Series on the Book of Jonah #3

 

"RUNNING WITH GOD!"

 

TEXTS:       Jonah 3:1-10;   Luke 11:29-30

 

INTRO:       Have you ever been in a situation when you really needed a second chance?  If you were dealing with someone who shows compassion they might have given you that second chance.  How about the reverse situation ... have you ever been in the position where someone needed a second chance from you?  It is much easier to grant it to someone else when you yourself have been the recipient.

 

God is a God of second chances, when Adam & Eve blew it in the garden which affected all humanity God had a backup plan that would give us the second chance to enjoy Him for eternity ... His name was Jesus!

 

Paul discovered what it was like getting a second chance and giving some­one named John Mark a second chance!  Paul has previously been a murderer; and John Mark had been a quitter!  Both got second chances!

 

Don't we appreciate it when the police pull you over and then say, "well, I'll let you go this time, just don't let it happen again" ...oh the marvelous feeling of second chances!

 

A judge in court will often let a person off easy if it is their first offense, recognizing that everyone should have a second chance if it was just a mistake!

 

However, second chances have to accepted to be good!

 

ILLUS:     During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, George Wilson, a postal clerk, robbed a federal payroll from a train and in the process killed a guard.  The court convicted him and sentenced him to hang.  Because of public sentiment against capital punishment, however, a movement began to secure a presidential pardon for Wilson (first offense), and eventually Jackson intervened with a pardon.  Amazingly, Wilson refused it.

   Since this had never happened before, the Supreme Court was asked to rule on whether someone could indeed refuse a presidential pardon. Chief Justice John Marshall handed down the court's decision: "A pardon is a parchment whose only value must be determined by the receiver of the pardon.  It has no value apart from that which the receiver gives to it.  George Wilson has refused to accept the pardon.  We cannot conceive why he would do so, but he has. Therefore, George Wilson must die."  George Wilson, as punishment for his crime, was hanged.  Pardon, declared the Supreme Court, must not only be granted, it must be accepted. -- George Maronge, Jr., Birmingham, Alabama.  Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 3.

 

PROP. SENT:    God is a great God of great mercy and forgiveness, He delights in forgiving the sincere heart that is seeking for a chance at God's grace ... He even delights in giving us second chances!  He is longsuffering and patient toward those who have repentant hearts!

 

I.    SIGN OF RESTORATION!   J onah 3:1-4; Luke 11:29-30

 

A.    Second Chances!     Jonah 3:1-2

1.    God wasn't trying to destroy Jonah ... He was actually giving him a second chance at obeying!

a.    Although honestly, Jonah might have thought differently about God trying to destroy him when the storm at sea came up!

b.    Or, when the sailors threw him overboard - I'm sure his last thought was being eaten by a large fish as God's way of showing him love!

c.    And this is a good point here:  Often it appears that God is indifferent or might even hate us by circumstances at the effort He makes to give us a second chance!  It is therefore critical that you don't "lose it" at this point!

2.    There is great irony in that Jonah spent time in the belly of a great fish ... the city of NINEVEH's name originally was symbolized by the Ninevites as a FISH INSIDE THE WOMB of a HUMAN FEMALE ... a fertility goddess that was worshipped in Ninevah -- and the reversal of what happens to Jonah by God putting him as a human inside the belly of a great fish!

a.    From one fish to another!

b.    If Jonah deserved a second chance from his fish experience, perhaps God was willing to give a city named after a fish in a human womb deity a second chance too!

c.    Jonah would go from ONE FISHY experience to another!

3.    The call and the message here are identical to the first calling of Jonah with one exception, God said to Jonah in Jonah 1:2 "preach against" ... whereas in Jonah 3:1 He said, "proclaim to it."

a.    Already an indication that God might be willing to give Nineveh an opportunity to change, to repent ... or a second chance.

b.    God considered Nineveh a "GREAT CITY" ... not because it was spiritually great, but because a great many souls lived there ... and "God is not willing that any should perish!"

c.    God loved this crowded city of lost souls ... so should we love those crowded cities of lost souls today!

 

ILLUS:      Contemporary Christian musician Kathy Troccoli was a rebellious teen who drank, partied, and was caught in a vicious cycle of bulimia.  But at a summer job, she couldn't escape the Christian witness of co-worker Cindy:

   "She was the epitome of a girl I could not hang out with.  When she started telling me about Jesus, I made fun of her.  And yet, deep down inside, I admired her.  I liked that she didn't seem to care what people thought about her.  I even suspected she was right, and I was on the wrong path.

