Summary: God is holier than you think. God is more merciful than you think.
Jonah 3:1-5, 10 WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MEET THE REAL GOD?
1) He is holier than you think
2) He is more merciful than you think
Until you meet someone in person, you really don’t know what that person is like. What is Tom Brokaw, or Matt Lauer, or John Madden like, in person? You see these people on TV. You probably have some sort of a mental picture of what you think they’re like. But until you meet them in person, you really don’t know.
NBC has a commercial that talks about their Thursday night TV shows. The commercial shows the characters on these shows, and then talks about how you, the viewer, can’t help but fall in love with these people. These people are your friends, you are told. You love these people! You need to spend your entire Thursday night watching these people, because you’re so close to them and you love them and they are your friends.
But wait. You really don’t know what these people are like. The characters on the shows are pretend, obviously. And the actors and actresses, well, you have no clue what they’re like in real life. Sometimes people think they do, but really, you have no idea. What are these people like in person, in real life? Are they good and upright, or are they immoral? Are they nice to talk to, or are they stuck up, vulgar? What are these people like in real life, these people you are supposed to fall in love with? You will never really know. Millions of Americans think they know, but really people have no idea.
Isn’t this how it is with God? Millions of people have no idea what the true God is really like, but they think they do. Yes, you can catch glimpses of God by looking at nature. And so people look at nature, ignore his Word, and put together a mental picture of what they think God is like. He must be powerful, people say! He must be wise! He must be loving, people say. I love God, people say. I pray to him all the time.
But do they really know what God is like, without looking at his Word? Do you really know what God is like? Millions of Americans, billions of people all over the world, think they know the true God. But without really studying his Word, no one can know. What happens when you meet the true God? What happens when you find him in his Word? Today we will think on these things as we study a small portion of the book of Jonah. We will meet the true God here. And we will see two things – he is holier than people think. And he is much more merciful than people think.
We meet the city of Nineveh. Our text describes it as “great,” a “very important city.” During that time in history, Nineveh as extremely important. It was a commercial center, a business center. The city was very large. People from all over the world came there to make money, to do what important people do.
But the city had spiritual problems. No one knew the true God. They thought they did. But the god they had created in their minds wasn’t even close to the true God. The god in their minds wasn’t very holy. He was was laid back about sin. As long as you don’t do anything real bad, God doesn’t care. You can be greedy. You can be immoral. You can lead any lifestyle you want. The more alternative, the better. It’s alright to sin. Just don’t hurt anybody. Don’t do anything extremely bad, and you’ll be fine. God is laid back about sin.
Am I talking about Nineveh? Or am I talking about our society today? Sound similar, doesn’t it? Our society today doesn’t know the true God. And so most people have concocted a god in their minds, a god who is not very holy. It’s OK for me to be greedy. It’s OK for me to be immoral. It’s OK for me to live any lifestyle I want, because God is laid back about sin.
That is the world in which we live, isn’t it? And it does affect the way we think about God. When the rest of the world around talks about God this way, it affects us. Maybe God doesn’t really care if I’m greedy. Maybe God doesn’t really care about morality. Millions of babies get aborted every year – maybe that’s OK. Homosexuality – maybe that’s OK. Living together outside of marriage – maybe that’s OK. God is laid back. Do whatever makes you feel good, as long as you don’t hurt anybody.
But then you come face to face with the true God in his Word. And you find out that he is much much holier than the way he is pictured in our world. The great, important city of Nineveh thought everything was alright. But then Jonah told them, “40 more days and Nineveh will be destroyed.” God had had enough. He was going to wipe these people off the face of the earth, just as he had done to Sodom and Gomorrah.