God's View of the World and Ours

Bible Book: Jonah 
Subject: Love of God; Missions; Selfishness
Series: Missions; Love, God's
Introduction

Today we are going to look at the Book of Jonah, which is not a myth nor a parable. The Book of Jonah is about a real man, who was swallowed by a real fish, in real history.

I am reminded of a man who lied a lot. The people in town were very disturbed by this so that asked the preacher to talk to the man. The pastor decided to wait for the right occasion. One day the preacher was talking with the man known for his great exaggerations when the fellow told the preacher he had caught 265 pounds of bass in less than two hours. The preacher saw his opportunity and decided he would tell a lie so great that the liar would see how foolish it sounded and would change his ways. The preacher told a story about a fictitious revival he had preached. He said that one night in the revival a 650 pound bear had wandered into the church. Now the story goes that the pastor of the church had a little dog that sat by the pulpit during each service. The preacher said, “Would you believe that little dog jumped up, climbed on that bear and ate him completely up?” The liar said, “O yeah, I believe you, you see that was my dog!”

Well, friend, the story of Jonah found in God’s Word is no tall tale but a factual, historical event. Jesus even used this story to make a point in the New Testament and quoted it as fact and history. Since Jesus believed it, you and I certainly have no right to doubt it.

Why is this book important? The message of Jonah speaks to us about how much God loves a lost world and how on occasion God’s own people become indifferent and selfish and that causes them to lose sight of the Lord's desire to bring all people into redemption. The Book of Jonah contrasts God’s view of the world with the one that is often revealed in His own people. So let’s look at four interesting facts about Jonah…

I. Jonah Running

Jonah received a call from God to go to Nineveh and to preach to them a coming judgment. Note what happens as Jonah considers this responsibility.

A. Hearing

First we see Jonah as God speaks to him and calls him. Yes, Jonah hears the call and knows exactly what God wants Him to do. I’m sure that many times we do exactly what Jonah did in this case. He heard but he didn’t obey. Our problem is not a problem hearing but a resistance to obedience.

It is a great thing to hear from the Lord. Every saved person has heard God speak, for you cannot come to Jesus unless the Father draws you. Even little children can hear from God and they often share thoughts about God that we know only came to them from listening in their little hearts to what He has said to them. God saves through speaking to us. He gets His work done by speaking to us. He corrects our errant ways through speaking to us. Yet, it is a wonderful thing to hear from God!

B. Hiding

Jonah, however, doesn’t like what he hears from the Lord and he tries to run from God. He tries to hide. Why did he do that? Maybe he was lazy, maybe he was comfortable, maybe he was prejudiced, or maybe he was just rebellious. For whatever reason, he tried to run from God. God said, “Go.” Jonah said, “No.” We can say, “Uh oh!” Any one running from God’s call is running into trouble.

A little child had something in a store that mother did not want him to have. He tried to run while looking back at mother, but he ran right into his father’s legs. That is what happened to Jonah and that is what happens to all of us when we try to run from God. Jonah ran from God but ran right into Him!

C. Hurting

We see the hurt Jonah’s decision caused. Jonah caught a ship going to Tarsish and the trouble really began.

Because Jonah ran from God, he sailors were hurting in an awful storm. Because Jonah ran from God, the people who cargo on the ship were harmed. The storm caused by Jonah’s rebellion caused the crew on the ship to thrown all the cargo overboard. Also, Jonah was hurt by running from God. The only way to stop the harm being down, was for the crew on the ship to throw him overboard. It is bad when the only way to have a revival is to throw someone out. In this case it was the preacher!

Things did not start to change until God’s man got right with God. Oh, there would be power in our churches if we were right with God. When the pastor, the deacons, the Bible teachers, the musicians, and all the members are humble, obedient and devoted to the Lord, great things happen – things that only God can do.

When we are unwilling to hear and we try to hide from God, only pain and sorrow follow. Yet, again and again we resist His will and way. That is what Jonah did, to the peril of others and himself.