   "Finally, Cindy said to me, 'You know, Kath, Jesus is Lord whether you accept him or not.' I went home thinking about that.  If Jesus was real, I had to check him out. I plowed through the Gospel of John and when I got to the end, I knew I had to make a decision.  Everything would have to change.  And sixteen years ago, it did." -- Kathy Troccoli with Jim Long in Campus Life.  Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 5.

 

B.    Symbolic Connection!    Luke 11:29-30

1.    What real chance did Jonah hope to have in enemy territory anyways?

a.    According to Jesus' words here in Luke, Jonah's experience for 3 days and 3 nights in the fish's belly would be a sign to the Ninevites!

b.    Therefore, to have credibility with the Ninevites God would actually use Jonah's personal failure and salvation to witness to them that God just might consider them for a second chance!

c.    They must have therefore known early on about Jonah and the great fish ... this is what perhaps allowed his presence in Nineveh without danger!

2.    The Assyrians were not a compassionate people ... in fact they didn't offer second chances to anyone!

a.    It was their custom to remove an entire nation they have conquered to another land making slaves out of the people.

b.    The leaders of the conquered lands were often chained like a dog and kept in actual kennels to humiliate them ... or

c.    At times the leaders and the people were killed and their bodies stacked up like firewood outside the conquered city's gates ... or

d.    At times the King of Assyria would be-head the leaders and make a pyramid of their heads outside the gates of the city!

e.    They were vicious warriors, sometimes skinning alive their captives and hanging the skin off the walls of the city, at other times they would mutilate the victim without killing them for a great length of time until the victim finally died from the torture!

f.     They impaled people alive on pointed sticks, sometimes lit them as human torches ... they were downright barbaric and cruel ... they were NOT KNOWN FOR COMPASSION on their victims!

3.    And to these folks God was going to give a second chance for real life ... or they can choose death!

a.    God still makes this offer to people today!

b.    "CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY..."   Choose life ... not death!

 

ILLUS:        Repentance was an involved process in the early church. Sin was seen not as a personal matter but as something that destroyed the unity of the church. Penitents fasted and prayed for the forgiveness of their sins, appeared before the church to make public confession, and were barred from the Lord's Supper until they gave evidence of a change of heart and were absolved. (The only exception was for people facing persecution. They were readmitted to the Lord's Supper so they could receive strength.)

   In the first century, the Lord's Supper included not only the bread and the cup but an entire meal. As part of the meal, neighbors who had quarreled made peace again. -- "Worship in the Early Church," Christian History, Issue 37.

 

4.    Just as Jonah's experience in a great fish for 3 days and 3 nights were a sign to the Ninevites, so would Christ's burial for 3 days and 3 nights be a sign unto all generations of his resurrection power ... and the offer of life for those who repent and accept Christ as savior!

 

C.    Serious Convictions     Jonah 3:3-4

1.    Jonah's message was simple ... like the Gospel!  Surrender your sinful life and live ... or in 40 days you are all dead!

a.    Christ says it like this: surrender you heart to me and you will be saved for eternity!  Don't and you'll lose out for all eternity ... Jesus is greater than Jonah, so are the consequences AND THE BLESSINGS!

b.    The word used in verse 4: "OVERTURNED" is the same word used to describe Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction!

c.    God wasn't kidding around ... Jonah didn't water the message down; it was straight, honest and convincing!

 

ILLUS:      In his book Why Prayers Are Unanswered, John Lavender retells a story about Norman Vincent Peale.

   When Peale was a boy, he found a big, black cigar, slipped into an alley, and lit up. It didn't taste good, but it made him feel very grown up ... until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual.

   Desperate to divert his father's attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus. "Can I go, Dad? Please, let's go when it comes to town." His father's reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot. "Son," he answered quietly but firmly, "never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience." -- Kirk Russel, DeForest, Wisconsin. Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 4.

 

2.    God's timing was just right too...

a.    The Ninevites had just gone through a couple of plagues.

b.    They had a solar eclipse for which "pending" doom was the usual interpretation for a culture that embraced mysticism!

c.    They were clearly worried BEFORE Jonah came ... God knows what He's doing and when He's doing it!

3.    Since they were not a people to give second chances to anyone, they were quick to embrace this message seriously at the first of it ... and follow it with immediate and serious results, they didn't give others second chances, so perhaps they thought they had better act quickly in case God doesn't either!

