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Jonah's Missionary God


Mar 22, 2020

by: Jack Lash Series: Jonah | Category: Missionary | Scripture: Jonah 1:1–1:2, Jonah 3:1–3:2, Jonah 4:5–4:11

I. Introduction
A. Jonah 1:1–2 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
B. Jonah 3:1–2 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”
C. Jonah 4:5–11 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
D. Here in chapter 1 we have God’s call to Jonah to go to Nineveh to deliver His message.
E. Then, in chapter 3, after Jonah’s disobedience, his brief swim and God’s fishy rescue, we have God’s second call to Jonah to go to Nineveh to deliver His message.
1. (It took a lot to get Jonah to be willing to follow God’s call.)
F. And when he finally goes and delivers, great things happen: revival breaks out in Nineveh. And the story sets us up to expect that after Nineveh is converted, that everyone will live happily ever after.
G. But then comes this curve ball. Instead of Jonah rejoicing in the fruit of his labors after Nineveh repents and God relents, astonishingly he gets angry. Jonah gets upset because God forgives the Ninevites.
H. And God confronts him with his anger: “Do you do well to be angry?” Jonah 4:4
1. ‘Jonah, do you think it’s good that you’re angry? Do you think that’s the right reaction?’
I. But then to drive home the point, God teaches him a lesson about compassion through a vine.
1. Jonah goes out of the city and makes a booth out of sticks there for a little shade, for Babylon is a very hot place. And he sits there waiting to see what’s going to happen to the city. Now when the sun got strong in the sky, the LORD God makes a plant grow up over the shelter which gives Jonah near complete shade, to save him from the discomfort of the blazing sun. And, of course, Jonah was happy about the plant. But the next morning, God sent a worm to attack the plant, and it withered. And so when the sun rose, and a hot east wind blew making it even worse, Jonah began to be so overwhelmed by the heat that he starting to think it would be better to die than to live. At this point, God spoke to Jonah, “Do you think it’s good to be angry about the plant?” And Jonah said, “Yes, it’s good to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the LORD responded, “You grieve over the death of a plant, which you didn’t work for or make grow, which grew up and then died. And should I not grieve over Nineveh, that great city, which contains more than 120,000 people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?
II. There are a number of lessons which can be learned here about Jonah’s missionary God.
A. Jonah’s God is a missionary God.
1. The OT doesn’t place much emphasis on missions. In the OT, God, although He is hailed as the God of all nations, is primarily known and primarily reveals Himself as the God of Israel.
2. There are a few things about missions in the prophets, but mostly those things point forward to the time of the NT.
a. There are a few prophets who are sent out, but they are sent to fellow Israelites.
b. And there are a few prophets who prophesied against other nations, but they didn’t go to those countries to do so, and the message seems actually to have been for the sake of God’s people .
3. The story of Jonah is really the only missionary story in the OT.
4. This is one of a number of ways in which Jonah foreshadows the NT.
a. We’ll talk about more of them on Easter when we talk about Jonah and Jesus.
5. The prophets are a bridge to the NT. Not only do they prophecy about the coming of Christ and all that would involve, but they anticipate the themes of the NT, the teachings of Jesus &His apostles.
6. And Jonah is no exception. His story anticipates the missionary thrust of the NT,
a. and it even anticipates the reaction of the Judaizers to the missionary outreach to the Gentiles and to the Gentiles coming to faith.
7. So, in the story of Jonah we see that God is a missionary God, though this aspect of God’s character isn’t fully revealed until the NT.
8. What we see foreshadowed in Jonah, and made explicit in the NT, is that God is a sending God.
a. The gift was given in Israel but it was not to remain in Israel.
b. The gift was given to the disciples but it was not to remain merely within that circle.
c. The gift was given to the church, but it was not to remain merely within the church.
9. Christianity is a moving, expanding religion. It doesn't stay put. It is to be carried out into the world, and lived out before the world, and proclaimed to all who will hear it.
10. JESUS CAME. He didn’t stay where He had been, He came. He moved. He walked. He traveled. He came from heaven and got His feet dirty on the dusty roads of this earth.
11. Jonah’s God is a missionary God.
B. God’s message to the world is a message of grace.
1. Jonah was not just pronouncing doom on Nineveh. He knew that he was actually proclaiming a message of grace, as we said last week.
2. Make no mistake, it is not good news to those who will not receive it and repent.
a. But it is a sincere offer of salvation and deliverance and complete forgiveness to everyone.
3. There are dire warnings connected to the gospel. And yet its defining characteristic is that it is good news of great joy.
a. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:17
4. And the same is true for us (in a different sense, of course). God does not send us out into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through the gospel we share.
5. Not everyone will receive us as bearers of good news, of course.
a. “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2Corinthians 2:15–16)
b. God’s message to the world is a message of grace.
C. Jonah’s God is a God of compassion & love.
1. Jonah cared more for his shading vine than he did for the lost souls of those 120,000 Ninevites.
a. And Christ’s people can be the same way, caring more for our little earthly comforts than for the eternal welfare of others.
b. Isn't much of the reason we don't tell people about Jesus much really a lack of love in our hearts toward them? It takes a lot of love to welcome people into your life & heart, with all their messes.