II. Jonah Swimming

The crew threw Jonah overboard in the midst of the storm. Many of you have been on a cruise or deep sea fishing, and you know what it is like to be on the water out of sight from land. To fall into the sea in the middle of storm, with no life jacket and no life boat has to be one of the most fearful things a person can experience. That is what happened to Jonah.

A. Provision

God prepared a life boat for Jonah – it was a great fish, probably a once-for-all fish, to swallow up this rebellious man. This was not a punishment for Jonah but was actually for his own good. It was not like the stateroom on a cruise ship and there was certainly no midnight buffet onboard, but it was a place to keep him from drowning in the deep.

God has some “great fish experiences” for believers. When we get out of His will, when we resist Him leadership, He has a way of tossing us into the deep. Actually, the great fish experiences of Christians are often God’s loving way of helping us and saving us from our own foolishness. Poor Jonah, he was down in those digestive juices and what a terrible place it was, yet it was God’s place for him!

B. Prayer

When Jonah decided to run from God, the Bible does not record him praying about his decision – not even one little prayer for direction! He did not pray before he ran, but once he was in the belly of the fish he learned very quickly the value of prayer. We see him calling out to God for his underwater cruise ship! Listen closely, the prayers we pray before we are thrown into the prayer closet are far easier and better that the ones we pray when we are thrown into the prayer closet. The child of God will end up praying, so it is better to pray from the outset.

C. Praise

Note what happened to Jonah as he prayed. He began to praise God – and he did that BEFORE he was delivered from the belly of the fish. Friend, it was not circumstances that caused Jonah to praise God, but it was rather the condition of Jonah’s heart that created the right spirit in him and that led him to praise. That is always true for the believer. Jonah realized in the belly of the fish that God had not left Him, even though he had sought to leave God. He changed his attitude toward God and that was the beginning path to a higher altitude. When down in the deep, even the shore line near Nineveh looks good!

III. Jonah Walking

Jonah arrived on dry ground and stood up on shaky legs to begin his walk of obedience. Just to see this man walking upright after what had happened to him was amazing. His walking reveals some things to us.

A. Remarkable Resurrection

Here we see the God of second chance. He is the Master of raising up the dead!

There was a man up in Madison County, North Carolina who was waiting on a bus to take him to Atlanta, Georgia. He saw a machine that promised to tell him his weight and his fortune for only a nickel. So, the man stepped on the device, deposited his nickel and out popped a card that read, “You are John Yoder, you weigh 185 pounds and you are on your way to Atlanta, Georgia.” The man simply could not believe that the device had gotten his weight and his plans exactly right. He was an old country boy, so he decided he was going to figure out a way to fool the device. So, he messed up his hair and got back on the device and deposited another nickel. Again, the machine gave him the exact weight and his destination. John Yoder was amazed. So, he tried once more to fool the machine. He looked around and found a paper bag. He put it over his head, stepped back on the device and deposited his nickel. This time the card popped out and it read, “You are still John Yoder, you still weigh 185 pounds, you look silly with that bag on your head and you’ve have messed around and missed your bus to Atlanta.”

There are a lot of people messing around and losing opportunities in this world. The ball player that gets into trouble in college and loses a change to play on the professional stage. The husband or wife that messes around and loses their marriage and family. But, I want you know something today that is very important, God is the God of the second chance. He does not throw you out when you fail. Don’t get me wrong, there are consequences when we run from God’s will and end up in sinful habits; however, the Lord is ever willing to forgive and to grant each of us another chance to serve Him in our lives.

Jonah was spit on the shore and given a new opportunity. He knew that life inside the great fish was not really his destiny. He wasn’t made to live a fish-gut life, and neither is any one of us. God has greater plans for us, if we will only listen and obey!

B. Repeated Call

Jonah was ready to obey God, so he went to Nineveh and preached the brief but profound message God had given him for those people. “Yet forty days and destruction will come.” He walked up and down the streets preaching a message of judgment. To be sure, we are in an age that does not want to hear a divine message of judgment, yet that is a message of truth. There is a judgment day coming! If we fail to warn the souls of men we are merely turning our churches into social clubs. So Jonah preached his sermon over and over again, calling out to the people of Nineveh to listen.

