GO
1. Nineveh represents the place God wants you to go, that you don't want to go to.
2. Something God wants you to give up or surrender – some bad habit you love or a person that’s not good for you.
3. It may be a Calling/ Ministry God is calling you to – but you’re afraid to answer the call. Your Nineveh may be a person God wants you to witness to, but you’re afraid.
4. "I wouldn't mind going to Hawaii, Paris, or London; but I don't want to go to Uganda." (Renee is going there)
5. It might be to mend a broken relationship, to forgive someone who’s hurt you – and you’d rather not.
B. NINEVAH MAY BE A CROSS GOD CALLS YOU TO BEAR, AND YOU DON’T WANT TO
1. To stay in an unhappy marriage;
2. To remain at a job you despise;
3. To endure an illness that saps your strength;
4. Or a problem that won’t go away.
1. Like the woman who was bitten by a rabid dog and it looked like she was going to die of rabies. The doctor told her to put her final affairs in order.
2. So the woman took pen and paper and began writing furiously. Finally the doctor said, "That sure is a long will your making."
3. She snorted, "I’m not making a Will! I'm making a list of all the people I'm going to bite!"
II. REASONS FOR NOT GOING TO NINEVAH
A. JONAH PROB. HAD GOOD REASONS 4 NOT GOING
1. Nineveh was a pagan, wicked city. Would they want to hear the bad news that they had 40 days left?
2. Useless to Preach to them. They don't know about God. They have no sense of right or wrong. They won't respond.
3. “They’re enemies of our people. I don't want them getting blessed by God. It will make them stronger against us.”
B. OUR REASONS FOR NOT GOING TO OUR NINEVEHS (we can always justify ourselves!)
1. Obeying will make us UNPOPULAR with some people. You’d have to end some relationships, quit dating some people…
2. It may COST ME – financially, grades. “If I surrender…
a. Then I must pay tithes, offerings.
b. Can't cheat on tests or taxes.
c. Can't rip off Walmart, making returns for things a-year-old.
3. Going to Nineveh MAY NOT MAKE SENSE.
a. It seems foolish. [It requires faith & trust in God]
b. Goes contrary to accepted wisdom, natural thinking.
Praise God when imprisoned?
Dig ditches in the desert?
Not be alarmed by grave dangers (armies?)
c. God is wiser; He knows the future. It requires faith to trust God.
4. Doing the wrong thing USUALLY SEEMS EASIER. It looks easier to go to Tarshish than Nineveh. Satan makes sure that it's harder to do the right thing. It's easier to run away from our problems.
III. ONLY 2 OPTIONS: NINEVAH OR TARSHISH
A. ONLY 2 CITIES ON JONAH’S MAP
1. There was Nineveh, the city he could go and have:
a. Fellowship with God;
b. Be in the center of God's will.
2. There was also Tarshish,
a. At the end of a rebel’s road;
b. If he walked there, it would be without the Fellowship of the God he had disobeyed.
B. ONLY 2 CITIES ON YOUR MAP
1. The Nineveh of obedience and the Tarshish of disobedience. Are you going to Nineveh or Tarshish?
2. I don't claim to know where your Nineveh is. Maybe across the ocean, on some mission field. Or it may be in your home, to win your wayward husband. But wherever it is, if you're there, you'll feel the joy of God's Fellowship and know that you're in God's will.
3. Or you may go to Tarshish, the city of:
a. "Have it your own way."
b. "Do as you please."
c. "Take it easy."
4. It is the City which has NO:
a. Garden of Gethsemane;
b. No hill called Calvary;
c. A city without a Cross;
d. Yet it’s a city where people seldom sing and often sob, for "The way of the transgressor is hard."
5. It's a City where dwells Cain’s murder, Saul’s disobedience, Amnon’s lust, Gehazi’s greed, Haman’s unforgiveness, Ananias & Sapphira’s lies, Judas’ treachery, and Satan's pride.
6. Is that really where you want to go? You may be at that place – out of the will of God and not distressed, not alarmed. That's a very dangerous place to be!
IV. DANGER OF SPIRITUAL INDIFFERENCE
A. CREW ALARMED
1. No ordinary storm; it was of divine origin.
2. Braggards -- tough guys who were used to storms, yet they trembled!
B. JONAH ASLEEP IN DISOBEDIENCE
1. Asleep while in the Greatest Peril! Unaware that death was only moments away. The storms of life are about to overwhelm him.
2. Asleep & Endangering His own Crew!
a. Not only bringing danger on himself, but on those around him.
b. How many endanger their families because of their disobedience? He slept calmly on!
3. Asleep while others Called on God!… Men that didn't even know God!
4. Asleep while multitudes of lost people hung under the doom of judgment. Nineveh and its vast population were dying without salvation. Jonah was asleep! The captain shouted at him, "Wake up and Pray!" How many sleeping prophets are here and dopey saints?
C. THE REASON YOU’RE HERE
1. There is an old story about a lighthouse keeper who worked on a rocky stretch of coastline. Once a month he would receive a new supply of oil to keep the light burning so that ships could safely sail near the rocky coast.
2. One night, though, a woman from a nearby village came and begged him for some oil to keep her family warm. Another time a father asked for some to use in his lamp. Another man needed to lubricate a wheel.
3. Since all the requests seemed legitimate, the lighthouse keeper tried to please everyone and grant the requests of all.
4. Toward the end of the month, he noticed his supply of oil was dangerously low. Soon it was gone, and one night on the light on the lighthouse went out.
5. As a result, that evening several ships were wrecked and countless lives were lost. When the authorities investigated, the man was very apologetic. He told them he was just trying to be helpful with the oil.
6. Their reply to his excuses, however, was simple and to the point: "You were given oil for one purpose, and one purpose only - to keep that light burning!"
[James Emory White, Rethinking the Church (Baker Books, 1997), 27-28.]
7. We Christians have a similar commission. There’s no end to the demands placed on our time and resources. But the main reason God has given you the Oil of the Spirit is to be a Beacon to the perishing and not squander it for other purposes!
A. ILLUSTRATION: Power of the gospel
1. A mission’s worker was distributing gospel literature in a remote village in India. After a long day, he was on his way back to his starting point where they had a camp.
2. But on his way back through the village, he saw a teenager distributing printed messages to the exact same homes he had already been to and then he saw that the literature was exactly the same.
3. "Surely," he thought, "the organizers didn't send two people to do the same job!" But the boy told him what had happened.
4. He had seen the gospel worker distributing literature, and since he thought it must be evil propaganda, the boy followed the evangelist around, collecting every piece of literature distributed.
5. He was then about to set them on fire when he realized he hadn't read them. As he read one, he was so moved that he gave his heart to Christ!
6. He was so excited that he went back through the village and redelivered all the literature back to the huts adding his own endorsement that it was true! [World Literature Crusade]
7. Sounds like Jonah, who at first said he wouldn’t go, but later did!
B. REST OF THE STORY
1. “They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.” If lots were cast today, would it fall on you?
2. Jonah repented and God forgave him. Praise the Lord, when we fail, God doesn't kick us out, but works with us.
C. YOUR DESTINATION
1. You're going to Nineveh or Tarshish: Which?
2. You can sleep; you can ignore God. But God loves you enough to send a storm to get your attention.
3. Good news? You can avoid the Storm and the Whale. Repent now – "turnabout, change course."
4. If you want to change course, join me at the front.