#3  (The “Great Escapes” Series)




TEXT:         Jonah 1:1-4:11;    Lk. 19:41


INTRO:       One of the great images of childhood is the city fire department.  Passing by the local fire station can be very impressive, beautiful red shiny engines sit in a housed setting.  Men in handsome uniforms are busy shining and testing the equipment.  The setting can be very impressive until you realize what it is all about.  Like one child who asked their father after passing the station frequently, "Why do all those firemen stay at that station and all day polish and look at their engines?"  The father explained that they were passing the time while waiting for a fire call ... and it was important to always keep the equipment in good condition.  While this works well for fire stations it is not a good model for the church and Christians!


Too often churches and Christians take this approach to ministry and evangelism ... we have our impressive shelter or buildings and we keep polished the various ministries we offer, we even keep ourselves theologically tuned-up.  We apply new coats of worship to cover the rust while we wait for sinners to call in because they finally realize the fire of hell is raging in their lives!  The problem with this approach is that the world is already ablaze with sin, the call came in 2,000 years ago by Jesus for the world of sinners, and the question is: "Have we responded like the destructive fires are real?"  Or, are we trying to escape the responsibility to reach the lost with other excuses: "I'm not good at talking to others"..."it's not my gift"... my job is to keep the 'fire engines' shiny ... not put out fires!" etc.


PROP. SENT:   The great commission of Jesus to win the lost went out to ALL believers, not some; it is every Christian's responsibility to be reaching the lost for Christ especially realizing the finality of eternity and the uncertainty of life now!


I.   THE SIN OF JONAH!    1:1-3:10


A.   Callous!   1:1-17

1.   Jonah was enjoying a fine ministry, he actually was quite popular until this fish story happened!

a.   In 2 Kings 14:25 he had prophesied to Israel that God was even going to expand their borders during the reign of Jeroboam II.

b.   He is no stranger to ministry; he is a P.K. (Prophet's Kid)

c.   He enjoyed some good times of ministry and much respect from his own people.

2.   With this, he also enjoyed the status of being part of the "chosen people of God."

a.   He enjoyed a special place in God's economy, being Jewish, a son of Abraham and the covenant of God.

b.   Israel was to be an example of God's ways and blessings.

3.   So, when God asks Jonah to go to a major Gentile city that belonged to Israel's enemies and offer them salvation he is beside himself with questions like:

a.   "God, how can you love these wicked people?"

b.   "God, don't you know that those Ninevites hate us and mock us ... why do good to them?"

c.   "Lord, if you spare them they will one day destroy us, your own people!"

d.   "How will my brethren feel if I go and you bless them -- our enemies!?"

4.   The bottom line was that Jonah was very hard hearted about the notion of saving those miserable Gentiles!

a.   He was full of prejudice and concerned about his own reputation and popularity!

b.   He may had thought, "They can’t hurt us later if they no longer exist, so why try and save them now."

c.   He knew God was gracious and willing to forgive ... he didn't want to see them saved!  While preaching salvation and believing it he didn't really want to offer it to outsiders!

5.   It is NOT enough to pray for the lost or even to preach to the lost, we must seek out the lost!


ILLUS:     Jackie Robinson was the first black to play major league baseball.  When he entered he was treated very poorly by everyone ... he faced jeering crowds in every stadium.  One day while playing in his own home stadium in Brooklyn he committed an error, even his few fans began to ridicule and jeer him along with the rest of the prejudiced crowd and players.  He stood at second base, humiliated as the fans continue to jeer; then shortstop "Pee Wee" Reese came over and stood next to him, put his arm around Jackie and the crowd became quiet!   Robinson later recounted, "That arm around my shoulder saved my career." – Source Unknown


6.   When we no longer feel the pain of those who are lost in sin we are in danger of having a callous spirit!

a.   If our concerns center only on our own salvation and comfort we have become callous.

b.   If we are only concerned with "polishing" the fire engine (church buildings) and "tuning up" our theology (debating theological issues among ourselves) we are callous.

c.   If we are spending all our time and energy “maintaining the fire station” instead of going out fighting ... we are hardened!


