The book of Jonah paints a picture of God’s mercy and grace declaring his mission to redeem the world; to bring people to himself.
Well, I’m not only doing announcements, but you’re stuck with me through the service as well. So if you would be so kind, I would love for you to open up your Bibles with me this morning. We’re going to be in the book of Jonah.
It may take you from now until the end of our service to figure out where in the world. The book of John is it is only 42 verses long, the entire book. And we’re going to spend our time in. The entire book of Jonah. So if you saw the sermon summary this morning and said, what in the world, chapter one through four, he’s going to cover this morning.
Um, it’s only 42 verses and it’s merely a page or a page and a half in most Bibles. And so if you find the book of Jonah, uh, we’ll get there. It is in one of the, um, the section, uh, known as the minor prophets. They are. Uh, prophetic books that teach about things that are to come or things that have already happened, uh, that, that were, um, not known to the people at that time.
And so we’re excited to be there, but before you, um, read through all 42 verses and get the whole thing and learn all that there is to know about Jonah, maybe just, maybe you already know a few things about the book of Jonah, potentially the story you’ve heard before, or, or things about Jonah that you’ve heard.
And I want to venture to say that. Most of us probably have the same few things in our mind when it comes to the book of Jonah, right? There’s there’s a, a fish or a whale or maybe a group, or I’m not even sure what in the world, it was some sort of large fish, there was a prophet named Jonah. And if you miss that one, go back to the title and read the book of Jonah, some sailors, probably in the midst of this story that maybe remember.
Um, there’s a city of Nineveh and if you’re reading really carefully and you made it all the way to the end of those 42 verses, you probably remember something about, uh, this plant growing up and then this worm that comes in and it’s a bit of a weird story, but we, as people in the Western civilization, oftentimes look at details and we ask questions of the scriptures and we read it with a particular lens, and I’m going to call that the.
How lens, how in the world could this be possible? How could a fish swallow a man? What kind of fish is it even possible that this has happened? Is there enough oxygen in the belly of a fish for this story to be true? How did this plant grow immediately up out of the ground and then all of a sudden provide shade for Jonah.
Could this even happen? Well, as you probably can imagine, many people have spent extensive amounts of hours researching and thinking through how in the world, this could happen. Trying to disprove the facts were proved them to figure out if this book is true, we believe that God’s word is no longer a to be debated about it is an errand.
It is true. It is correct. All things truth. And so if you were to read this, not from a Western perspective, but if you were to go back to when these books were written in an ancient, near Eastern context, they would be far more concerned with the who and the why, rather than trying to mine out scientific data from a book that never was intended to be a science book.
And so, as we read through the book of Jonah this morning, we’re not going to read all 42, but we’re going to tell through and talk through and read snippets of it throughout. I would like you to think through the who and the why in the world, this short book is included in the Canon of scripture. So here we go.
We’re going to do a fly by retelling of the book of Jonah. So here we go. God’s word came to the prophet, Jonah, asking him to go to the city of Nineveh and to call out their evil chapter one verse three, but Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. Firstly versus N and here we go. He’s walking the complete opposite direction of the Lord.
If you want a formula for disaster three is a good one. Okay. Join Jonah joins him sailors on a boat. He paid for his ride. He fell asleep in the bottom of the ship and this great storm came up. The sailors were terrified, and even tried to dump off some cargo and they began to just throw things off saying maybe we can just get to shore quickly.
Well, that didn’t work. And so they asked Jonah because they had heard that he was running from God. He told the captains of the ship, this, and they said, what are you doing? How come this is happening? And Jonah said, I admit, it’s my fault. I’m running from God tossed me overboard. And this whole thing will stop.
Now if you’re a good sailor, that’s not one of the things you typically do, unless maybe you’re a pirate or something like that, but you wouldn’t want to just toss somebody overboard into the sailors were a little taken back at this thought of tossing one of these men overboard, but they believed, and they did the storm calmed the SU as soon as Jonah was thrown overboard and chapter one, verse seven, but the Lord provided a great fish to swallow.
Jonah and Jonah was inside the fish three days. And three nights, he had some time to think while he doesn’t necessarily repent and turn his heart completely over to God and say that he’s going to come back and do all these things. He does acknowledge how good God has been in the past. Verse chapter two, verse two in my distress.
I called to the Lord and he answered me from the depths of the grave I called for help. And you listened to my cry. God then caused the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land and the book resets. And here we are back at the beginning, the word of the Lord came to Jonah. Hey Jonah, let’s try this again. Go to Nineveh and preach against the people who are doing evil and wicked things.
