Jonah: Lessons From The Runaway Preacher
105 – God has mercy, even on our enemies
August 30, 2020
-> Is there anyone right now that you can think of, that you would have a big problem seeing mercy extended to? Think about that for a minute – think of all the people in the world who have committed crimes or horrid acts – who is the worst of the worst? If they called out to God, were to be given grace and mercy right now in some time of need – or if they were to repent and God forgave them, how would you feel?
-> Is the grace of God this morning limited to the ones who seem to have their lives together and only make minor mistakes, or can people much like (Fill in the blanks with the worst of society – the ‘monsters of humanity’) have the opportunity, if they would so receive it, to stand shoulder to shoulder with others who have put their hope in Christ as equal recipients of God’s forgiveness? Is that a comfortable thing to think about?
God has mercy on people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I.
-> Remember the three central themes behind Jonah? i) God can do whatever God does. ii) Jonah needed saving as much as the Ninevites (as much as he reflects Israel, he reflects Ninevah) iii) Jonah is about the grace of God on people who don’t deserve it.
-> By definition, grace is free and unmerited favour…. So, something that we don’t deserve. And if God has given you grace this week, it is because you didn’t deserve it either. Grace and mercy are shown to people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I.
-> Turn to Jonah 3:10-4:11. Going to finish off the book of Jonah today.
-> Quick recap… Jonah, after seeking forgiveness from God, is restored as a prophet, and goes into Nineveh and preaches a message of judgement. The people hear the message, and all the people, right up to the King are humbled by it, and grieve their sin… they put on sackcloth, sit in ashes (out of humility), fast, and cry out to God for mercy. There is an official edict to stop living in evil, and cry out to God for mercy. And it seems like everything is finally working out for Jonah.
1) Jonah was intensely furious that the people of Nineveh were spared. (4:1)
-> Jonah was more than just a bit disappointed with God. He was a prejudiced and judgemental prophet who couldn’t see past his own resentment and hatred.
-> God does something here absolutely praise worthy, wonderful, and gracious – He spares a large city and its inhabitants from certain pain and destruction because of their sin because they repent. God’s message of destruction was a wake up call. God then (like He does with us so often) didn’t give them the punishment they deserved but showered them in grace and mercy. This is the climax of the book, and should have been the end… yet it wasn’t.
-> This is a message that we would think would have pleased Jonah (or any servant / prophet of God). Something totally absurd happens! While Jonah went to Ninevah, and by all accounts, it looked like he repented of his past behaviour, his bitterness still held on to his heart, and it seems as if he went to Ninevah preaching with ulterior motives: that the people would be destroyed and would not seek God.
-> Jonah is arguably the most successful (120,000+ conversions in 3 days) evangelists in history, yet also one of the strangest – only evangelist who would be mad that the message he is giving was received and acted on.
-> Our translations don’t do it justice here how Jonah was feeling – “Greatly upset / displeased exceedingly’. There are actually two words used here to qualify his exceeding anger:
Ra (root Ra’a): bad, evil, unpleasant.
Interesting note: How many times is Ra used in Jonah, and in what context? (Jonah 1:2, 1:7-8, 3:8 examples – anywhere that ‘evil’ is mentioned, Ra is used)
Wasn’t just that Jonah was mad, but that in his anger, he was committing evil!
Charah: to burn, be hot, be scorched, be charred
Intensity right here. Wasn’t just that he was a little ticked… he was mad…
-> He was so filled with hate, evil thoughts, and unpleasantness towards the Ninevites that when they found mercy, that hate was causing him to be filled with bad emotions and evil thoughts in great intensity towards this situation, and respond in anger.
2) Jonah responds to God by saying “I told you so…” (4:2)
-> Jonah then does the figurative “told ya so”. Who here likes a know it all? That is what Jonah did here. “Guess what God? I told you so… back before I even left for Tarshish… this is why I didn’t want to come here! God, you don’t live up to your promises. You have a flaw – You can’t possibly bring yourself to give people what they deserve” forgetting all the while that he himself was spared not that long ago from a death he fully deserved. “God, I know You better than You know You”
3) Jonah begs God to take his life. (4:3)
-> If we go back to the original, we see that he is actually begging God to take his life – Same word used here as when the sailors in the storm (1:14) called out to God to spare them before they threw Jonah over. There is an urgency, and a pleading as Jonah would rather be dead than see this message of doom and gloom not come true. Rather than see God’s amazing mercy at work, he would rather be dead.
-> We can sit back and point fingers at Jonah this morning, but can we identify with him?
4) God asks “is it a good thing to get mad when I do good?” (4:4)
-> I love how God replies to Jonah’s temper. He waits for Jonah to finish his explosive rage. Then He asks Jonah if it is right to be mad. God has just done something amazingly praise worthy! Yet Jonah in many ways reminds me of when we see others pout when they don’t get their way (Caleb and his stink eye…) Jonah is pouting here, and God is asking something maybe a bit deeper than what we see on the surface: “Is it a good thing to get mad when I do good?” In essence, He also asks us: Is it a good thing for us to get upset when God does something good?
