A TESTAMENT OF TRUST
JONAH 1:1 - JONAH 4:11
The foundation that we would like the world to be built on is trust.
It is the thing that we are asked to do, probably more than anything else.
It is also the thing that is abused more than anything else in the world.
How many times have you heard the words "trust me".
A used car salesman bought some bales of hay once and put some of it in the trunk of the cars he was selling.
He told prospective buyers that his cars were owned by little old ladies who only used them to drive to church on Sunday and lived on a farm during the week.
I met a guy on a city street who rolled up his sleeve and tried to sell me one of the watches on his arm.
They are twenty bucks, and they are not stolen.
He was picked up the next day with stolen watches.
A mother is trying to get a young child to take cough medicine.
She tells him it tastes good.
Someone is going to invest your life savings in a land deal.
All the ocean front property you want.
You just have to be off it when the tide comes in.
He’s got a great deal, Trust me!
A man takes the witness stand in a courtroom on Los Angeles.
He promises to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing bu the truth.
In other words he is saying TRUST ME!!
State your name for the record.
Everywhere we turn we hear people say trust me.
And they betray our trust.
Given the circumstances of our day, it is no wonder the world is skeptical when the church goes to them and says: TRUST ME.
Everytime evangelists like Billy Graham face the world and ask them to "trust me", when the gospel is preached, we are asking them to do something that they are being culturlaly trained not to do.
We are not the first to see this
The attempt to trust goes all the way back to Adam and Eve.
It is also a key concept in the story of Jonah.
Our record of Jonah goes back to II kings 14:25 where we are introduced to him as the son of Amittai, during the reign of Jeroboam II.
The time of his writing is set at 775 - 750 B.C.
This would be at around the time of Amos and Hosea, just before the fall of Israel in 721 B.C.
In fact Jonah would have prophecied during the last positive times of Israel.
Now it would be easy to prophecy to a people about things that are good.
But Jonah was to be sent to a city where the peole were powerful and wicked.
Sin was the order of the day in Ninevah.
The lessons of Jonah are unique in that they centre on the prophet and not on the people.
Basically the people hear and obey.
The one with the problems is Jonah.
The people had no problem when Jonah told them "trust me."
Jonah on the other hand had several problems when God said to him "trust me".
The interesting thing is that it is no different now than it was then.
We all have problems when God says to us "trust me"
Does He not instruct us to trust Him when He teaches us to pray: "Give us this day our daily bread."
Is it not true, that in times of crisis, we depend on our own strength, and then turn to God, when we are told that all that can humanly be done has been done?
Isn’t that the Lesson of 1 Corinthains 1:27,28.
God displays His strength in the things we are too weak to do, because in our strength we do not depend on him.
Today, we are not going to get caught up in the interpretative details of the book.
The historical details of the book have no relevance to the theology of the book.
The book can be divided into four parts:
1. The first call to Jonah
2. The second call to Jonah
3. Ninevah’s reaction to Jonah’s message
4. Jonah’s reaction to Ninevah.
The First Call Of Jonah:
God has often called people to go and do those things which doesn’t seem logical (in human terms)
Jonah was no exception.
For an Israelite to go to Nineveh would be very unpopular indeed.
Israel at one time paid tribute to Assyria.
Jonah also would know of the suffering at the hands of the Assyrians.
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria.
Nineveh was itself was a very great city.
It had a population of over 600,00 people.
The city was over sixty miles through. Jonah 3:3 tells us that the city was three days journey through.
It is easy to see why Jonah was uneasy to go to Nineveh.
Jonah himself has no distinction of greatness.
Nothing of his times made him special.
The only thing that would make him relevent to us, other than his book, is that it is possible that he is the son of the widow of Zarephath.
Zarephath, was the child that Elijah raised from the dead.
He was raised in Galilee in the city of Gath-hepher, located a few miles north of Nazareth.
Jonah’s Message To Nineveh:
To receive a message from the Lord is both exciting and scary.
People have a reluctance to hear those things which they don’t like.
If the message is complicated by having to go to a place like Nineveh, then I would be concerned as well.
The flaw of humanity is that we fail to see God as the protector of the messenger as well as the deliverer of the message.
In this case the messanger is the key, his message secondary.
As a result Jonah tries to get away.
Well, shame on him to run from the call of God.
If Him, then shame on us all, for we all run from the call of God in one way or another.
To run from God is not an uncommon thing at all.
How many times did we say no to accepting Christ before the time we actually did.
Jonah gets on a boat and heads toward Tarshish.
A great storm arises, which Jonah is sleeping through until He is awakened by the captain.
In it is a testimony to Yahweh.