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord this time. And he went to Nineveh. Now, Nineveh was a huge city. It took three days to make all the way through the city of Nineveh. And just about when he was a days into the city, he’d walk all this way. He spoke these words in chapter three, verse four 40 more days, and Nineveh will be overthrown.
And as soon as the word made its way to the King, all the people and even the animals fasted and began to turn to the Lord, they turned their hearts to God. And in chapter three, verse 10, it says this when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways he relented, it did not bring on them.
The destruction he had threatened Patrona was angry that God showed mercy on these people. And chapter four verses two through four. He prayed to the Lord. Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home, that’s what I was trying to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate.
God, slow to anger and abounding in love. A God who relents from sending calamity. Now Lord, take away my life for it’s better for me to die than to live, but the Lord replied, is it right for you to be angry? So Jonah kind of marches off and sulks over outside the city and, and he sits down and he’s going to watch and see what happens to this city and see if they actually truly turn their hearts to God, or if God destroys them.
So you can imagine him kind of crossing his arms and just kind of waiting for what’s going to happen here. But God in his mercy showed up and provided this leafy plant to give him shade and we’ll get to what in the world that all means. And this made Jonah really happy. He was excited to have some shade because after all it was warm out and then the next morning, God provided a worm that ate through this leafy plant and he was angry then because his shade tree was taken away.
Jonah became angry this time and he wanted to die and the Lord asks him again, is it right for you to be angry and chapter four, verse 10. Here’s how the book ends. But the Lord said, you’ve been concerned about this plant that you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight. And then it died overnight.
And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh in which there are more than 120,000 people? Who cannot tell their right hand from their left and also many animals. The book ends with God’s question. There’s this divine cliffhanger asking us why and who is involved in the story? Well, before we jump in, let’s pray together.
God, we often can look at scripture and. Uh, we try to just mind the things we want to figure out from it and get answers to all of our questions. But before God we come with questions that maybe we think we want to ask Lord, what are you doing? And why in the world would you place this book here? We want to hear your message to us.
Lord. We want to see the message that you gave to Jonah. And to the sailors and to the Ninevites because God we know that you are unchanging. And so, as we hear from your scripture this morning, your heart for these people, Lord, we will begin. I understand more of your heart for us as well. We thank you God.
And we pray these things in your name. Amen. I’ve titled my message this morning, that the mission of God, what is God up to? Why is he at work in this way? And the book of Jonah paints, a picture of God’s mercy and grace declaring his mission to redeem the world, to, to bring people to himself. And so we look at a few truths.
We know about God because of Jonah and the first one, uh, I’ll fill in your blanks for you. God is at the center of the universe and by his grace. Will accomplish his mission. God, is it the center of the universe? And by his grace, he’s going to accomplish his mission. Jonah was sent by God to the Ninevites.
We just read that Jonah was also a Hebrew. He was living a part of God’s chosen nation of Israel. And he was sent as a Hebrew to the enemy nation of Israel. And he was to go into, to tell them about how good God is and to say, turn to him now, before he completely wipes you out. And Jonah, I think probably took pride in being on the good team God’s chosen.
Nathan, for sure. For surely others were bad and deserving of destruction. So why would God send Jonah to this enemy nation? The great and powerful city of Nineveh with a murderous ruler? Why would he do that? Because God’s mission. Includes the Ninevites and he would use Jonah to show even the enemies of God’s chosen people.
What he was like, you can hear God saying, Hey, Hey Jonah, you are not the center of the universe. I am, you can hear him saying, Hey Israel, you, even though you are my chosen, people are not the center of the universe I am. And we can even hear this for us. Hey, you. Are not the center of the universe. I am, we must be concerned with the mission of God showing grace to lost people.
And if that really gets you all thrown off, then maybe just, maybe you need to hear, Hey, you are not the center of the universe. My mission and my glory are, but God’s mission also then includes. The sailors, as we, as we read throughout this, these people are kind of just like extras in the story. They’re not the main character, not even the enemies.
They’re just kind of like the ones that does it get brought along here. And the sailors are not main characters. They’re seemingly unimportant, but as the God of the universe sovereign over all creation, he would use wind and waves and a wayward prophet. To show his grace to the lost people. If you carefully read in chapter two there you’ll, you’ll notice that.
I’m sorry. In chapter one, you will notice the sailors. After all this, they turn and they begin to worship God. Jonah’s disobedience in the middle of all this craziness allows for God to bring his mercy and his grace and show his sovereignty to these sailors who weren’t even searching for him. God’s mission includes.
