Thursday 13th December 2018
Jonah Series Part 4: God’s Heart
Audio / Teaching

Jonah Series Part 4: God’s Heart

Adrian Holloway on September 5, 2010 with 0 Comments

Jonah 4 – Preaching from ChristChurch London’s Sunday Service

SLIDE 1: Jonah. Sent to the City.

OK, we’re in Jonah chapter 4 today.

Now Jonah’s one of those angry preachers! He’s like a guest speaker who turns up at your church and his opening words are: “God’s not happy!”

In the original Hebrew, Jonah only speaks five words of prophecy.

He says: “In forty days, Ninevah destroyed!” That’s it.

And Jonah doesn’t do anything to soften the blow. He doesn’t add: “And by the way, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

But the Ninevites all repent – straight away. It’s a miracle really. This great revival came about through the preaching of just 5 words!

• So the Ninevites are happy because they’ve finally made their peace with God.
• And God’s happy because all these Ninevites have repented.
• And we’d expect Jonah would be happy too, because he’s now the most successful preacher in the history of the world ever. He speaks five words, and 120,000 people repent in one day.

But is Jonah happy? No, he’s even angrier than ever. He’s hopping mad. Listen to what happens next . . .

SLIDE 2:
Title: God’s Heart (Week 4 of 4)
1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee 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.
3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
4 But the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-4)

SLIDE 3:
5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.
7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4: 5-8)

SLIDE 4:
9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”
10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4: 9-11)

Our three points today are going to be about:

SLIDE 5:
God’s grace and Jonah’s pride (verses 1 – 6)
God’s sovereignty despite Jonah’s anger (verses 7 -9)
God’s heart for the city and Jonah’s surprising final twist (vs 10-11)

SLIDE 6:
Point 1: God’s grace and Jonah’s pride
1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee 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. (Jonah 4: 1-2)

OK, first point. Until chapter 4, we assume that the reason Jonah ran away in chapter 1 was because he was scared of getting beaten up by the Ninevites. We assume that Jonah was figuring: “OK, God, so you want me to go to the evil, violent Ninevites. If I do that, if I tell them to ‘repent,’ there’s no way they are going to repent, because they are wicked and godless. All that’s going to happen is that they are going to beat me up because they’re violent. No thanks God. Find someone else. I’m off to Tarshish.”

But here in chapter 4 we discover that Jonah ran away for exactly the opposite reason. Rather than fearing that the Ninevites would NOT repent, Jonah ran away because he feared that they would repent, and that God would forgive them!

And seeing as Jonah hated the Ninevites – that really ticked Jonah off. Jonah was from Israel and Jonah didn’t want the God of Israel showing mercy to Gentiles.

And Jonah’s kicking himself because he knew something like this was going to happen. Jonah knew that God had got this compassionate side to his character. He knew that God had this annoying habit whereby if people truly repented – God then goes and forgives them. And God then doesn’t send the calamity. And that ruins everything. You know when you’re a prophet of doom like Jonah, if God doesn’t back you up and deliver the doom that you prophesied, that’s really frustrating.

And in verse 2, Jonah treats God like they’re a married couple. And they’re now having a marital argument. And Jonah’s dragging up the past, as can happen, so I’m told, in marital arguments.

Jonah’s like: “Lord, remember the days when I was home, before you ruined my life. Lord, you remember those days before I got swallowed and vomited up by the whale. You remember when it was just you and me, in Israel. That’s how it started. Those were the golden days. And then one day you ruined it all, by suddenly telling me to go to Nineveh, and I warned you, Lord, right then and there, that at the first hint of a tear or repentance in a Ninevite eye, you’d cave in and forgive them. And now look, that’s exactly what you’ve done. I told you this would happen.

“I knew you were going to forgive those evil people. And now, they’re going to call me ‘brother’ and give me sideways hugs. And I’ll have to be friends in heaven with them. But I still hate them.

“I want to die.

“I’m not a prophet, I’m a victim.”

Hey, very simply, the biggest message in this chapter, is that God is FOR the Gentiles and not against them.

Now, you and I are not offended by that! We’re not angry that God is for the Gentiles, because we are Gentiles. We’re not up in arms about this. We’re not marching round the Mermaid theatre holding protest signs complaining that God loves us.

If we were ethnically Jewish, this might perhaps, be more of a challenge, but we’re not. No the Apostle Paul went into bat for us at the Council of Jerusalem back in Acts 15, and won. When James, Peter and the apostles sat down to thrash this one out, our team won.

As a result, none of us share Jonah’s theology. None of us are thinking: “we should keep the good news about God’s love to ourselves.” No-one in Christ Church is thinking: “The last thing we want is those evil Gentile Londoners experiencing the love of God.”

