Close Menu X
Navigate

Our Unstoppable God

February 19, 2017 Series: Jonah and the Rescue of Rebels

Passage: Jonah 1:1–1:3

  • Downloads

Good morning, guys!  How is everyone?

 

So, look- we’re gonna spend a week every month for the next few months studying Jonah.  And, guys, I’m pumped about this series.  I’m thrilled about this book, and about what this book means, and about what this book is going to say to us.  I’m thrilled that we get to spend some time reading Jonah, and thinking about this amazing story.  No exaggeration, Jonah is an amazing story.  It’s a masterpiece.  It’s got everything.  Sharp and cutting irony.  Humor.  Powerful images.  Stunning display of love, and rescue, and hope.  Jonah exposes the dark corners of the human condition, and it shines a bright light on that darkness.  You can’t walk away from any serious study of Jonah without real questions about who you are, and why you do the things you do.  And, by the sweet grace of God, you can’t walk away from this book unmoved by the love of God, the unstoppable, unrelenting rescue of God.  

 

That’s what we’re going to talk about today.  We’re going to talk about our unstoppable God, who moves, and orchestrates, and speaks to save his people.  No obstacle can hinder his mission.  No hatred, no racism, no pride.  Nothing can get in his way.  Our God is a God who saves.  And he will save.  It’s what he does.  

 

The Bible is amazing.  And, right, I know that that’s what you’re supposed to believe.  I know that your theology tells you that the Bible is the Word of God.  I know that you know that the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two edged sword.  But seriously, as a work of literature, the Bible is unparalleled. The Bible is one book, made of 66 books, which were written over the course of over 1600 hundred years.  That’s millenia.  Can you imagine? 1600 hundred years.  One third of recorded history.  Generations upon generations upon generations.  And over the course of 1600 years, God moved in the hearts of authors to write.  They spoke different languages, they were citizens of different empires, and yet they had this one thing in common: the Holy Spirit moved, and spoke his word through his people.  So even though the Bible was written amidst the rise and fall of empires, the shifting of people groups, the exploration of the planet, it reads as one story.  One message.  A chorus of voices singing one song.  


And so when you read the bible, you see this dynamic, eclectic presentation - words spoken to people groups in a variety of settings, stories told to farmers, to soldiers, to kings.  And, when you step back, and you have a moment to look upon the whole story, you see one message.  One theme, developed and articulated over the course of human history.  The Bible is the work of art.  The Bible is the finest expression of literature our world has ever known.

 

And the books of the bible, those 66 individual works, are each masterpieces.  Some of them are portraits of the human condition, teased out so that we can see truly, so that we can see ourselves fully.  Some of them are landscapes of the great mercy and love of God.  And some of them are prophecies of a coming King, whose kingdom will end all suffering, will make all things new.  But some of them, some of these works, in just a short moment display fully all of the beauty and intricacy of the great human story, and the great God who rescues his people, and the coming King who will restore all things.

 

That’s what Jonah is.  Jonah is brilliant, because it threads the themes of Scripture into one short burst, one magnificent story.  Jonah illuminates the darkness of the human condition.  It teaches us who we are.  It tells us why we’re broken, and it speaks to our desperation with a message of Hope.  But that’s just one aspect of this story.  Jonah also broadcasts the beauty of God, the sweet mercy of God, the unstoppable love of God.   Jonah whispers a message of rescue to the desperate and needy people of God.  But that’s just one aspect of this story.  The book of Jonah sings a sweet melody of a great savior.  Jonah nods and winks, and suggests that the great hope of the people of God is a sent prophet who will die and rise again in three days.  If you look closely, you will see Jesus when you read these words.

 

And that’s why I’m so excited.  This book is brilliant.  It’s a masterpiece.  But you can’t see all those things without a bit of preparation.

 

You’ve probably heard me say this a half-dozen times, but it’s worth saying again, so bear with me.  The Bible was written for farmers, it was written for soldiers, it was written for kids to understand.  Humble families were encouraged to tell the stories of scripture to one another, they were encouraged to speak about the mercies of God in the stories of the Bible as their children laid down to sleep.  The Bible is not overly complex.  It does not require knowledge of Greek and Hebrew to understand.  You don’t need an MDiv to understand the Bible.