B.   Comfortable?     2:1-3:10

1.   Jonah and the Israelites were comfortable, their borders were expanding and Assyria as yet was not dominating over all the nations so they were still quite free.

2.   They enjoyed a fair standard of living, things were pretty good.

3.   Why rock the boat with other nations, especially Gentiles!

4.   Why waste time and money on these traditionally unsaved pagans anyway!

5.   Besides, if they stay unsaved God would destroy them and then they wouldn't have to worry about their bothering them or becoming more important than they were!


ILLUS:      It would be the same for us if we saw God bring a great revival throughout the former Soviet Union today while America continues its spiritual decline and favor with God ... knowing that should that happen one day in the not too distant future we would collapse and they would lead the world!  If we knew this would we send missionaries and money to them -- or ignore them and rejoice over their fall? – Source Unknown


6.   Jonah may have been concerned with how his fellow Jews were going to feel if he went to save the Ninevites ... certainly his popularity as a prophet might drop and so would his comfort level!

a.   Are we afraid to speak out for Christ for fear of things getting uncomfortable with neighbors and friends, or coworkers?

b.   Jonah was willing to go to extreme ends to avoid being uncomfortable, even to being very uncomfortable or death!  This is real stubbornness and prejudice!

7.   This is Jonah's sin, the failure to love the lost enough to go to them and seek their salvation, it is not enough to pray for it and hope for it.  God send us!


ILLUS:      While we disagree with the theology and to some extent the methods of the Jehovah Witnesses, their motivation to reach people is exemplary!  Each witness must spend 10 hours a month pounding the pavement in their own hometown, in addition to 5 hours a week in group studies besides their personal studies. One of their leaders said this, "Our whole lifestyle revolves around our obligation to follow the command of Jesus." Does this make you feel uncomfortable like Jonah? – Source Unknown


II.  THE SALVATION OF JESUS!   (Selected passages - Jonah)   Luke 19:41


A.   Compassion    4:11;   Lk. 19:41

1.   The heart of God toward the lost is revealed in the last line of the book of Jonah: "Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

a.   Jonah certainly wasn't interested in these people; he looked at this city and hoped for their destruction!

b.   Jesus however in Luke 19:41 looked over a great city (Jerusalem) and wept over it!  How different was Jesus' attitude toward the lost than was Jonah’s!

2.   We must not take delight in the lostness of any soul ... no matter how much we think they may deserve it!

a.   IT IS NOT CHRISTIAN to rejoice over any homosexual who dies of AIDS!

b.   IT IS NOT CHRISTIAN to only think of our own needs!

c.   IT IS NOT CHRISTIAN to let other people reach out to the lost while we sit back and relax!

d.   IT IS NOT CHRISTIAN to withhold the truth about sin and the desire of God to save the sinner!

3.   We must see the "enemy" from God's perspective and from the light of eternity!


ILLUS:    A company commander in Vietnam by the name of Paul Stanley saw Viet Cong soldiers surrender many times.  Each time he witnessed their demeanor, some hung their heads in shame for having been captured, but others were defiant.  One day he came upon his men surrounding one Viet Cong soldier who was wounded, as he came closer this wounded man was lying on the ground kicking dirt at him and his men and throwing mud at them ... even trying to kick them with his one good leg, the other had been shot threw.  Slowly he recounts how he suddenly saw the 16 year old enemy as just another confused boy, scared and trapped.  The boy was bleeding to death but wouldn't let them near him ... some Americans would have said, “Well let him die then ... he is our enemy anyways.”  But he took off his weapons and grenades and slowly bent down toward the boy with his arms outstretched.  The boy at first stared fearfully, but seeing he was disarmed allowed him to come to him and slowly pick him up to carry him to an awaiting helicopter.  As he was being carried the Viet Cong boy began to cry and grasped hold of him tightly ... and as the helicopter took off he held tighter and stared at me, I smiled to reassure him.  After landing as he was walking with the boy toward a medical tent he felt the boy's tenseness leave and the grip relax, now softened, he leaned his head against my chest and no longer resisted ... now he had surrendered more than just his body, loving him had won him! – Source Unknown


4.   This is the picture of Jesus Christ toward the lost, “seeking to save that which is lost” ... the church can do no less if we are his body!