2. Jonah looked at Nineveh and saw their rebellion and their immorality and their cruelty.
a. But God looked at Nineveh and saw more. He saw their misery and their brokenness. He saw their ignorance and their lostness. And He had pity on them. (Jonah 4:11)
b. Matthew 9:36 “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
3. When God goes shopping for property, He prefers fixer-uppers; He usually purchases places no one else is interested in: garbage dumps, or abandoned lots, or dilapidated shacks. He invests in moral waste places like Nineveh.
a. God has chosen the weak, the foolish, the despised – 1Cor.1:26ff.
b. Waste places don't scare God away as they do most investors. In fact, there's something that actually attracts Him to them.
c. Remember, He was the stone the builders rejected, which became the cornerstone of a whole new world. (Ps.118:22; Matt.21:42)
d. Jonah’s God is a God of compassion & love.
D. Jonah is dead, but the spirit of Jonah is still very much alive.
1. And there is often some Jonah in us as we view the Ninevites around us.
a. Sometimes our hearts don’t beat with the compassion of Christ, but with the hardness of Jonah.
2. We are all Jonahs, sent into this Nineveh we call the world to bring God’s message.
a. But we’re not going to be very cooperative with God’s mission if we don’t feel His compassion.
3. Our problem, like Jonah’s, is that it is easy for us to forget where we came from. It’s easy to forget that at one time WE were Ninevites: unworthy, desperate, helpless.
a. And someone had compassion on us, someone loved us enough to share God’s message. And God used it in our hearts to bring us to repentance and faith.
4. This bad attitude we observe in Jonah permeated Judah at this time in history. That’s part of the reason God brought Babylon to reduce Judah to ruins.
a. And then, while the people were in exile, they still couldn’t grasp why God had allowed this great calamity. They still didn’t see their pride, their arrogance. And so God had to send the prophet Ezekiel to remind them of their humble beginnings:
b. Ezekiel 16:1–7 “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, 3 and say, Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, or had compassion on you, but you were cast out on an open field, you were abhorred, on the day you were born. 6 until I passed by and saw you wallowing in your blood, and I said to you in your blood, ‘Live! Live!’ 7 And I made you flourish like a plant of the field.”
c. Well, that’s our history too – you and me. And since that is true, it is so illogical for us to lack compassion to others who are where we once were.
d. Jonah is dead, but the spirit of Jonah is still very much alive.
E. God sends and uses imperfect messengers.
1. This is amazing, but we see it clearly here in the story of Jonah: God even uses sinners.
2. In all his weakness and hardness, God used Jonah in Nineveh.
3. And it’s true for us as well. His kindness even extends to the point that He allows us – in all our imperfections – to participate in His great work in this world.
4. The quality of God’s work is not dependant on the quality of His tools.
a. He can do great things with poor tools.
5. (But this also means that God might choose to use another very imperfect sinner to speak to us. Just because a difficult person is speaking to you doesn’t mean it is not God’s message that He is bringing. A humble person is able to hear God’s voice even from a rebel, e.g. 2Sam.16:5-11.)
6. God sends and uses imperfect messengers.
7. But although God can use us even in spite of our sinfulness...
F. God is in the business of shaping his messengers to have His heart and His frame of mind.
1. Ordinarily, we think of our failures in outreach and evangelism in terms of social fear or a lack of boldness. But I think the story of Jonah shows us that the problem is much deeper.
a. I don’t think Jonah’s problem was fear. He was willing to be thrown into the ocean, but he wasn’t willing to go to Nineveh.
b. I don’t think Jonah’s problem was a lack of boldness. Anyone who is willing to say to the holy God, “Yes it’s right for me to be angry!” isn’t a timid person.
2. There was something wrong with Jonah in the very core of his being. And God wasn’t going to just let it go.
3. “The LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.” Jonah 1:4 and the Lord brings to bear the whole machinery of His providence to get to the heart of the problem, to expose the idolatry and the hidden motives.
4. You see, just because God is willing to use imperfect tools, that doesn’t mean He does nothing to perfect those tools.
a. As with Jonah, God is in the business of helping us come to grips with our weaknesses.
b. He works to conquer the will of each one He calls to be His servant.
c. And His work to subdue us continues long after He puts us into His service.
III. You might think it curious to focus on missions and evangelism on a day when most of us are sitting at home self-isolating. But I think this time is a time of great opportunity for evangelism & missions.
A. People are more available.
B. People are feeling more vulnerable.
C. People are more isolated and hungry for connection.
D. Christian hope stands out more vividly in a time like this.
E. Our goal for this time can’t just be survival. We can use the time to reach out to people.
1. God has provided us with the technology to do so. We can call people on the phone, we can Skype or FaceTime, we can text with people, we can post messages to our friends on Facebook.
F. Use this time to check up on people, to love people.
1. That sibling you hardly ever talk to
2. Childhood friend
3. Work associate
4. Neighbor
5. Cousin, aunt or uncle — invisible people, many will be forgotten in this time
G. Or reach out to one of our missionaries, or to a missionary you know. Richard & Carol are over there in France unable to leave their house without permission. They’d love to hear from you.
1. Melanie is trying to figure out ways to raise support to go back to Japan. Call her up to brainstorm with her or to encourage her or to pray with her or ask her for specific prayer requests.
2. Or have your kids communicate with Michelle’s kids.