 

And yet.  The Bible is not something to be taken lightly.  Don’t expect to sit down, pick a spot in the Psalms, read for ten minutes, and truly get it.  The Bible isn’t a magic book.  You can’t understand the broad, orchestrated message of scripture by reading two verses every three weeks.  Two things, I think, are absolutely necessary to understand the Bible.  And these two things are necessary to understand the book of Jonah.

 

First -- and far and away the most important.  Ask God for help.  Ask for the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  Ask the Spirit to teach you what these words mean.  God is the author.  He’s the one to go to when you’re confused.  He wrote the book.  He can tell what it means.

 

Second -- ask questions.  Don’t read the Bible passively.  When you read a sentence, stop for a moment and ask it questions.  “What do you mean?”  “Who are you speaking to?”  “How does that work?”  “Why did you use those words?”  The questions you ask Scripture will determine how valuable your time in Scripture is.  

 

So, we’re going to do these two things.  I want to pray for a moment, and ask God to teach us what these words mean.  And then, we’re going to read a few sentences, and ask a bunch of questions.  So let’s get to it.

 

Father, teach us the meaning of these words.  We’re so grateful that you’ve chosen to speak to us.  We’re so grateful that you’ve given us your Scriptures, and that we have the sweet opportunity to study your love, your mercy, our great hope.  Please use this time, this study, to usher into our hearts repentance from idolatry, from racism and hatred.  Please anchor our hope not in this world, or in the things of this world, but in the Kingdom that’s coming.  Please teach us to set our hope in the Great King of Kings, Jesus who bought us.  Illuminate your word this morning.  Thank you.

 

Now, I want you to open your Bible to Jonah, chapter one.  We’re going to spend this morning studying the first three verses, so let’s read them at least twice.  I’ll go first.

 

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”  But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish, away 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 to it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

 

Read it again.  Can I have a volunteer?

 

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”  But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish, away 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 to it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

 

Hmm.  Interesting.  Now try, for a moment, to pretend that you haven’t heard the story of Jonah 100 times.  Step back for a second from our culture, which loves to spend loads of time talking about a giant whale and perhaps less time on the rescue work of God.  Try to forget this story altogether.  And then read the first sentences.  

 

The beginning of any story is crucial.  The beginning of a story draws and focuses your attention to certain details.  It’s crafted to help you understand the meaning of the story.  So the beginning of any book in the Bible is super important.  And you should read it closely, and ask loads of questions, because probably you’re missing something if you don’t.  

 

So look at the first verse.  “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah.”  Stop.  Okay, that’s plenty for now.  Two main characters.  

 

(Now, let me clarify, when I use terms like story and characters, I am in no way suggesting that this is a work of fiction.  For some reason in the last few decades the words “Story,” “Character,” and “Plot” have been commandeered by students of Fiction.  This is not a work of fiction. Everything that happens in this story happened, in real life, exactly as it says.  But anytime anyone sits down to write, he has to choose to focus on things, and people, and events.  That’s why we can’t stop using words like “character” and “plot.”  Without terms like these, it’s difficult to follow the author.)

 

Okay, so two main characters.  Who are they?

The LORD.  And Jonah.

 

This is when we start with the questions.  Because the author doesn’t explain who the LORD is, or who Jonah is (aside from giving us his last name), we can honestly suppose that he expects us to know who they are already.  Or, at least, he’ll expect us to raise the question, and he’ll himself answer it later.  I think, in this case, that the author expects us to know who he’s talking about.  Why?  Because the LORD is the subject of all of the sacred Scriptures, which we’re expected to have read, and also because Jonah is a subject in one of the sacred books, which we’re also expected to have read.

 

Huh.  Jonah isn’t a new character.  So, it’s reasonable to assume that you can’t quite grasp the meaning of Jonah without knowing who Jonah is, where he’s coming from, and what he’s dealing with.

