150621 Jonah 3:1-10

Last Updated on Monday, 22 June 2015 Written by Pastor Schmidt

TEXT: Jonah 3:1 – 10

THEME: How Are You Like Jonah?

I would like to begin with a question for all of us to think about this morning: whom in the Bible do you look to as a pattern for your life? Certainly, as Christians, in response to the full and free forgiveness of all our sins, we desire to live the life our Savior lived while on this earth. But what other people of the Bible do you look to as an example for your life? Perhaps you look to Peter. Not the Peter who denied his Savior, but the Peter who boldly confessed his Savior on the day of Pentecost. A name which comes to mind for many of us is the Apostle Paul. We desire to be filled with the energy, the zeal, and the love for God's Word that the Apostle Paul showed in his life. As you think about which person in the Bible you would like to pattern your life after, does the name "Jonah" come to mind? If not, why do think that is? Do we look to Jonah as a pattern for our lives? If you tell someone, "You remind me a lot of Jonah", would you take that as a criticism or a complement? This morning all of us are asked the question: How Are You Like Jonah? Based on this section of Scripture we will arrive at two answers to that question. First: You are Sent by the LORD; and secondly: You Proclaim the Word of the LORD.

The ministry of the Lord's prophet Jonah is familiar to many of us. You will recall that the Lord called Jonah to proclaim his Word to the people living in Nineveh, the capital city of Israel's enemy Assyria. Do you remember Jonah's reaction to that first call from the Lord? We are told in chapter one: "But Jonah ran away from the Lord." Instead of carrying out the Lord's mission to reach out to the people of Nineveh, Jonah boarded a ship, most likely headed in the opposite direction to which the Lord had called him. But, as Jonah found out, you can't run away from the all-knowing, all-seeing Lord. So, as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, he had time to think about the Call the Lord had sent to him and his first reaction to it.

After the Lord rescued Jonah from the belly of this great fish, we read, "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." There are two things that I would like us to take note of from these verses: First, notice that we don't read about any blame from the Lord for the way Jonah had disobeyed him earlier. The LORD, the God of love and mercy, had forgiven Jonah for his sin, and called him a second time to carry his word to the people of Nineveh. Second, notice that despite his former rebellion and sin, the Lord still used Jonah as his messenger. And we are told that this second time, Jonah obeyed the Word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.

So I ask the question: "How are you like Jonah?" As we look honestly at our own lives in light of God's Law, each and everyone of us will admit, that, like Jonah, we are sinners. Sinners, who like Jonah, at times want to run away from the Lord as far away as possible, rather than obey his Word. There are those times when you and I allow our Old Adams, our sinful natures, to take over, and we want to do anything but listen to what our God has to say to us in his Word. Day after day, you and I confess that all we poor, miserable sinners deserve from our Lord is to be thrown into the belly of hell to suffer for all eternity.

But, you and I also know the love the Lord has for us and all sinful mankind. We know the Good News of the Gospel which tells us that Jesus Christ willingly came to live, to suffer and to die for your sins, for my sins and for the sins of the whole world. It is this Lord of the Church who has made you and me his chosen people, and who sends us out to proclaim his holy Word. As we read in Peter's first letter, chapter 2, "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." Each and everyone of us here this morning is a Jonah. You are sent by the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, as his messengers.

The coach of a basketball team will not simply pick 5 players and then put them out on the court to play in a game. He will take time to teach them and train them. He may send them home with sheets of plays to study and learn. All of here this morning are a bunch of Jonah's; we are all sent out by the Lord. But, the Lord of the Church, does not simply push you and me out the door and say, "There now. I am sending you off. Come up with something to tell people!" Not only is the Lord the one who sends us, but he also gives you and me his Word to proclaim.

We read in God's Word before us: "Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days." A more literal translation of the original Hebrew for this verse tells us that Nineveh and the people living in Nineveh were "very important to God". The Just and Almighty God, the ruler of all things had a message for the people of Nineveh. A message Jonah was sent to proclaim: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Lord's message for the people of Nineveh was clearly one of Law. In his righteous anger, God's judgment against their wickedness would be the overthrow of their city.

But do you see any hope in this message from the Lord? The Lord gives the people of Nineveh a deadline of 40 days to repent of their evil ways. This was a special act of mercy on the Lord's part. Mercy? Hope? Think about it . . . if God had decided to destroy the city for its wickedness, and if there were no hope that he might relent, there would be no real purpose in sending Jonah; there would be no reason to give them 40 days to repent. Therefore, the message is not just a threat of punishment, but also a reason for hope; that God would spare the people of Nineveh. It is a message of both Law and Gospel.

What was the reaction of the people living in Nineveh when they heard the Word of God Jonah proclaimed to them? We are told: "The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth." Commentators like to spend a great deal of time talking about the repentance of the Ninevites. They ask whether this was true repentance, or only a show or an act put on in the hope of appeasing the Lord God. It is correct to take their repentance as true and genuine, for we read in verse 10, "When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened." By the working of God the Holy Spirit, the people of Nineveh were led to believe God's Word. The Law had driven them to their knees in sorrow over their sins. The Gospel message filled their hearts with the hope of the Lord's forgiveness and rescue.

So, once again I ask you the question: "How are you like Jonah"? You and I have been given the Great Commission from the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, to go and make disciples by proclaiming his Word. You and I have a responsibility to share ALL of the Word of the Lord with your fellow believers in our congregation and with those who do not yet know our Savior from sin. You and I are to proclaim both God's Law, not hesitating to point out sin and the great need for a Savior all of us have; and we are to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel, that is the full and free forgiveness of all sins won for all people by our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we proclaim our Savior's Word, you and I are able to go forward with confidence and assurance, knowing that it is not our words that we are proclaiming, but rather it is the Word of the Lord of the Church. It is a very humbling thing for you and me that the Almighty Lord of the Church would entrust to us the proclamation of his Word. Yet, that is exactly what he has done! You and I are all Jonahs. As his messengers, the Lord sends us out to proclaim his Word.

As you think about those in the Bible you would like to serve as a model for your life, I can tell you that all I see before me are a bunch of Jonahs. Members of God's family, forgiven through the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Sinner-Saints who are sent by the Lord to proclaim his Word. My dear friend in Christ, give thanks to the Lord of the Church that you are a Jonah! You are sent by the Lord. Now, proclaim his Word! Amen.

 

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