Summary: God’s forgiveness and mercy
How many of you have ever been wrong? (show hands)
How many of you have ever had to undo, redo, or make do because of your bad-do?
You know what? Welcome to the human race.
If you’ve never screwed up and been totally wrong -- you haven’t lived, breathed or existed !!
Welcome to the Jonah club !
All of us are card carrying members in this non-elite society of the "I messed up royaly" club.
Sometimes our wrongness is quiet, subdued and no one knows about it but us --
Other times we have flown off handle, and let someone really have it only to discover that what we thought happened didn’t really happened, and we were totally off base and in the wrong.
It’s the stuff that life’s most embarrassing moments are made of, or at least what sit-coms are made of.
In the story I want to share with you this morning, Jonah gets it wrong -- way wrong.
God calls Jonah and says I want you to go to Ninevah and preach for the people to repent.
Let’s pick up with what happens next and read some of the story -
(Jonah 1:3 NKJV) But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
Jonah was called by God to go and preach to the people of Nineveh.
He was to tell them that God was going to destroy the city because of its wickedness.
Nineveh was indeed wicked, and evil.
And Jonah did not want to go there -- nor did he want those people to come his church.
They didn’t deserve to have God’s mercy.
So instead of taking the next camel to Nineveh, he jumps on the next boat for Tarshish, which is at the exact opposite end of the then known world.
He is running from God.
But what he didn’t know was that God was running after him.
There came a huge storm so bad that it threatened to destroy the ship he was on.
To keep the story simple -- let’s just say that the sailors figured out that Jonah was the problem,
And they ask him what they should do, and he says that they must throw him overboard into the raging sea.
They don’t want to do it, but the storm is so bad and they are afraid for their own lives,
And so they finally throw him over.
The storm stops as Jonah sinks to the bottom.
But remember -- while Jonah was running away from God --
God was running after Jonah.
So God doesn’t let him drown, but sends a fish to swallow him.
Jonah is stuck for three days and three nights in the belly of this fish.
I know we picture him sitting on a stool with a candle in a large cavernous whale interior --
But more than likeley he was in a stomach just big enough to hold him --
And he’s probably lieing down, and looks like a giant sausage.
While he is there he prays, and admits his wrong.
The fish spits him up on to dry land, where God calls him again to go to Nineveh.
This time he obeys, and he goes and preaches to them.
Ninevah is a very large city -- it would normally take 3 days to walk from one side to the other.
So on the first day Jonah begins his task, and prophesies God’s message to them.
Jonah may have said more, but all we are told that he said was "Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed."
Now -- he is only one day into his three-day preaching tour and the people begin to repent.
They declare a fast, they remove their fancy clothes, they sit in the dust, and go about mourning.
This act of repentance is complete in that from the least person in the city, to the greatest, they all repent.
Even the King, when he hears the news of their impending doom, gets off his throne, removes his royal robes puts on sackcloth and sits down in the dust.
He sets a royal decree to fast and wear rags.
Nineveh goes from powerful, arrogant, wicked city to a city of massive repentance.
They actually turn from their wickedness and begin to do what is right.
Jonah 3:10 speaks of God’s fantastic mercy:
"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."
What an amazing thing!
These people were so evil that God saw the need to wipe them from the face of the earth!