C. Repentant Ninevites

A spiritual awakening was experienced in Nineveh! The entire city turned to God in faith, including the king. This was something that only God could do. Be assured of this, if God can bring a city like Nineveh to faith, He can touch any village, town or city in the world today! God took a repentant preacher and wrought an amazing spiritual event. All things are possible with God.

IV. Jonah Sitting

Sadly, when we come to the end of the Book of Jonah, we see the prophet pouting and fretting. Jonah was upset that the people repented. He wanted to sit on top of the hill outside Nineveh and watch the fireballs fall from heaven on those wicked people. So, he sat up there on the hill angry and disappointed that God’s hand had been stayed by the repentant Ninevites.

A. Conceit Problem

Jonah was selfish, and he was a bigot. He cared only for his only people and for himself. Seriously, do we really pray for Muslims to come to Christ? Many Christians, I feel sure, dream of a time when a great bomb will be dropped on those people and they will be wiped off the earth. No matter what the fanatics among Muslims are doing to Christians, God still loves them and desires to save them. He loves them as much as He loves you. We must be careful about conceit and pride, for God keeps the proud far from Him.

There is the story of a customer who walked into a pet shop and spied a parrot. He ambled over to the bird and said, "Hey, stupid, can you talk?" The bird answered, "Sure can, dummy, can you fly?"

God has a way to putting us in our place! We must love the world as God loves it, and He loved the world enough to give His only Son that the people who believed upon Him might not perish but have everlasting life.

B. Control Problem

Another problem that Jonah had was what we might call a control problem. He just didn’t like God being in control. This is a great human problem. We see it in marriage, in the workplace and even in the church. Struggles over who is going to be in charge have crippled and destroyed more relationships that any other factor. Be assured that God is in control and you can’t change that. The sooner we accept it, the better off we are!

I’m reminded of the mother who said to her daughter, "Darling, you shouldn't always keep everything for yourself. I have told you before that you should let your brother play with your toys half of the time." The daughter answered, "I've been doing that. I take the sled going downhill and he gets to use it going back up the hill."

C. Comfort Problem

The sun beat down on Jonah’s head and God gave him a vine to cover him from the burning heat. Then, the vine wilted. Jonah was furious and let God know it. Sadly, as God pointed out, Jonah was more concerned for his sunburned head that he was for every man, woman, child and animal in the city of Nineveh. He was so interested in his own comfort, that a small inconvenience was more critical to him that the lives of thousands of people. We must be careful in our churches that we don’t become just like Jonah. We are more interested in how comfortable our seat is during worship, which classroom we meet in for Bible study or how the temperature is in the building than we are about the souls of those who live all around us. This just might be the greatest single problem in our churches today. If cared only a little more about the dying lost people around us than we do about our own comfort, we must might see a mighty revival occur in our time.

Conclusion

The Book of Jonah calls on each of us to listen to God’s will, to renew our commitment to love the lost world as God loves it, and to do our part even when it makes us uncomfortable to do so.

A few years ago a newspaper editorial commended most truck drivers for using their CB radios in a constructive way. However, it concluded with a warning for those who misuse this means of communication. The writer gave this unforgettable example: In Colorado, several people begged a trucker to free the channel so that they could put through an emergency call, but he refused to cooperate. They wanted to direct a doctor to the scene of a serious accident. An automobile had driven into the rear of a flatbed trailer carrying metal tubing. A piece of pipe had gone through the car's windshield, pinning a woman in the wreckage. The trucker continued to tie up the channel, frustrating all attempts to obtain help. Finally he came upon the scene of the accident himself. To his utter dismay, he discovered that the critically injured person was his own wife! When a doctor did arrive, he said that if he had been notified even ten minutes earlier, the woman's chances for survival would have been much greater. That trucker's "mischief" did indeed "return upon his own head" (Ps. 7:16).

Dear people, we must not sit down at a time like this. We cannot sit while the world is spinning toward judgment! We must rise and go in the name of Christ to share His love and grace. Now is the time for us to commit our lives to showing God’s love, and doing so at whatever cost is required. Now is the time to see the world through His eyes and not our own.