The sailors and they bowed to King almighty. At the end of this, are you catching the divine irony in this story that like the prophet of God who is not being used in the way that he was intended to be used, God is allowing for him to, to bring his mercy, to people who were unsuspecting. But God’s mission also includes Jonah as the center of the universe, much to Jonah surprise.
He would use this giant fish. He would use a plant and even a worm to show his grace to Jonah belonging, heart of the father, God, again and again, saying Jonah just turned back to me. Even when the story resets, he uses the exact same words, Jonah, I want to give you the mission again, go to Nineveh and preach.
These are not just circumstances or happenings in Jonah’s life. These are actually means of grace. The father that loves Jonah is choosing to bring him to himself. God’s chosen, man, and God’s chosen. Nation is not exempt from failure and waywardness. And at the center of the universe, the gracious God is saying return to me.
He’s not impressed with how important Jonah and the chosen nation of Israel is. He’s not impressed with how important you and I are. He’s concerned with his glory. And one day the physical manifestation of God’s glory and grace would come to earth many years later and his name is Jesus. And these words would be spoken of him by Paul, who, who we actually learned about last week by pastor Don.
Second Corinthians chapter five says this for Christ’s love, love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died and he died. Those who should live should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again and Jonah prophet and part of God’s chosen nation.
Don’t forget. Who’s the center of the universe and Nineveh though, you are great and mighty, and it takes three days to walk through your city. Don’t forget, who is the center of the universe and sailors though? You’ve mastered the seas. Don’t forget who the center of the universe is. And church though, you live set apart and are God’s.
People do not forget who is the center of the universe and Christian though, you’ve been given mercy and grace. Don’t forget it. As you see lost people, he is the center. His mission is central, not ours. Okay. Number two. God’s grace is the reason I freely run to the father and confess and repent of my sin.
So when we know there’s a grace filled God sitting at the center of the universe, we can freely run to him and confess our brokenness and sin. And as we read through the book of Jonah, we can allow this almost to be like a mirror to us. We’ve often talked about the scriptures as being this mirror that we can look at and say, what is going on with my life.
It doesn’t look so much. Like this, and it allows us to have this reflection on our own hearts and our own journey where God has us, but God and his spirit, um, uh, prompts you. And so maybe you’re familiar with the process that you read, or we read through it in the book of Jonah this morning, you know, God talks to you, gives you something, asks you to obey in one direction and you Dodge, or you clarify, let me just explain to you, Lord, why I chose to disobey you.
It’s it’s because of this right here. Um, and then you justify your sin and for a moment, maybe it looks like God’s like, okay, great things are going well. Right. Jonah paid for his boat ride check hopped on board check. He went below to sleep. He’s asleep, check things are going well, things are good. And maybe he thinks I’ve outrun God, but in his grace, he pursues Jonah.
And by his grace, he pursues us too, from beginning to end of the scripture. This is God’s pursuit of his people and even allows suffering pain and hardship to bring us to himself in the story of Jonah being beckoned by God, to submit and surrender, listened to the gracious and loving words that we read.
Chapter one, verse four, then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea. One verse 17. Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow. Jonah that’s gracious chapter two, verse 10, and the Lord commanded the fish and vomited Jonah onto dry land. Then the Lord provided a leafy plant chapter four, verse six and verse seven.
But at the Dawn of the next day, God provided a worm. Four verse eight, God provided a scorching East wind and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head. This is a really difficult truth to follow. Remember back for, uh, about a year ago, pastor Jerry from callings would preach to message through the book of job talking about God’s uncomfortable grace in the way that he allows, and even maybe possibly intense difficulties and hardships to lead us to himself.
If I’m reading the book of Jonah sent, provided commanded, provided, provided, and provided are not passive words. These are active words of the father chasing after a man, all a means of grace. Okay. And again, I think the, a word that we might want to use maybe to help us understand what grace is, is throw the word uncomfortable in front of it.
This is uncomfortable. Grace. It’s not something that we would sell on the street like, Hey, this is what it looks like to follow. God, God, you’re going to have some uncomfortable grace to lead. Do you to come to know him? It’s not really attractive, right? Jonah wanted to hide out in Tarshish. God wanted a revival in Nineveh, God won.
And it was the uncomfortable work of grace that led through this process. We see it in the life of Joseph who wanted to visit with his brothers, but instead his brothers left him for dead and sold him as a slave. And in Egypt he was imprisoned, but God made him a Prince and used him as an instrument of rescue for his people.
And these are the words that Joseph said as after all this, you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done. The saving of many lives. And that’s a man who knows uncomfortable grace. We see it in the life of John, any Erickson, Tada, maybe you’ve heard of her story before a quadriplegic at age 18 because she dove into shallow water fracturing her spinal column.
