Summary: This is the third week of our "Hitchhiker" sermon series. When we become overwhelmed... sometimes the best response to give control over to someone who has the power to do something about it! It’s time to give control over to God.
Jonah 3:1 - 4:1 NIV
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." 3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city-- a visit required three days. 4 On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." 5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 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." 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
Switching Drivers – Jonah 3
There was a church once who absolutely loved it’s coffee hour. It was a great time for the congregation to get together… to share… to open up… to have fellowship. So after the sermon every Sunday, the congregation would be excused to the fellowship hall and not a single person would miss the chance for fellowship. As the pastor of the church stood back and admired his congregation sharing with one another, a boy came up to him and said, “Pastor, I think this fellowship time is a really, really smart thing.” “Oh?” replied the pastor, “well I think it is pretty special too.” “Yep,” said the boy, “after your sermon, that coffee is sure good to get em awake for the drive home!”
There are plenty of perils facing drivers, falling asleep at the wheel is only one of them. Going the wrong direction… getting lost… breakdowns… accidents… it’s almost amazing we get anywhere at all. It is for all these reasons and more, that when Craig and I sat down and focused on the book of Jonah… we were consistently drawn back to the idea of a car trip and hitchhiking.
This last week, reflecting on where we’ve been so far… I couldn’t help but think about Jonah in the light of something we are all very familiar with… learning to drive.
How many of you have been in the car with a very young teenager learning to drive. Now that’s a life lesson about not being in control. If you all think it’s scary getting into a car with a 16 year old… in North Dakota… they give licenses out at the age of 14! You know… that means I’ve been driving a whole two years now :p! I should give myself a little more leeway… after this weekend, I look 18. So I’ve been driving 4 years!
Anyway… I remember when my father took me out for my very first drive… he got into the car with me and he tensed up all over. The whole time I was driving… he held on to the car handle with all of his might… and he kept doing the strangest thing… he kept stomping on the floor boards of the car. It wasn’t until years later that I realized he was hitting the imaginary brake on his side of the car. His quiet… careful instructions quickly became not so quiet… not so careful instructions. Until finally, he said… “That’s it. Pull over. I’m driving us home.” It probably doesn’t shock you to learn that it was my mother who taught me how to drive. My father could tell us all a thing or two about how it felt… not being in control.
So when I think about Jonah, I’m reminded of that event with my father. I imagine how Jonah must have felt very much like my father… as everything around him started going wrong… and how the more and more he fought, the worse and worse things got. And finally, we find Jonah, in the belly of a whale… at a breaking point. And he has his little heart to heart with God. God, I’ve felt powerless… I’ve felt hopeless… and here I am… SO far out of the way… SO far gone… I don’t know how I will ever get back! And God says, “How do you think I feel? I’ve been over here clutching the car handle and stomping on the floor board trying to get you to stop this rollercoaster!”