The other day I heard a sermon from the book of Jonah. All week I have thought on the truths found in the book of Jonah. I want to share two particular truths the Lord has shown me.
First, a person’s rebellion against God’s will and especially a Christian’s rebellion against the directives of God causes wreckage in others lives as well as his/her own.
Secondly, God loves repentance and mercy over justice.
The book of Jonah is found in the Old Testament. It is not a parable or a fictional story but a truly historical narrative. The names and places in the book are historical. Jesus also spoke about Jonah not as a fictional story or parable but as history.
Jonah was a prophet of Israel and God. God told Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because it was so wicked. Ninevah was the capital of Assyria, a very wicked and immoral nation. Israel considered the Assyrians a threat and hated them. So when God told His man, His prophet, Jonah to preach to them, Jonah in his rebellion and his own wisdom decided to not do what the Lord asked of him but to run the very opposite way.
Jonah 1:1-3: “Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” (KJV)
We see Jonah rebel and go his own way. Have you ever God, “No, Lord, I don’t want to do that”? Have you gone your own way instead of God’s way whether through sin or slackness or fear or just saying NO to God? Oh, maybe you justify the waywardness or sin but deep down you know it is wrong, you feel guilty and shame but it is not enough to stop you or turn you back to complete surrender to the Lord’s will.
FIRST TRUTH–when a person rebels against the Lord there will always be wreckage!
Jonah 1:4-6 says, “Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”
Now we start seeing the wreckage in other’s lives caused by one man’s rebellion against God. Because of the great storm the crew lost their cargo and was in peril of their lives. What was Jonah doing? He was sleeping!
Romans 14:7 says, “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.” What we do affects others whether for good or bad. Most of us would like to ignore this fact but it is a truth! When we are in rebellion or sin, we don’t pray as we should, we don’t set the example as we should, a lot of times we become very selfish and self-minded and say, “It is my life! Leave me alone!”
We don’t want to acknowledge that what we are doing affects others adversely and most of the time it is the ones closest to us that is affected—our family, our children, our spouse, our friends, our church, our community! Exodus 34:7 says “…Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
Not only is there wreckage in other’s lives but in our own when we rebel against the Lord. We see Jonah going down to Joppa, then down in to the ship and eventually, down into the ocean.
Jonah 1:11-16: The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they (the sailors) asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried to the Lord, “O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. (NIV)
Finally, Jonah mans up and says—Hey, this is my fault and I am going to own up to my mistakes, my rebellion, my sin even if it means my death.
SECOND TRUTH– God loves repentance and mercy over justice.
Jonah 1:17,“But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.” (NIV)
God showed mercy to Jonah. Instead of a watery grave for Jonah, God sent a great fish to preserve him. Inside of that fish, Jonah repented of his sins, asked God to forgive him and surrendered his life, his will, his ambitions, his hopes, his all once more to God.
Jonah 2:9,10: But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.”
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah 3:1-4: Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”
Then the Lord brought Jonah back to where he should have been and gave him back his ministry. Praise God!
Sometimes our place of preservation is not the most pleasant and it certainly wasn’t for Jonah—inside the belly of the fish. Jonah called it the pit. Have you repented and are spending time in the place of preservation and it seems like things are not going your way? You wonder why? God is teaching you, fortifying you and perhaps even testing you to see if you will stick to the course this time, if you will prove true to Him, if you really will love Him above all else? I am sure being vomited out of the place of preservation wasn’t fun either but Jonah was a true man of God and listened for God’s voice and was obedient to do what God had called him to do.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus is not a hard taskmaster but loving, kind and merciful. Psalms 91:4 says, “His huge outstretched arms protect you – under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm.” (The Message Bible). He puts us in the cleft of the rock and keeps us from harm. (Exodus 33:22) As we want the best for our children and when they mess up or make a mistake, we correct them and instruct them, most of all we love them. How much more does our Creator, our Heavenly Father, want the best for us? He knows our talents, our character, the direction that our lives should go. If we go the wrong direction and go down instead of up, our God will do what he needs to do to correct our paths so we can go up and see His glory!
Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh and they heard the word and repented—the whole city! Yet, Jonah became extremely angry. He knew these people had greatly sinned! They deserved punishment! Have you ever seen perhaps a Christian leader, someone whom you admired and respected, get caught in some bad sin? You were hurt. Then they repented, God had mercy upon them, even though they had to pay the price for their sin, you didn’t think it was enough. You despised them in your heart? Perhaps you were like the Sons of Thunder, the apostles James and John, who wanted to call down fire from heaven on a group of people for the disrespect to our Lord and Savior Jesus? (Luke 9:52-56)
I have been there and done that. I’ve had to repent over my attitude of wanting God’s justice instead of God’s mercy and forgiveness. The Lord pointed out my own failings, my own missing the mark, my own rebellion. When He opened my eyes and showed me His great mercy to me, how He restored me, how He brought me through; I fell on my face and wept. Who was I to point a finger at my brother?
God wants to show mercy to a clueless people, He wants people to repent of their sins. He wants to restore people to who they should be.
John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (NIV)
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10
Let us be a people who shows our neighbor, friend, brother or sister God’s compassion, mercy, kindness instead of judgment and harshness. Let the following verse be our creed in life—to love mercy!