Summary: Three simple truths we learn from Jonah
FRUIT OF FAITHFULNESS
John was born in London on July 24, 1725. His father was the captain of a merchant ship and his mother died of tuberculosis when he was young. In 1744 he was forced into military service on a man-of-war, the H. M. S. Harwich. Finding conditions on board intolerable, he deserted but was soon recaptured, publicly flogged and demoted to common seaman. Finally at his own request he was exchanged into service on a slave ship, which took him to the coast of Sierra Leone. He became the servant of a slave trader and was brutally abused. Early in 1748 he was rescued and ultimately became captain of his own slave trade ship.
On May 10, 1748 he was traveling homeward in his ship the Greyhound when they encountered a violent storm. When all seemed lost and the ship was taking on water he cried out to God and exclaimed, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” God spared his life. For the rest of his life he observed this day as the anniversary of his conversion, a day in which he subjected his will to a higher power. John Newton would later go on to write Amazing Grace. “Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ’tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” Eventually, John Newton left the slave trading business, and over a period of time, he became a minister. For the last 43 years of his life, he was a preacher in the Church of England. Right before he died, he said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”
The Bible and history is full of stories of how God used sinful imperfect people to bring about positive change and blessing in the world. We are continuing in our series in Jonah, an imperfect person who God used to save a city. Today we come to chapter 3
Jonah 3:1-10 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.
This is just another example of an ordinary person who made a terrible mistake but was still able to be used by God to do amazing things. Today you may be here and thinking “yes, but Jonah was still a prophet. Yes he made a mistake, but it wasn’t a big mistake. God could still use a person like Jonah, but not me. I am too far gone…”
Today as we look at the story of Jonah I want to also look at the life of another man, a story that comes from the New Testament. If ever there was ever anyone in the Bible that we could say had gone beyond the reach of God’s love and mercy, it was this man;
Luke 8:30 Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. 32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 "Return home and tell how much God has done for you." So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.