She ran from God with doubt and anger and suicidal thoughts, but God healed her and made her a mouthpiece for the good news of rescue through Christ. God broke her. God healed her. God used her uncomfortable. Grace, John Bunyan spent years in prison for preaching the gospel. And they said, if you would only stop preaching, then you can freely walk out of this prison.
He wouldn’t do that. And so he stayed there for many years and behind bars wrote one of the best selling Christian books in history. The Pilgrim’s progress. Millions have read it today and I’ve come to know Christ because of it. Uncomfortable grace that God uses to transform lives. And maybe you too have seen a little bit of God’s uncomfortable.
Grace possibly. You’ve heard it in stories from other people who years later have talked about that moment or thus season that God used even intended for me to come to know himself. And while they never would have asked or invited that in the first place they would now say, thank you God for breaking me and for using your uncomfortable grace, we know the loving heart of the father changes everything.
It’s grace, it’s grace. It’s grace. How do you know Mike, how in the world, can you be so sure that God is a God that uses this uncomfortable grace to bring us to himself? Well, because it is the exact same uncomfortable grace that led the father to send his son Christ to come and die in the place of sinners like you.
And I hear these words from the prophet, Isaiah chapter, 53 of Isaiah Jesus. He had done it. Doesn’t say Jesus, but it says he I’m giving you the. Context here. He had done no wrong and it never deceived anyone, but he was buried like a criminal. He was put in a rich man’s grave, but it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief yet.
When his life made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life. And the Lord’s good plan will prosper. In his hands, when he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous for.
He will bear all their sins. And so we live in light of second Corinthians chapter four. My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness. So we invite. And we run to a father who is the King of uncomfortable grace, even in his own son. Have you seen God’s uncomfortable grace in your life through struggle or, or death or sickness?
Failure, weakness, financial ruin, relational heartache and conflict. I want to read a quote here from Paul Tripp. I love the way he talks about this. Grace. You’re tempted to think that because you’re God’s child. Your life should be easier, more predictable and definitely more comfortable, but struggles are part of God’s plan for you.
Don’t allow yourself to think God has turned his back on you. Don’t let yourself begin to buy into the possibility that God is not as trustworthy as you thought him to be. God has chosen to let you live in this fallen world because he plans to employ those difficulties of it to continue and to complete his work.
In you, this means that moments of difficulty are not an interruption of God’s plans or the failure of his plan, but rather an important part of his plan. I think there are many times for us that we cry out for God’s grace and we get it, but not the grace we’re looking for. It comes in the form of something.
We would never have chosen. If we were constraint controlling the joystick. Isn’t that the truth that man, we run to the father and we say, Lord, we need your grace, but, but to look just like this over here, I think that’s how you should work. And in his love, he gives us his grace and oftentimes it comes yeah.
How we’re looking for it, willing to forgive and heal and care and love and hope told you he is that good? The third thing here that we learned from the book of Jonah is that God is seeking obedient grace-filled servants to show his grace to those in need of grace. And if you’ve been paying attention, the answer from top to bottom of your blanks this morning is grace.
Okay. So you can leave now. It’s God’s mission to use you and I, as instruments of his grace. Once we’ve understood that it, man go and be an instrument of my grace to others, pointing them to myself. This was God’s mission for Jonah. Go to Nineveh. As we read earlier, Jonah eventually does go and he walks in for a day and delivers arguably the most effective word for word sermon on the planet.
Now let me just say this in Hebrew, he only says five words. That’s his sermon, right? Five words. 40 more days and Nineveh will be overthrown and the people go wild. Let’s turn our hearts to God. Like it is just five Hebrew words that he speaks. Oddly enough, in the prophetic book of Jonah, maybe it’s different than other prophetic books you’ve read before in the Bible.
These are the only real prophetic words here. The word overthrown that he talks about an Antifa can actually mean what we think ruined or destroyed. Prophetic in that way, but you know what the word also means. It means overturned changed remade and wouldn’t that be the prophetic nature of the city of Nineveh as they turn their hearts to God, hundreds of thousands came to know him because of these five words.
And this makes Jonah the prophet of God, his chosen servant angry. Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home. This is why I tried to stall and go somewhere else, because I just knew how gracious and loving and compassionate you are. You could almost hear God being like, Oh man, this is a terrible argument, Jonah.
Like, you’re telling me how good I am. Yes I am. And so God pours out his grace to Jonah yet again. And he provides this place for him to go and to think about what it’s happening. He sits outside the city. Of Nineveh and he’s watching to see what will happen to these people. And this green plant comes up with big leaves and provides him shade.