 

Now, back when this book was first written, they didn’t have the luxuries we have.  They couldn’t Google anything.  If you didn’t already know the story of Jonah, the son of Amittai, you’d have to go look for it.  Or ask somebody who knew the Scriptures.  But we’ve got these handy little numbers floating above the words of our Bible.  And those numbers tell us where to look to find this guy, Jonah.

 

Turn briefly to 2 Kings, chapter 14.  Read along with me.

 

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years.  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.  He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.  He restored the border of Israel from Lebohamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.  For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel.  But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.

 

Okay, now stop for a moment and think about what you just read.  An evil king begins to reign, and (even though he’s wicked, and even though his idolatry is leading the entire nation of Israel further into idolatry) the borders and boundaries of Israel expand.  Restoration despite wickedness.  And this isn’t just a happy accident.  The nation of Israel is being restored, and God promised that that would happen.  God sent a messenger - our guy Jonah - to bring good news to a rebellious people.  Even though you chase after idols, even though you seek opportunity for evil - I see that you’re suffering, and that you’re nearly defeated.  I’m coming to help you, and to restore you.

 

Now, remember those little numbers over the words in your Bible?  If you pay close attention, you’ll find that the promise of God  that Jonah delivers  is actually a quotation of a promise that was given to God’s people centuries before.  Let’s follow the reference back to the original promise.

 

Turn to Deuteronomy 32.  Let’s start in verse 36.

 

For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free.  Then he will say, “Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering?  Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection!  See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me.  I kill and make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”

 

Jonah was sent to the people of Israel that their good, kind, merciful God would restore them, even in their sin, and would preserve them, even though they’ve forgotten him.  Because that’s who God is.  He is the God who kills and raises again, the God who wounds and heals.

 

So we asked a question, right off the bat.  Who is Jonah, the son of Amittai?  Here’s your answer.  Jonah is a servant of the LORD, and he brings to his people a message of mercy.  “You have sought refuge in idols.  You have sought pleasure in wickedness.  And despite your efforts you can find no peace.  But the LORD, your God - the God who rescued your fathers from slavery - will shed mercy on you.  He won’t allow you to be ruined altogether.  He will rescue you, even though you have not stretched your hand in his direction.  Even though you’ve rejected him.  He will rescue.  The LORD is the only true God.  He makes alive those who are dead.  He heals those who are wounded.”  

 

And these are the two main characters of our story.  God, the great, sweet, merciful savior, who sends servants to shout a message of hope to a wicked people.  And Jonah, the messenger, who delivers good news to the undeserving.

 

Now, let’s keep reading.  Turn back to Jonah.

 

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”  

 

Okay, stop for a moment.  Knowing who God is, and knowing who Jonah is, this next piece isn’t a huge logical leap.  Here we have the God of mercy, and here we have the messenger of mercy.  And here we have a people in need of mercy.  Keep going.

 

But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish, away 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 to it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

 

So, as you might expect (knowing now the background of our two main characters), the LORD asks Jonah to deliver another message.  This one isn’t quite so positive. It isn’t laced with ancient promises from a kind Father to a nation of sons and daughters. Merely, “I see the wickedness of Ninevah.  Cry out against it.”  It’s a warning.  But as a warning, it is a hint of hope.

 

But very quickly something unexpected happens.  What does Jonah do?

 

He flees!  Jonah, the messenger - who made a career broadcasting God’s mercy on display toward a wicked people - runs like crazy in the other direction.  Tarshish, by the way, is in the opposite direction.  Jonah couldn’t have chosen a more distant destination in the known world.  God said, move East.  Jonah runs, just as fast as he can, to the West.

 

Why?

 

Why does he run?  Few figures in Israel know more intimately the nature of God than Jonah, the prophet, who receives words from the LORD himself, who delivers messages of mercy.  Why would Jonah run?

 

There’s a bit of a hint in these verses.  Did you notice the repetition?  Anytime you see something repeated once, twice, in the Scriptures, you pay attention to that thing.  Write it down in the margin.  Underline.  Highlight.  Pay attention, because that thing is likely pretty important.  And what’s repeated twice in this short passage?