Here’s the test . . . Would you be angry if your non-Christian enemy came to know Jesus? No! You might be surprised, but you wouldn’t be angry. Would you be angry with God if your enemy became a Christian? No! Not angry. So you could say that on this level, that the theological issue that Jonah was struggling with, is no longer an issue for us living this side of Acts chapter 15.

However, there’s a lot more to Jonah’s anger than theology. And his reaction is a lot more like ours than we’d care to admit.

The fact is that we are like Jonah, because we do become angry at God. Why? Because God allows things to happen, that we think are obviously wrong. He doesn’t intervene enough. He should really step in more. He’s far too passive for our liking. In the Old Testament, “He’s the God who is mighty in battle,” but for us, He’s like, “the God who lets annoying things happen.”

From our point of view, it’s obvious what should happen. But God just doesn’t get it, and God has this maddening habit of not taking my advice and heeding my warnings. Then it all goes wrong just as we knew it would and just like Jonah, we say: “Typical. I knew this would happen. I said this would happen. Didn’t I say that this would happen? Yes, I did. Look I even wrote it in my diary. I said this would happen, and now it has, surprise, surprise.”

In other words, we have an opinion about what should happen to us. We should get this kind of job, have this kind of circle of friends, marry this kind of person, have these sort of children, and it’s not just our selfish plan, no, we can give good reasons as to why it would actually be best not just for us, but also for God and for the rest of the world, if our particular plan and timeline were to happen. And like Jonah, who in verse 2, quotes from Exodus 34, we also can quote bible verses to God, to illustrate our plan for our life.

So we have our plan for our life. And on many occasions in the past, we’ve told God what we want. We’ve humbly submitted our plan for our life to Him. But then God diverts totally from the agreed plan, or at least the plan we agreed with him. And it’s so frustrating. We’re like: “God you cannot even be trusted to advance your own cause! Obviously the best way to advance your cause is to judge the wicked city of Nineveh! That would best serve Israel, which is your nation. May I remind you!”

Meanwhile God is tracking with a different agenda, God is still stuck on the Genesis 22 plan, which is to use Israel to bless all the different Gentile nations of the world. In other words, what God was saying to Abraham is that Abraham’s descendants (for example, Jonah) would be instruments of God’s mercy, a means of bringing God’s kindness to the nations.

But Jonah has got a better plan than that. So Jonah says: “No Lord, don’t bless Nineveh! Nuke Ninevah! Vindicate me! Trust me Lord, I’m a prophet of the Lord, I’m in the Bible. Lord, you can read about me in 2 Kings 14. I know best!”

But God disagrees. And Jonah can’t stand it.

“I want to die!” he says.

Jonah’s all freaked out!

SLIDE 7:
3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3)

Jonah’s like one half of a married couple. God’s the other, and Jonah is the volatile one, whereas God’s the calm one. It’s a stormy relationship, and this is the latest bust-up. Jonah runs out of the house, he slams the door, he doesn’t want to be married to God any more! Jonah files for divorce on the grounds of God’s unreasonable behaviour.

“I want to die.”

Jonah’s reaction seems totally over the top doesn’t it? It seems disproportionate. What is going on here? Why is Jonah reacting in such an extreme way?

Answer: Like me, Jonah is proud.

OK, you have to dig around a bit for this. Jonah had already racked up some credibility through the only other Old Testament reference to him in 2 Kings 14:25, where the Bible says, Jeroboam restored the boundaries of Israel.

SLIDE 8:
“in accordance with the word of the Lord, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher.” (2 Kings 14:25)

So Jonah prophesied what should happen, and it did happen! Result? Jonah looks good.

So if Jonah now prophesies destruction upon the Ninevites, and then God doesn’t send destruction, then Jonah loses credibility.

Jonah is worried that if the Ninevites repent, then maybe years later, when Jonah prophesies destruction upon someone else, (even upon Israel itself) they might react: “Oh, Jonah, you’re not much of a prophet are you! You started out well enough with your prophecy about the boundaries of Israel, but then you said that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days, and it wasn’t. Hey Jonah, let me just give you some advice, one of the key things in being a prophet of the Lord, is that what you prophesy is supposed to actually happen.”

You see Jonah had his reputation to think about . . .

Have a look at 2 Kings 17:

And Jonah is included in verse 13 . . .

SLIDE 9:
9 The Israelites . . . set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 11 At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the LORD had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that provoked the LORD to anger. 12 They worshiped idols, though the LORD had said, “You shall not do this.” 13 The LORD warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: “Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.” (2 Kings 17: 9-13)

Jonah was one of these prophets, who had been prophesying judgement against Israel. And this helps us to understand why Jonah was so keen that God should send judgement against Nineveh, because if God did judge Nineveh, then when Jonah returned to Israel, then his prophecies against Israel would be taken very seriously.

