ARE YOU SURE YOU MEAN NINEVEH, LORD?
By Don Krause
Admitting we were wrong, that is hard enough. Saving face is a huge issue for some of us. Admitting we were wrong and then writing about it for the entire world and all of history to read what spiritual dunces we were, that takes major gumption.
I look back at my blockheadness when I served as associate pastor in Cranbrook, Canada. I did not want to be an associate pastor; I should be a lead pastor, te pastor in charge. Hadn’t God given me leadership gifts? So what was I doing as an associate? I think thee time I became so frustrated in that position where I could not change anything, I sent out letters to superintendents to let them know I was available for a leading pastor position. I never had peace and withdrew them each time, but contiued my ministry there a little grudgingly. Surely God knew how talented I was. Only after our leading pastor resigned and the church asked me to stay, did I understand God’s plan for me. That can and was embarrassing. I was not trusting the Lord like I should have.
That is the story of Jonah. After he makes a terrible mess of his calling of God to Nineveh, he writes his story. This series of four sermons, I pray, will extract some of the lessons for us..
This man, Jonah, prophesied in Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II, probably around 785 – 750 BC. During this time Assyrians, whose capital city was Nineveh, became aggressive and a pain in Israel’s backside. They viewed each other as enemies.
It is a short little book but is pregnant with lessons about God and about people.
You can read the book of Jonah in fifteen minutes. Here is my request of you as your pastor: read through this book in one sitting at least once each of the next four weeks. (PRAYER)
I GOD’S CALL (Read 1,2)
This will not be the first time Jonah had a word from the Lord. Prophecy involves a direct message from God, and Jonah will have prophesied many times. God called him for a reason. I think we can say he was experienced and must have had a successful track record. God gave this man a gift and now God had a special assignment for Jonah- probably the first call to go outside of Israel. Maybe that fact raised Jonah’s response.
The Holy Spirit places in each of us gifts God wants us to use to advance His Kingdom. You can check out some of the gifs in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12,13,14. With those gifts come callings; God setts before you situations to use you gifts. The Christian’s life becomes an exciting journey when we open ourselves to using those gifts. Sometimes He may ask you to go to a place like Bali (us); sometimes next door to the neighbor, a teacher in a secular school, a writer, a yard man. None is more important.
We see an attribute of God in this story, too. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies. Here God manifests His love and compassion even for the enemies of His people. God does not destroy people on whim, or out of prejudice. He is not willing that any should perish.
God sees the wickedness of the Ninevites, but gives them a chance to change.
II JONAH’S RESPONSE (3)
Why? Why would Jonah refuse God’s call? 1) Hadn’t had a holiday for a long time. 2) He was afraid of the Ninevites- a warlike, cruel people. 3) Had arthritis and riding camel for hundreds of miles (show where) would be too hard on his body. 4) Knew that if he went far enough West, he had to get to Nineveh. 5) He had a cultural prejudice against these backward people. 6) He liked the scenery along the Mediterranean better than the desert. Whatever the reason or excuse, Jonah blatantly went against God’s call.
“He ran away,” “to flee from the Lord.”
Which direction are our lives pointed right now? Check your spiritual compass. Are you moving to Nineveh? (Tell story of Bill Bohaychuck) OR are you heading to Joppa and maybe already on the boat to Tarshish? What is your true calling?
The Bible calls willful rejection of God’s call, rebellion, and Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” I Samuel 15:23
III GOD’S PERSUASIVE RESOURCES (4 Read)
Since God is everywhere, Jonah and we, cannot run away from Him. Not only does God know where we are, He can bring circumstances to bear on us rebellious ones that bring us to our senses. Here, first he whips up a fierce storm., so violent these hardened, experienced sailors went into panic mode, because they were sure the ship would break up. They threw cargo overboard, and they began to yell out to their gods to save them.