 

II.   SACKCLOTH OF REPENTANCE!    Jonah 3:5-9

 

A.    Swift Capitulation!    Jonah 3:5

1.    They quickly surrender!  If only people would do this today when they are offered forgiveness by God!

a.    Sometimes people do this today ... perhaps they too have had their hearts already prepared by other circumstances and they are just waiting for the message, why are we so afraid to tell them the GOOD NEWS!

b.    Ironically these cold blooded, hard hearted people quickly believe God!  Perhaps they knew they deserved death being clearly so wicked ... but that is always the first step, honesty about our sins!

2.    They knew that this offer would soon expire ... in their case 40 days from Jonah's preaching!

3.    Someday Christ's offer for salvation is going to end too!  We just don't know exactly when ... it could be tomorrow or the next century, but why put off today asking Him in since we don't know how long the offer is.

 

ILLUS:      On a cold winter evening a man suffered a heart attack and after being admitted to the hospital, asked the nurse to call his daughter.  He explained, "You see, I live alone and she is the only family I have."  The nurse went to phone the daughter.  The daughter was quite upset and shouted, "You must not let him die! You see, Dad and I had a terrible argument almost a year ago.  I haven't seen him since.  All these months I've wanted to go to him for forgiveness.  The last thing I said to him was 'I hate you."'  The daughter cried and then said, "I'm coming now.  I'll be there in thirty minutes."

   The patient went into cardiac arrest, and code 99 was alerted.  The nurse prayed, "O God, his daughter is coming.  Don't let it end this way."  The efforts of the medical team to revive the patient were fruitless.  The nurse observed one of the doctors talking to the daughter outside the room.  She could see the pathetic hurt in her face.  The nurse took the daughter aside and said, "I'm sorry."  The daughter responded, "I never hated him, you know.  I loved him, And now I want to go see him."  The nurse took her to the room, and the daughter went to the bed and buried her face in the sheets as she said good-bye to her deceased father.  The nurse, as she tried not to look at this sad good-bye, noticed a scrap of paper on the bed table.  She picked it up and read: "My dearest Janie, I forgive you.  I pray you will also forgive me.  I know that you love me.  I love you, too Daddy." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 201.

 

B.    Sweeping Changes!    Jonah 3:6-8

1.    Everything had to change!  First their passions would be disciplined, a fast was called for ... and sackcloth and ashes ... for EVERYONE!

a.    Since they all did this, the least to the greatest it showed that they were really all equal in need!

b.    This is true today ... a sinner is a sinner is a sinner is a sinner!  True repentance is required by all of us equally!

2.    This was a demonstration of their honest humility before almighty God ... one must humble himself to come to Christ, "just as I am, without one plea!"

3.    Even the King must show sincere sorrow for his sins ... and he does!

4.    These would require SWEEPING CHANGES from a people known for their cruelty and lack of grace or mercy to others!

5.    Notice the king's proclamation: "LET EVERYONE CALL URGENTLY UPON GOD!"

a.    This was no light consideration, and an important part of the process!

b.    First they had to accept the fact that they were sinners, and then humble themselves publically to admit their need, and then call upon God for mercy!

c.    The king wasn't fooling around ... "URGENTLY CALL" he said to the people!

 

ILLUS:      When I was a telephone operator, a customer talked overtime on a long-distance call from a pay telephone booth. Even with my friendly reminders, he refused to deposit his overtime coins. Instead he slammed down the phone, irate and verbally abusive.

   A few seconds later, he was back on my line--somewhat calmer.

   "Operator, please let me out of the phone booth--I'll pay, I'll pay, just let me out!"

   The customer mistakenly thought I had control of the phone booth's doors and had locked him in!

   He gladly paid the overtime charge and with my advice gave the booth door a hefty kick to free himself. -- Lillian Pearsall, Moravia, N.Y. "Lite Fare," Christian Reader.

 

6.    Notice too in verse 8b the king of Assyria's plea to his fellowman to change:  "GIVE UP THEIR EVIL WAYS AND THEIR VIOLENCE" ... sweeping change is an understatement for these folks!

 

C.    Second Chance!    Jonah 3:9

1.    "Who knows?  God may yet relent and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we will not perish!"  This is the hope of the believer!

a.    Indeed, they had Jonah as a sign that God does give a second chance even when we run away from God initially!

b.    This statement of the king was probably based on the knowledge of Jonah's experience, and in fact this was the SIGN OF JONAH TO the NINEVITES that Jesus was referring to back in Jonah's time ... A SECOND CHANCE indeed would be given to the sincere seeker!