The last thing Jonah wanted was for God to display mercy. So Jonah’s like: “God, You’re ruining my whole career as a prophet of doom.”

SLIDE 10:
4 But the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)

Every now and again, God asks a question, and just watches Jonah spin like a top.

Can I ask you . . . are you angry with God? Of course you’re not, you’re far too mature for that. We Christians don’t get angry with God. We get angry with people – which enables us to feel slightly less guilty. We are not angry with God, we are only mildly annoyed with God that he allowed such and such to happen. Listen, here’s the question, have you got any right to be angry?


SLIDE 11:
5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. (Jonah 4:5)

Jonah is still hoping that God will send calamity.

Jonah could have stayed in the city and taught them about God, but no, he says, “I’m going to leave and sit down here for 39 days and hope that fire falls from the sky. I’ve got my chair, I’ve got my shelter. Come on God, forget about all this wishy-washy lovey-dovey mercy stuff and burn the city.”


SLIDE 12:
6 Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. (Jonah 4:6)

It’s 100 degrees farenheit, It’s a hot day. God sends shade.

Has Jonah been happy at any point during this book? No! But now . . . when God provided a vine to give Jonah shade and shelter, “Jonah was very happy about the vine.”

So here we see a pattern, Jonah’s attitude to God is . . . “when I get what I want, I’m happy.

“Hey, I’ve had this terrible ordeal of having to prophesy against this vast city, and I deserve to get a bit of rest and relaxation, and so it’s right and proper that after I have made myself a shelter, that God should ease my discomfort by providing this sacred vine to give shade for my sacred head. Finally, God is treating me with the respect I deserve!”

SLIDE 13:
2. God’s sovereignty despite Jonah’s anger (verses 7-9)

7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:7-8)

And so we see God’s sovereignty despite Jonah’s anger. Do you see the sovereignty of God at work through circumstances . . . God first sent the great fish (1:17), then the vine (4:6), the worm (4:7), and the wind (4:8), all sent to get Jonah to change! God’s sending these circumstances to try and help Jonah


SLIDE 14:
9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” (Jonah 4:9)

Jonah again tries to justify his own bitterness!

In private, we have this kind of conversation with God, but in public we don’t actually say the sort of stuff we’re reading here out loud.

When Jonah says: “I do have a right to be angry” he seems to have forgotten that just a few days ago, God sent a big fish to save him. All the sailors were convinced he’d drown. How quickly we Christians take the fact that God has saved us for granted! God went out of his way to save us!

SLIDE 15:
3. God’s love for the city and Jonah’s surprising final twist (vs 10-11)

10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:10-11)

Oh problem! There’s a huge bolder rolling down the hill and there’s a small boy and a plant in the way. Oh no, I only have time to save one of the two. I can’t save both! Shall I save the boy, or shall I save the plant? I can’t save both!

You save the boy. The plant gets crushed every time!

NO! People win over plants!

God says: “Jonah, you’re concerned about the plant! Hey, there’s a city there of one hundred and twenty thousand eternal souls down there Jonah! Our third and final point is about God’s love for the city.

The first Christians got this. They understood God’s heart for the city. God’s heart for the masses. The apostle Paul understood the value of cities to God.

Just look at the book of Acts, where God’s strategy is urban-centric. God sends Paul to stay for a long period of time in the biggest city in a region.

Paul tries to leave Corinth, he’s a bit discouraged in Acts 18, God says “Don’t leave Corinth, stay in the city because I’ve got many people in this city.” So Paul stayed.

God’s strategic plan was to prioritize cities.

And it worked. By the year 300AD or so, it’s estimated that 50 per cent, roughly, of the populations of the urban centres of the Greco-Roman world were Christian, whereas the countryside were pagan, in fact the word pagan, we think, comes from the greek word paganis, which means man of the country, a rural man.

God doesn’t call all Christians to live in the city, but there’s no doubt about it, God led the first Christians to prioritize cities.

And as the cities go, the culture goes.

If you want to reach a lawyer, by all means focus on the village where she lives, but if you want to reach the legal profession, you focus on the City.

This is how Christianity grew until it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. But how, on earth, did these 12 fishermen from Galilee conquer the world in just 300 years? How did the first Christians get enough critical mass to become the official religion of the Roman Empire? Well, it’s an awesome story of Christians loving the city. For example, look at how the first Christians reacted to plagues.