Their gods could not stop the storm.
Instead, they turn to the God who created the storm in the first place.
Eventually Jonah is thrown into the sea, and the sea becomes calm.
The power of God is shown to those on the boat, and the one who God wants to deal with is on his own.
You can’t run from God.
But you must surrender because you want to as well.
To run from God is sin, and there needs to be an attitude of repentance.
Jonah needed the great fish.
The Great Fish:
Jonah was now in the sea, probably far from shore.
Without help, he was doomed to die.
Sometime we think of the fish as a problem, or a punishment.
But verse 17 tells us that God provided the fish for Jonah.
For three days and nights Jonah was in the belly of the fish.
There are those who identify this with the death and resurrection of Christ.
But note verse 2.
Jonah called to God before he was thrown into the sea.
Now the sea in Greek thought has always shwon separation.
That’s why revelation 21:1 says there will be no sea.
It means there will be no separation.
Jonah’s being thorwn into the sea symbolized the separation of God and Jonah.
The fish was actually God reaching down and saving not only the physical life, but also the spiritual life of Jonah.
By the end of the second chapter, Jonah’s thoughts were switched to thanksgiving.
Look at verses 7-10.
There is evangelism revisited
When his life was ebbing away, I remembered you.
Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
This world holds on to their various ideas of how to have eternal life, and in doing so forfeit the only way they can have eternal life.
When he was right spiritually God gave the command, and the fish vomited Jonah into dry land.
Don’t ever think that making things right with God will be easy or clean.
The Second Call To Jonah:
We need to understand something about the call of God.
It is a privilege and not a right.
Those who don’t deserve to be used, namely all of us, are the ones that God uses as his agents time and time again.
Ours is not to question why God chose to send Jonah and not someone else.
It could be that God whats us to concentrate on the messenger and not so much on his message in this case.
On this second call, Jonah did as he was told.
He made the warning and the people heeded.
They fasted and prayed.
The king put on sackcloth and ashes and ask God to forgive us.
Let us trust him to forgive us.
The Results Of The Message:
The results of Jonah’s message was that the people repentsed.
It was just before the prophecies of Amos and Hosea.
What was interesting was the way that Jonah responded to the Ninevites.
He was angry.
The people responded to the message of God.
It would be the same as Billy Graham being angry that people responded to the invitation.
God again provided for his servant.
This time a vine to provide him shelter.
It was in fact a time to escape for awhile as God wanted to deal with his messenger.
He gave the vine, and then he took the vine with a worm.
Jonah was angry that the vine was gone.
He hadn’t taken care of it.
He didn’t water it, and yet he was mad that God took it away from him.
He couldn’t figure God out.
He gave no destruction to the people of Nineveh, and yet punished the messenger by taking his shade.
Let me conclude with the answer, as it brings this whole subject into context.
Israel was not just God’s chosen people, but they were his chosen people to present the gospel to the world. (Gen. 12:2,3)
Because the gospel is to be shared with the entire world, we can’t choose who we will share with, and those we will not.
The great commission is to go into all the world, preaching and malking disciples.
Even to our Ninevehs.
Thus God asks him a question twice in chapter four.
In verse 4,and nine God asks:
"Have you any right to be angry?"
The message is to the attitude of the messenger, as well as to the message.
Our attitude must not be to the sin of those we speak to, but must center on the fact save for the grace of God, we would walk in their same shoes.
Jonah was a product of the same grace and mercy that God showed to Nineveh.
God deals with us all in chapter four.
We all have petty things that make us angry.
Why do we keep helping people if they don’t help themselves?
These people are just using us when they need us.
Let me remind you the church is here to be used and abused.
The world walks where once we did.
Have we any right to get angry because they wa;lk where once we did?
Our churches often have our eyes on our churches and not on people.
We have become a convenient middle class to upper middle class institution.
Many of our churches are not equipped for those that are physically challenged.
And few of us would know how to welcome a person who was mentally challenged.
Just as Jonah was angry we are angry that they would dare come to church.
God brings us down with the same thump that he did with Jonah.
He ends with a question that should always be on our hearts.
God tells Jonah in a rebuke:
You are more concerned about a plant than the people of Nineveh.
Nineveh has more than 120,000 children in Nineveh.
Should I not be concerned about that great city?
Are our eyes on the physical things of this world rather than on the people?
Have we become so concerned about keeping the doors of our churches open, that we forget there are people who need the Lord?
People the church today is looking at the plant and not Nineveh.
And God is telling us that He needs to be concerned about the lost people of the world, because the church is not.
We need a spiritual attitude adjustment in a bad way.
We need to listen to God as He says "trust me."
We need to tell the world "Trust Him".