 

But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

So he paid the fare and went down to it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

 

So, it’s pretty clear that Jonah is running from God.  He is running “away from the presence of the LORD.”  Just like Cain, wandering the face of the earth.  But why?  Why run?  Why run away from God, if God’s given him a message of mercy?  Isn’t that good news?  Who doesn’t want to be the bearer of good news?  What is it about God, about the presence of God, that Jonah doesn’t want to have anything to do with?

 

I’ve heard people say that he was scared.  He knew, they say, that the Assyrians were bloodthirsty and wicked, and he feared for his life.  That’s what I was told when I was a child.  But that isn’t the answer.  Jonah isn’t afraid of death.  In fact, Jonah is suicidal.  On the ship, he asks to be thrown into the raging sea.  On the land, he begs God to kill him.  Jonah isn’t afraid of death, or pain.  He wants death.  So if he doesn’t fear for his life, why does he run?

 

I know I’m skipping ahead of the story, but turn to Jonah chapter 3, verse 10.

 

When God saw what the Ninevites did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.  But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.  And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country?  That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better from me to die than to live.”  And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

 

Jonah was running from the mercy of God, because he didn’t want this people to have it.

 

We don’t know exactly why Jonah hated the Assyrians, but we know that he did.  The Assyrian nation was at this point in history still forming, still growing.  It would, someday soon, become a powerhouse.  It would, someday, become an instrument of God’s wrath toward the people of Israel.  Maybe Jonah had stood in the streets and heard the preaching of Amos, who warned that God’s burning jealousy had built to a tipping point, that God would soon send his people out of the land, to an exile east of Damascus.  Maybe he knew they represented God’s judgment toward his people.  We know that the Assyrians would become great enemies of God’s people; we know that they will defeat them and enslave them.  But not yet.  At this point, they’re just neighbors.  Particularly vile neighbors, perhaps, but just neighbors.

 

In every case, we know one thing for certain.  Jonah took for granted the mercies of God bestowed upon the people of Israel.  His attitude toward the Assyrians says as much.  Look, maybe if Israel were a righteous nation, it would make sense that Jonah believed the Assyrian people were a people not worth saving.  But we just read what happened to Israel.  Think back to 2 Kings.

 

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years.  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.  He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.  He restored the border of Israel from Lebohamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.  For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel.  But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.

 

They were wicked.  They chased after idols.  They were evil, and they pursued evil.  And yet God reached out in mercy and rescued them.  The rescue of Israel was yet another display of love and grace - yet another display of mercy.  The history of Israel is punctuated by acts of mercy - one after another after another after another after another display of God’s mercy toward a rebellious people.  Jonah’s very existence was evidence of God’s mercy toward a wicked people.

 

Jonah ran away because he didn’t want the men, women, and children in the city of Nineveh to enjoy the mercy of God that has preserved the men, women, and children of Israel for centuries.

 

Jonah hated those people.  His departure was a death sentence, and he knew it.  That’s why he ran.

 

Let’s talk for a minute about racism, and about prejudice, and about pride.  

 

Jonah hated the people of Ninevah.  He did not hate one family, or several individuals.  He hated the people.  When he looked upon the wickedness of Israel, he embraced the mercy of God.  When he looked upon the wickedness of Nineveh, he ran away from the mercy of God.  My people deserve mercy.  Your people deserve judgment.

 

And that’s how racism, and prejudice, and pride works.  People believe that they’ve earned the good things they have, but not the suffering.  People usually believes the inverse about others.  I earned the good, not the suffering.  You’ve earned the suffering, not the good.  When you take that disposition, and you lay it over a people, you’ve engaged in the wickedness of Jonah.  

