Summary: This sermon has four points. 1. God's Call Is UNPREDICTABLE, 2. God's Call Is UNCOMFORTABLE, 3. God's Grace Is INCOMPREHENSIBLE, 4. How We respond to God's call MATTERS
Jonah's Journey: The World's Worst Missionary
Today we are going to begin a new study. We are going to make our way through the book of Jonah.
As we begin our journey with Jonah, let’s clarify one point. Jonah is not the hero of the story. God is! At the beginning Jonah is running from God; at the end of the story Jonah is arguing with God. In between Jonah is praying to God and Jonah is preaching for God. But through it all - keep in mind - Jonah is not the hero of the story. God is!
This book is about God and how great His heart is toward people. God is concerned about the people in the city of Nineveh. God always wants to save people. He is in the saving business. That is why God sends Jonah to Nineveh. He wants to see them saved. The story also tells us that God shows compassion for prodigal sons and daughters who run away from Him. God never gives up on Jonah, not even when Jonah runs away from God and not even when Jonah sits under a vine and pouts because he's mad at God.
As we begin this study - let me give you three facts about the book of Jonah:
1. The book of Jonah is a SHORT story
There are only four chapters in the book of Jonah. It contains 48 verses - just over 1300 words. You can read it in about 15 minutes. Yet it is a powerful story about the heart of God.
2. The book of Jonah is a TRUE story
Contrary to the critics and skeptics, I believe this story is recorded historical truth. That is - there really was a man named Jonah who spoke with God. Jonah really did flee to Tarshish. Jonah really was swallowed whole by a great sea creature. Jonah really did survive three days in the creature's belly. Jonah actually went to Nineveh and preached to the people there. It’s all true, just the way it was written. It’s not a myth. It is not a legend. It is not a fable or a parable. Jonah
is a true historical story.
Some may say, "Pastor Tom, how can you believe that this story is true?" Well let me tell you - in the Bible we find that Jesus believed that Jonah was a real person. In Matthew chapter twelve the Bible says:
"Jesus answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
Matthew 12:39-40 (NASB)
From what I read - Jesus considered the story of Jonah to be historical fact. I approach the story of Jonah as a historical event.
Another aspect of Jonah is that:
3. The book of Jonah is a REVEALING story
I’m sure most of us have taken a ship to Tarshish at one time or another. We all have run away for God. We all know what it means to run away from God. And we know how creative the Lord can be when he wants to bring us back to where we ought to be.
In chapter 1 Jonah is running from God.
In chapter 2 Jonah is praying to God.
In chapter 3 Jonah is speaking for God.
In chapter 4 Jonah is learning about God.
Here’s a simple outline to help us understand the flow of the story:
Chapter 1: Jonah FLEES
Chapter 2: Jonah PRAYS
Chapter 3: Jonah PREACHES
Chapter 4: Jonah POUTS
Truly this is a very revealing story.
The Story Of Jonah
The story begins this way:
The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. Jonah 1:1-3 (NASB)
Go ahead and circle the words, “Arise, go to Nineveh.” The meaning of this phrase is, “Jonah, get up and go to Nineveh NOW.” He is not to wait around. He is not to second guess God's command. He is to get on the road - right now.
Let's go ahead and jump right in - point one:
1. God's Call Is UNPREDICTABLE
Folks - I don't think that Jonah woke up that morning expecting to hear God's voice telling him to head to Nineveh - do you? In all likelihood it probably started out as an ordinary day for Jonah. He got up - he got dressed - he got a cup of coffee - checked his Facebook page - or read the paper and got ready to head to office - (or whatever they did back in those days.) For Jonah it was an ordinary day. Then it happened - he hears God's voice: "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me."