No matter where we are, God is there. Distance is no factor. Darkness is no factor. Crowds or traffic won’t stop Him,_______________, ______________,____________
A poem was written in called “The Hound of Heaven.”
In “The Hound of Heaven,” the narrator knows that he is pursued by God. He tries to
ignore God, avoid God, substitute other things for God. He revels in his youth, he
immerses himself in nature, he rejoices in his independence, he can do it all without God,
he’s sure, and yet God is always there, nipping at his heels, running him down, the “hound
of heaven,” because God knows, sooner or later, down deep, God is what we are after,
and what God provides, nothing else can.
God never forces us, but He might apply some persuasion.
IV GOD USES PEOPLE LIKE THE SAILORS (5-16)
How could Jonah sleep when this storm tosses the ship around and there is desperation and panic all around him? And, besides, he has just intentionally defied God. Almost sounds like he lacks a conscience.
The sailors begin to wonder maybe the stranger is somehow connected with this freak storm. They wake him, and prod him with questions. During this time, suddenly Jonah’s gift shows up. He says I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.
Oh, Oh. The one who made the sea? Jonah’s God must be mad about something, likely what the sailors are thinking. They question Jonah further and ask for his solution. And Jonah says, If you want to get rid of this storm, you’ll have to get rid of me. There is no other way, you can’t stop off at an island in this hurricane, you’ll have to dump me overboard. It wasn’t the cargo you needed to unload, it was me.
The waves grow larger, heaving the ship, they splash over the sides, the huge planks of the ship groan and creak, threatening to splinter and crack. The sailors do no want to antagonize Jonah’s God further, by throwing him over for the sharks. They try to row against the storm, but without any success. In fact, the storm stirs up even larger waves. They reluctantly throw the stranger overboard, even praying to Jonah’s God to forgive them. (Pretty decent bunch of sailors, don’t you think? Seem a better lot than Jonah, supposedly the man of God) What a brief testimony can sometimes do to connect unbelievers with God & Jesus? We never know. All the while, the sailors become God’s instruments for God to fulfill His original purpose to take “The word” to Nineveh. How persistent, resourceful, compassionate are God’s ways!
V THE GREAT FISH
I thought of another title for this sermon: “Let Me Have My Way, or Let Me Die.”
As far as I can tell, the sailors did not lower Jonah onto a rubber dinghy. We don’t read that they gave him three lifejackets, either. He left the deck of that ship flying through the air with only the clothes on his back. How much time did God have to provide this great fish. How long could Jonah stay afloat before bubbling to the bottom of the Med. Sea? Not much. Up comes a great fish, another intervention by God, and swallows this rebellious, self-willed prophet whole. And there, in the stomach, Jonah competes with what other things for oxygen for three days? My Dad brought home a 20lb. pike (fish) one day and it had entire mudhen in its stomach.
What would you ask Jonah if you could? Jonah? You like this better than riding the camel a few hundred miles? Think it over, my dear prophet. You’re getting a unique ride, true, but maybe you won’t get to Tarshish. And how’s the scenery? The windows- they’re a little steamed up, I’d say. But never mind, it’s all free.
God’s call for us may be hard to understand, it may frighten us, or show up our prejudices, or we may feel quite unqualified. Can you name one person in the Bible when he/she is called enthusiastically, jumps at it?
God’s call often cuts across our own preferences, dreams, biases, and hopes. We squirm, we argue, we rebel. But His ways are always the best possible way. Do you really want to go against the ways of a God who can bring all kinds of obstacles into your path? You will be most successful if you follow His call. You will be happiest if you follow His call. Learn from Jonah, that rebellion leads to unhappy endings.
Nineveh? How about Tarshish, Lord? OR I’m scared but I’ll trust You
Bali? How about Canada, Lord? OR I don’t know the Bahasa, but you can love
Africa? How about Hawaii, Lord? OR You’ll have remove fear of snakes, God
from Sermon of Ps Don Krause at KICC Bali