He’s happy. He goes to bed and he wakes up and God provided a worm to eat and consume this whole plant overnight. God, how could you do that? These are your enemies. Why you took away my plan. It’s comical, right? But, but here in lies, the point Jonah had been a recipient of God’s grace in many different ways throughout the story, but failed to understand it himself.
And to the degree that you and I know God’s grace in our life is the degree to which we will extend grace to others. Let me say that again. To the degree that, you know, and understand God’s grace in your life is the same degree that you will be then a grace extender to other people. So ask a question real quick.
How gracious are you? Does it correlate to how gracious, you know, God to be, or have you really understood all that you’ve been forgiven? When you look around and see the sin and brokenness and failure of others, what do you do? Are you more concerned with their sin and brokenness than your own? Jesus illustrates this with the parable of two debtors in Matthew 18, and it says this, therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a King who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
He began the settlement. A man who owed him 10,000 bags of gold was brought to him since he was not able to pay the master ordered that he and his wife and his children, all that he had sold to repay the debt at this, the servant fell on his knees before him be patient with me. He begged and we’ll pay back everything.
The servant’s master showed him. Grace took pity on him and canceled the debt and let him go. But when the servant went out, he found out that one of his fellow servants who owed him only a hundred silver coins, he grabbed him and began to choke him, pay back what you owe me. He demanded his fellow servant, fell to his knees and begged be patient with me, and I will pay back the debt, but he refused.
Instead, he went off and threw the man into prison. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. And, you know, at the end of the story, the master then turns and says, I’ve canceled this huge debt. How in the world could you be so ungracious to this person owing you, even just the small debt, the master then throws him into jail and tortures him until he pays back all that he owes.
35 verse 35 of Matthew 18. This is how my heavenly father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart and church. If you are here today and think the word Christian is exclusively for you or for people that you like think again, because great grace requires great gracefulness.
If we’ve been shown this grace, we are required to be people that give this grace out. And there are a lot of ways that you and I could read the book of Jonah and apply this in, in lots of different ways too, our lives. But I’ll just a few questions to you. And if one of those questions really hits you, write it down and take some time this week to maybe just think through, uh, what the question is asking.
If God is at the center of the universe and by his graceful accomplish his mission, have you removed God from the throne of your heart and replaced him with, with self, your self interest, your plans, your agenda, your idolatry of power. Is that the agenda is that the mission is earth. Really the mission for you?
Pleasure, success, image money. Has that become a replaced. God’s mission. Have you forgotten that while we are on a mission for God, that may be even, you are part of God’s mission, have you served and worked and done for God without even pausing to know his love for you, this, this softening and, and, and humility that comes, and we understand who God is and that he wants to capture our hearts in this process.
Okay. Number two God’s grace is the reason I freely run to the father and repent of my sin. How have you encountered God’s uncomfortable? Grace does your view of God’s loving and pursuing grace include what you are currently walking through and if not do difficulty and hardship change the way you look at God, when things come, do you look at God and, and all of a sudden.
You see him differently because there are difficult things in your life. God is seeking obedient. Grace-filled servants to show his grace to those in need of grace. If you have received God’s grace, when this week has God invited you to extend this grace, he’s given you to other people. And if we really know the narrative of scripture all the way throughout how God’s grace works in the lives of unlikely converts people that weren’t even searching for him, it just finds him.
How will then you extend grace to your enemies, the unlikely convert. How will you speak with grace about the opposing political party? How will you respond to your spouse, your kids, your parents with grace. How will you speak with grace about a local ruling authority that maybe you don’t agree with a school board or a government authority, whatever the case might be, how will you represent God’s grace on the sports field, at the office, at the gym, with those who have hurt you?
How does God’s grace and mission including lost and broken people change the things that you and I post on social media. There’s a place where lost people are watching us all the time. How then is this part of God’s mission, mission of grace that includes you, your enemies, and it’s freely given to us and to them because of Christ.
Pray with me this morning,
Lord, we are people who desire. Comfort. And we find ourselves so accustomed to laying on beds of ease and comfort in a culture where things are normally good. And so when discomfort or confusion, or maybe even hardship comes, Lord, we, we tend to panic. And then we, we have a different view of who you are, but you’re unchanging God.
And actually it’s your grace that allows us. To know you, it’s your kindness. That leads us to turn and repent of our brokenness and sin. And this morning, God, we want to be people that know your grace and be people that extend that grace to the world around us. Help us, Lord. We pray. We pray these things in your name.
Amen. Thanks for being here this morning. Have a great week.