B.   Committed    1:17;   2:9-10;   4:6-8

1.   God was committed to trying to save Nineveh and all sinners!

a.   Even Jonah wasn't going to frustrate God's attempts at salvation!

b.   Each time Jonah tried to foil the plan GOD PREPARED A RESPONSE to get things back on track!

c.   If we ignore the responsibility to reach the lost God will throw roadblocks in our way too ... and sometimes they can be painful and time consuming!

(1.  The churches that won't reach out will shrivel up!

(2.  The Christian that won't witness will lose the vitality of his or her faith.

(3.  Those who make evangelism or missions a low priority will have storms and frustrating "whales of tales" to tell others!

2.   God would not let Jonah "off the hook" (pardon the fish analogy!)

a.   “God provided a great fish to swallow Jonah!”  1:17

b.   “God provided a vine...”   4:6

c.   “God provided a worm...”   4:7

d.   “God provided a scorching east wind...”   4:8

3.   Jonah only brought misery to himself and others and continued a superiority attitude by trying to avoid responsibility to reach the lost souls of Nineveh!

a.   He was going against God ... not a good thing to do!

b.   His self-sacrificing sounding appeal to have himself thrown overboard to save the lives of the sailors was to avoid the possibility of still being used by God to reach Nineveh!

4.   God is committed to saving the lost, so should we be!


ILLUS:      The Spanish explorer Cortez understood this kind of commitment.  When he landed at Vera Cruz in 1519 to begin his conquest of Mexico with a force of 700 men legend says he purposely set fire to his fleet of 11 ships while his men were on shore so they would understand the absolute nature of their mission ... no retreat!  Christianity grows best with this kind of commitment! – Source Unknown




A.   Complaining     4:1-3

1.   There was nothing wrong with Jonah's theology about God, this is clearly stated by him in this section!

a.   “…I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”  4:2b

b.   Jonah knew what the sailors and King of Nineveh didn't know for sure ... they could only guess, "WHO KNOWS, GOD MAY YET RELENT..." but Jonah knew!

c.   Jonah knew already before he left that God would save them happily if they repented.  He really didn't want that to happen, although his life was spent trying to get Israel to repent and follow the Lord!

2.   Jonah is not happy about this new work northeast of Israel!

a.   "What about us Lord?"… was in his heart!

b.   "Lord don't you know what these people might do someday to us?"

c.   Jonah just can't understand God's ways or His love ... "What is wrong with you Lord?" was his attitude!

3.   His complaint indicates perhaps a measure of depression...

a.   He tells God he would rather die than live to see all the Gentiles serve Him!

b.   Perhaps his depression is evident also by the fact that he could sleep soundly in the boat during such a crazy storm, depressed people tend to be tired a lot!

c.   He couldn't understand a God who reached out to Gentiles when so many in Israel needed saving yet!

4.   God moves where people respond, Israel wasn't responding much ... Nineveh was ready in great numbers:

a.   Assyria at the time was in turmoil, political unrest and rebellion was heavy among their own leaders.

b.   Famine had hit the land.

c.   A full solar eclipse occurred, perhaps at the time Jonah arrived in town, giving a great sense of fear to the people of divine significance at that time.

d.   The Assyrian nation was in a state of decline, violence was a trademark of the times. 3:8

5.   They were ripe for repentance ... Israel was too proud yet!

6.   Jonah's complaining attitude was unacceptable to God!


ILLUS:     Jonah was like the man who had been granted a wish by an angel one night.  He hated the man across the street so much.  The conditions of granting his wish however had him stuck ... whatever he wished for the angel had said the man across the street would get double!  Instead of asking for a blessing the man instead chose the following as his wish: "make me blind in one eye!" ... what an attitude! – Source Unknown


B.   Clarification!      4:4-9

1.   In spite of this very "unChristian like" attitude, God loves Jonah and so makes great attempts to clarify His love for the Gentiles!

a.   Jonah however goes out of town to sulk and hopes that perhaps Nineveh yet might still be destroyed!

b.   His message had been:  "IN 40 DAYS NINEVEH WILL BE OVERTURNED!"

c.   In a sense Jonah was right, almost, they did TURN-AROUND!