 

ILLUS:      Repentance is not basically a religious word. It comes from a culture where people were essentially nomadic and lived in a world with no maps or street signs. It's easy to get lost walking through the desert. You become aware that the countryside is strange. You finally say to yourself, I'm going in the wrong direction. That's the first act of repentance.

   The second act of repentance is to go in an alternate direction. It implies that you not only do this but you admit it to your companions. We all do this whether or not we realize it. -- Gordon MacDonald, "Repentance," Preaching Today, Tape No. 121.

 

2.    Their turning was based on the hope of life, this would be taken by faith assuming God would do with them as he did with Jonah ... another chance!

 

III.  SALVATION OF REBELS!    Jonah 3:10

 

A.    Serious Commitment!    Jonah 3:lOa

1.    Notice God's reaction:  "When God saw what they did AND how they turned from their evil ways ... He had compassion on them!"

2.    This is still true, becoming a Christian has got to be more than a fad ... it must indeed become fact!

3.    With confession of sins should also come a dedication to change, of course with the help of the Holy Spirit!

4.    God's grace is cheapened by those who confess they are believers and still live like unbelievers!

 

ILLUS:     Garrison Keillor spins another tale:

   "Larry the Sad Boy ... was saved 12 times in the Lutheran church, an all-time record. Between 1953 and 1961 he threw himself weeping and contrite on God's throne of grace on 12 separate occasions--and this in a Lutheran church that wasn't evangelical, had no altar call, no organist playing "Just as I Am Without One Plea" while a choir hummed and a guy with shiny hair took hold of your heartstrings and played you like a cheap guitar. This is the Lutheran church, not a bunch of hillbillies. These are Scandinavians, and they repent in the same way that they sin: discreetly, tastefully, at the proper time. ...

   Twelve times! Even we fundamentalists got tired of him. ... God did not mean for us to feel guilt all our lives. There comes a point when you should dry your tears and join the building committee and start grappling with the problems of the church furnace and ... make church coffee and be of use, but Larry kept on repenting and repenting." -- Quoted in "What IBM Taught Me About Repentance," by John Ortberg, in Christianity Today, August 12, 1993, submitted by Wayne Hollaway.

 

a.    We are to be a separated people, values unlike those of this world.

b.    Practices that clearly shout:  "WE ARE THE REDEEMED OF THE LORD!"

c.    We "bear His name falsely" when we claim salvation while we live in sin!

5.    If these Ninevites could alter their lifestyle anyone today can, especially since now we have the help of the Holy Spirit!

a.    But the Holy Spirit has to have a cooperative Human spirit!

b.    We are proclaiming to a world that Jesus is coming soon, find Him before it's too late ... the message is simple and can be backed up by our own lives ... we too have been given by God the second chance for life eternal ... by partaking of Christ!

6.    They took this salvation stuff seriously, so should we!

a.    This was no light commitment!

b.    It would require massive changes of attitudes and lifestyle!

c.    They were willing, just so they could live beyond the next 40 days!  How about you and I who are looking at eternity?

 

B.    Saving Compassion!    Jonah 3:10b

1.    God was willing and able to avoid destroying them ... in fact He went to great lengths in sending Jonah just so this could save so many lives!

a.    God takes no delight in the lostness of anyone!

b.    It is not His intention that any should perish, but that all would come!

c.    Yet it is left up to us to come or not to come, He will not force the issue, but He will plead ... He will go sometimes to great lengths to get our attention, all we need to do is turn!

 

ILLUS:      A few years ago, two men held up a bank in Dallas. For reasons I do not know, only one of them wore a mask. In ten or fifteen minutes they were captured. Can you imagine one of those men standing before the judge and saying, "Your Honor, I admit I robbed the bank. I admit that I did it. But at least I went in there without a mask. I was not a hypocrite. Everybody saw who I was."

   That doesn't make it with a judge in Dallas. So, if you want to play the game of Pharisee, you can play it from any position in the board. This tax collector stood in the presence of God, and in the presence of God he kept beating his breast, saying, "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner." -- Haddon Robinson, "Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Us Guys," Preaching Today, Tape No. 80.

 

2.    "God is slow to anger" -- quick to grant mercy and forgiveness!  Why not take advantage of a wonderful God's love ... COME!

 

CONCLUSION:    A rebellious Jonah found God's grace and a second chance ... so did a wicked generation of Ninevites!  When the call came the second time, Jonah obeyed, when the Ninevites heard the message that God was going to give them a second chance to be saved they quickly responded, how about you, are you responding to the wonderful Lord who offers you another chance?  Take the offer while there is still time, the difference will be your destination in eternity!