 

How does this work in our context?  Watch the news.  If you see Muslim people groups suffering, and you believe that they’ve got what they had coming, test your heart.  You didn’t get what you had coming.  Tell me you weren’t a rebel, actively engaged in the hatred of God when you tasted his mercy.  Or when you see poverty in inner-cities, and you believe that the suffering on display is solely a result of laziness, or entitlement, test your heart.  What have you been given, that’s kept you from need?  Would you shout the mercies of God to those people?  Or when you see riches in the suburbs, and you believe that the success on display is solely a result of a rigged system, centuries of advantage and unequal privilege, test your heart.  Would you shout the mercies of God to those people?

 

It doesn’t have to be about the color of their skin.  It doesn’t have to be about the size of their checking account.  If you evaluate another by a different lens, if you judge others by a different rubric - that’s the sin of Jonah.

Look, the good things that you have are, right now, and yesterday, and tomorrow, a display of the mercies and love of God.  You did not earn them.  You earned wrath.  Just like the people of Israel, and just like the Ninevites.  You earn wrath, and you deserve destruction.  So when you look around, and you see a home with stuff in it, and you see a table full of food, and you see kind faces and warm smiles, when you step into this auditorium to sing good songs to our good God, everything you have is a gift.  You deserve that gift no more than any other.  

 

Jonah forgot.  He forgot that the mercy of God wasn’t issued because of his blood, or because of his rights, or because of his faithfulness.  He forgot that the mercy and love of God wasn’t given because it had been earned.  He forgot that he would have been an enemy of God, were it not for the love of God, for the rescue of God, and for the faithfulness of God.


So when he looked on a people who deserved wrath, he said, “let them burn.”  

 

Don’t judge him.  You don’t want that kind of irony in your life.

 

I can’t tell you how many time I’ve looked at that guy on the corner and said in my heart, “Bro, get a job.” Do you know why?  Because I started to believe that I’d earned what I have.  I started to believe that the real difference between me and that beggar was discipline, and hard work, and commitment.  Maybe I’ve worked hard, maybe I’ve had discipline.  But only because of the mercy of God.  Left alone, I have nothing.  Remember what Paul said, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.”

 

I will never forget this conversation.  Terra and I had just bought a house on the bad side of town, and I was standing outside speaking with Al, the head of our neighborhood association.  We were talking about the homeless folks who wander the streets around our block.  And I’m thinking property value, and drug traffic, and safety concerns.  And Al looks at me and he says, “Every time I look at those people,  I think, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

 

That should be the disposition of the rescued.  That should be the attitude of the redeemed.  

 

Remember Titus 3?  Let me read it to you for a moment.

 

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling and to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.

 

But for the grace of God, there go I.  That’s the only appropriate attitude of the redeemed.  When we see men in sin, hating, slaves to passions and pleasures, destroying lives because of addiction, malicious, despicable, wicked, we look at them and say, “I was right there with you, brother, until God poured out mercy on me.”  

 

Anything less is foolishness, pride, racism, hatred.

 

When you look at people, and you see their issues - their sin, their selfishness, their addiction -   when you see people ruining their lives and the lives of their families; what’s the difference between that guy and you?  Do you feel they deserve what they’ve got coming?  Do you see you when you look at him?  

 

When you step into your nice home, and you enjoy a nice dinner, and you watch your television on a nice flat screen.  Did you earn this?  I mean, really?  Did you earn what you’ve got?  Or did God in mercy spare you from what you deserved, orchestrated blessings - grace upon grace, freely give you all things and his Son?

 

I’m asking these questions because I think Jonah’s disposition is the beginning of hatred.  When you see suffering and it doesn’t bother you, when you see poverty and you assume it’s because those families haven’t worked as hard as your family, that’s the start of something wicked.   If you assume that you have what you have, that you are what you are, because of grit and hard work, and not because of the grace and mercy of God, that’s the start of something terrible.

 

I’m asking these questions because Jonah’s attitude is the heart of pride.  If you’ve forgotten that what you have is a gift, that you only breath, you only get up from work, you only go to church because his grace and mercy are at work within you, that’s the start of something dangerous.  If you see someone with less, someone with nothing, is it because they haven’t worked as hard, or because they haven’t applied themselves?  Or is it because God’s mercy has been shed upon you?