2.   Jonah was “very angry” ... ironically the Hebrew word used here is also translated in places "TO BE HOT."

a.   This is exactly what God sends Jonah, HOT temperatures without protection; perhaps to show him how unproductive anger can be when it is misplaced!

b.   But to show Jonah His mercy He sends a plant (probably a rapidly growing vine) that shelters him from the heat - perhaps a message that God could help soothe his hot anger if Jonah would let Him!

c.   When Jonah's anger doesn't subside God sends a worm to destroy the plant and then a real scorching east wind to really make him miserable!  God was perhaps trying to show Jonah how miserable ungodly anger can be!

3.   Again, Jonah misses the message ... and again says he wishes he could die instead!

4.   God attempts to clarify the message by asking Jonah:  "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"

a.   God's point was simple: "You don't care about 120,000 sinners who are going to perish if they don't hear the Word of God about salvation, but you can care more about a stupid vine that shelters you temporarily!"

b.   Jonah was troubled by a God who desired good toward evil men and yet allowed godly people to suffer!  Jonah is confused and figures a God who doesn't act in accordance to his wisdom must not be worth living for ... so he wants to die!

5.   The message however of the vine and worm is important: God has the power to

a.   Deliver!

b.   Or destroy!

c.   The difference is the heart attitude of the man or woman, not human justice!

6.   God's point:  "Jonah, you're the one who is inconsistent."

a.   "You rejoiced over a stupid vine that gave you temporary comfort" 4:6

b.   Yet Jonah was angry over 120,000 human lives that were saved from eternal destruction ... what kind of logic was that!?

c.   God did not hold the Ninevites as accountable as the Israelites for they did not have God's law, the meaning of the passage in 4:11 "120,000 who cannot tell their right hand from their left"

d.   Even if Jonah didn't care about that many humans, God mentions His compassion for even the cattle!  4:11 This may have been a subtle attempt at sarcasm to make a point to Jonah ... "what about all the livestock that would perish even!"


C.   Cleansing    4:10-11

1.   Nineveh was spared -- for now!  Its repentance seems genuine so judgment is withheld!

2.   If only Jonah had his eyes on the right thing, all he saw was his own loss and the uncomfortable position of going home and telling his brethren that God loves their enemies, enemies who one day will destroy the nation of Israel!

3.   Jonah wasn't looking straight and so his actions and attitudes weren't right either!


ILLUS:      A farmer wanted to teach his son how to plow a straight furrow.  After hitching up the horse and plow he told the boy to keep an eye fixed on something in the distance while plowing and his rows would be arrow straight.  The boy started plowing and the man went back to his chores.  Returning hours later he was upset to see lines that zigzagged everywhere!  The boy had followed instructions ... but the object he fixed his gaze on was a roving cow some distance away!  He should have set his gaze on a rock, not a wanderer!  When we get our eyes on something other than Jesus Christ our Rock our paths don't go straight! – Source Unknown


4.   Jonah needed God's perspective in 4:10-11 ... he should be rejoicing over a God who IS that forgiving, that seeks the lost, that desires life instead of death!

a.   Jonah himself was on the receiving end of this same loving God, look how God still loved him in spite of his prejudice and hate for Gentiles!

b.   This same loving God was willing to love and forgive him just as freely!

c.   God put up with a lot of garbage from Jonah ... a good thing God was who He is and not the God Jonah would have liked to make Him!

5.   Jonah's attempt to escape from responsibility only hurt himself, no one else!  Any attempts we make to escape our responsibility to love and seek the lost will only hurt us, we will lose in many ways:

a.   We will miss out on God's miraculous nature.

b.   We will become selfish and bitter.

c.   We will become jealous of those who do God's will and the blessings God showers on them.

d.   We will become resentful and withdrawn.


CONCLUSION:    We are under divine responsibility to love sinners and to seek their salvation!  To fail to love the lost and seek their redemption is to attempt to run away from God and that responsibility!  Ultimately we can't run from God ... why not cooperate and see the great results!