-> Everything God does is good. Last, we looked at the idea that God is a God of an infinity of second chances. Part of God being merciful and giving another chance is that He will also give a second chance, or 2000th chance to someone we don’t think deserves it. Are we truly okay with that? Does everyone truly have equal access to God’s mercy? Can we get upset when God does something good?
-> Jonah doesn’t answer God. Goes off to pout and gives God the ‘silent treatment’. Jonah wanted to get away from it all, succumbing to total selfishness.
5) God specifically prepares, for that very moment, a leafy plant and a worm to eat the plant. (4:6-7)
-> God here gives Jonah a physical example to help him understand the heart of God.
-> The weather is hot as Jonah is sitting in his world of anger and revenge. Ever been in the store and seen a kid have a temper tantrum right there? Why do they do it? Because they think they can change the parent’s mind just to keep them quiet. He somehow thinks that maybe his little outburst and temper tantrum has magically changed the heart of God. He is sitting to wait and see if maybe God has now come to His senses (sense the sarcasm here?) and will destroy Nineveh as promised. Leaves us with an interesting thought: Do we think that if we get mad with God, somehow that may change His mind? Does any amount of getting mad and demanding change the good that God wants to give someone else?
-> God arranges for a leafy plant to cover Jonah and provide shade for the day. He also arranges though for a worm to eat the plant at dawn and cause it to die. It grew hot as Jonah was sitting in his self pity and misery. Jonah became even more bitter – and angry for the plant, that it had to die. And again, Jonah wants to die!
6) God, once again says “is it right for you to be upset?” (4:9)
-> God confronts Jonah yet again with a simple question: Is it right for you to be upset? Jonah’s answer was straight forward – he was bitter enough and upset enough that death would have been warranted. Does anyone else see a bit of a problem here?
7) Jonah allowed himself to get bitter over God’s undeserved mercy. (4:9)
-> Jonah has allowed himself to get so bitter over God being gracious to people who didn’t deserve it in Jonah’s eye that he is totally consumed by bitterness, prejudice, and revenge. All he wants is the people of Nineveh to die. How many of us have ever gotten so bitter about something that it consumes us?
-> What God says next is rather profound:
-> You were saddened because something minor you held dear was destroyed. If you could have, you would have saved the plant. You are so worried about this little plant that means nothing! Should not I try and find a way to save something of truly immeasurable value? Shouldn’t I be concerned about the welfare of my dear possession that is about to face destruction? If you are concerned about the welfare of something so trivial and small in the face of eternity, shouldn’t I have the right to be concerned about the ultimate eternity of the lives of my creation (the people who were in spiritual darkness, and the cattle – symbolizing God’s greater creation about to be destroyed)?
God has mercy on people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I.
-> I asked this at the start of the message today: Is there anyone right now that we would have a problem seeing God extend mercy to? Anyone you can think of who never deserves forgiveness? Is there anyone so bad in our mind or so hurtful (community or personal) that if God asked us to forgive, or show His mercy to, we would flinch, cringe, and resist?
God is a God of second chances so that we can be people of second chances to those around us who don’t deserve it.
-> If God has forgiven us, and showed us mercy, He expects us to do the same to others. In fact, the Bible says that if we say we have the love of Christ in us, but we are unwilling to love others (show mercy and grace), then we are fooling ourselves with a falsehood ( 1 John 4:19-21).
-> This means that you and I have no choice but to be gracious and merciful to those who we don’t think deserve it. God loved us first. God has mercy on people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I.
-> How are we doing at extending mercy to those who we don’t feel warrant it?
-> Do we get so bitter that we just see the offence of the other people and feel they don’t deserve God’s grace, yet we are so upset that we fail to see that we are equally undeserving?
-> When it comes to forgiveness, we struggle a bit… especially if it is personal. We say “don’t you know how I have been hurt??” Don’t you see my pain? Can’t you see how bad they were to me?? Don’t you know who they are and what they do? And we also say “I can’t forgive (or don’t need to) because they haven’t asked for it.” Sounds noble… but is totally unbiblical. God tells us that if we first don’t forgive, how can He forgive us?
-> Mercy, by definition, is not fair. It is giving us what we do not deserve. With God being good and filled with mercy, we wont always get our way. People who should get what they deserve wont, and really, it isn’t fair. Being fair is giving us what we all deserve.
-> Mercy will not satisfy as long as we are living with a chip on our shoulder.
God had a plan to forgive all of humanity for all history before they even knew they needed it.
-> What is the good news of the Scripture? (Eph 1:4-5) Before time began on Earth, God knew who you were, knew you needed mercy, and already chose to extend it to you. Back then, He already chose to send Jesus on your behalf to die on a Cross, and rise again so that you could be forgiven – so that you could have mercy. And it made Him happy!
-> The Bible says that while we were yet still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). We were undeserving sinners – we ALL were enemies of God at one time (Rom 5:10), yet God offered us mercy.
-> Sounds like God extending mercy on us before we even knew we needed it… before we even asked for it. It sure sounds like God has mercy on people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I. God took people who were enemies, and made them friends – He did it for me, and he did it for you. God has mercy on people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I. And he expects you and I to do the same.