 

Jonah forgot.  He forgot that his people were just like the Ninevites.  He forgot that the good things he’d been given were only because God acted in mercy to rescue his people.  Was Israel more deserving than Nineveh?  No.

 

So Jonah ran.

Are you running?

What does running look like, for you?

 

Maybe you run on Facebook.  Maybe you run on Twitter?  Do you rejoice at the suffering of the wicked on social media?  Do you dance over the graves of the democrats on Facebook?  Yes, social media can be a great way to engage.  But are you shouting the mercies of God?  Or are you running to Tarshish?

 

Maybe you run in simpler ways.  Maybe, like Jonah, you’re literally refusing to discuss God’s mercy to your neighbors and the nations.

 

There are two reasons why you’re not telling everybody around you about the mercy of God in Christ:

  1. You haven’t set your hope in the rescue of God.
  2. You’ve forgotten why you’ve set your hope in the rescue of God.

That I can see, there is no third direction.  We’ve been given a commission. Jonah was sent to a people.  We’ve been sent to a people.  We’re ambassadors - ministers of reconciliation.  And our very identity - who we are, and who our family is, and why we exist, and where we’re going - is wrapped up in the gospel.  It shouldn’t be hard to talk about it.  It shouldn’t be hard to talk about Jesus to your coworkers.  But most of us struggle to do so.  Most of us hesitate.  Me too.

 

Why do I hesitate?  Either I haven’t yet fully set my hope in the coming Kingdom, or I’ve forgotten that the only reason I do so is because of the mercy of God.  


Because when you’ve been bought by the blood of Christ, and are made new, and are adopted, and become an heir, not because you’re better behaved, or smarter, or kinder, but because he’s given you mercy; you can’t know that fully without broadcasting his mercy to everyone around you. If you get that you’re rescued because of the mercy of God, and you get that God’s asked you to speak of that mercy to your neighbors, you don’t hesitate.  Unless you’ve forgotten why.  

 

When you see that guy on the corner - if you remember that the only thing keeping you from that type of addiction or hopelessness or despair is the mercy of God - you reach out to that guy.  You deliver the message.

 

When you see that family, and you see their suffering - and you know that the only reason you have abiding hope is because of the mercy of God - you reach out to that family.  You deliver that message.

 

And when you find yourself hesitating, ask questions.  Have I lost hope in the coming kingdom?  Am I distracted by the things of this world?  Or have I forgotten why I set my hope in the kingdom?  Have I forgotten that, “but for the grace of God, there go I?”

 

But we can’t stop here, because this book isn’t about the sin of Jonah.  This book is about the mercy of God, on display in technicolor.  Think for a moment about the other side of everything we’ve just read.  Israel was broken, evil, wicked, chasing after idols, pursuing passions and pleasures, forgetting the kindness of the good God who rescued them from slavery.

 

But God was so kind to them.

 

Nineveh is a nation of idolaters, with wicked, evil hearts.  They were warmongers and murderers.  

 

But God was so kind to them.


Jonah was so hateful.  He’d rather die than see a people saved.  

 

But God was so kind to him.

 

These first few verses are just a glimpse of the spectacular display of God’s mercy and love that is the book of Jonah.  He is unstoppable in his mission to rescue his people.  He is unstoppable.  You can’t out-sin his love.  You can’t out-run his mercy.  You can’t stop his rescue.  He is a jealous husband who will redeem and wash his bride.

 

This is the kind God that we worship.

 

That’s where I want to end.  I want to end dwelling not on the sin of Jonah, or the sin in our own hearts, or the rebellious, wicked people of Israel, or the rebellious, wicked people of Nineveh.  I want to dwell on the kindness of the God who saves them.  Because when we fail like Jonah did, we might lose hope.  Unless we remember that God’s mercy bought us, and that God’s mercy will keep us.  

 

Dwell for a moment on the kindness of God.  

 

Let’s pray.

More in Jonah and the Rescue of Rebels

June 18, 2017

Pity in the Lives of the Rescued

May 28, 2017

Mercy & Doing Well

April 16, 2017

Christ and the Sign of Jonah