There was a huge plague in 165AD, which killed off at least a quarter of the people in all the cities. 100 years later there was another horrible plague. Here’s a witness to what happened:

“The doctors were quite incapable of treating the disease. The bodies of the dying were heaped up one on top of another. The catastrophe was so overwhelming that we became indifferent to every rule of morality. Many pushed sufferers away even their dearest, often throwing them into the road before they were dead, hoping to avert contagion. As for the gods they seemed not to matter when one saw the good and the bad dying indiscriminately.”

The gods said: “be good. Live a good life.” A sort of salvation by works thing. You tried to earn the approval of the gods by being good. But when the plagues hit, they said: “what’s the point of being moral or being good? The good people are dying with the bad people.” They freaked. They ran. They dropped their beloved in the streets!

But here’s what the Christians, did, and this is also an eye-witness account “most Christians in the plague . . . heedless of danger, took charge of the sick, attending to their every need, and ministering to them in Christ, and many departed their life serenely happy, for they were infected by their neighbours and they cheerfully accepted their pains. Many in nursing and curing others transferred their death to themselves and died in their neighbours’ stead. The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner.”

Where would those early Christians have got an idea like that from? You know . . . choosing to die yourself, instead of your neighbour? Where did this self- substitution come from? From Jesus!

While the pagans were literally screaming on the street corners. “Plague! Plague! Get out! Biological terror in the city!” Most Christians stayed put. Not only did they stay, but they gave their lives nursing the non-Christians who were dying.

Why?

Because they knew God loves the city.

You see non-Christian religions and Greek myths didn’t have the intellectual structure to deal with suffering. You know the sight of the good dying with the bad. If you believe in salvation by works like most non-Christian religions do, then a plague is going to freak you out, because the good and the bad die together.

And the gods, cults and idols didn’t provide any way for ordinary people to handle the social breakdown and biological terror. So they freaked out and ran!

But the Christians handled it. Because they knew, “I’m saved irrespective of my works and hey if I die, all I’m getting is an upgrade to heaven. I can’t lose.

“Where Oh death is thy sting? I’m going to die sometime, so what could be better than dying in the city. I’m going to spend eternity in a city anyway, the city of God, the new Jerusalem is going to come down, and if I can nurse a few pagans and win them to Christ through my death, then even my death can be redemptive. What could be a better way to go than that!

So the Christians stayed in the city. They knew the God of Jonah chapter 4, the city-loving God. The God who loves the masses!

But Jonah he didn’t stay in the city – Jonah went outside the city to condemn it.

There was another prophet who, years later, went outside the city.

And we read about him in Hebrews 13,

SLIDE 16:
“Jesus . . . suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. (Hebrews 13:12)

Jonah went outside the city that spared his life to condemn it, but Jesus was dragged outside the city, weeping for it and died for its salvation, not for its condemnation.

OK, at this point, someone says: “OK, this is all very heroic, Adrian, you know, the early church martryrs choosing to die in the city, but I’ve not had this specific call to the city.” I live in London, but I have no sense of “call”.

Well if you weren’t here last Sunday, I’d encourage you to listen to the podcast to hear what Vicky said about this. She showed us that if you’re a Christian, where-ever you are right now, God has sent you. And she illustrated this from the later exile to Babylon, and this is so significant for us, that I just want to re-visit this.

Two to three very sad centuries later, after the 10 northern tribes were deported to Assyria, the two remaining southern tribes are taken captive, they’ve been conquered by the great empire of Babylonia, and they’re taken to the next big world class city that was to come after Ninevah, which was Babylon. And if you want to read what happened in Jeremiah 27,28,29, the exiles came to the outskirts of Babylon, and they said “this is terrible, we’ve been taken to Babylonia, but that doesn’t mean that we need to go into Babylon itself.”

They said: “Let’s stay out here. Let’s form our own little community, outside the city, so that we can be free from the violence, free from the doctrinal and moral cultural pollution of the city. Let’s stay outside.”

Shockingly God writes them a letter through Jeremiah, which you can read in Jeremiah 29, and there God says: “No, I want you to move into the city, and I want you to settle in the city, I want you to buy homes, and build homes and raise your children there, and I want you to make it’s life, your life. I don’t want you to just prosper your own little believing community, I want you to seek the shalom, the peace, the health of the whole city.”

SLIDE 17:
This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

Plant gardens – There you are – what you’re doing in your Window box is biblical.

This is one of the reasons why Julia and I are raising our 4 children in London, rather than anywhere else. God tells them to raise their kids in the big city.

But it’s hilarious. Last month I got sent a calendar in the post, and each month has a different photo of trees, or flowers, but hey, I flicked through all the way from January to December, 12 beautiful photos, no people. Flowers yes, people no. But here’s what God is saying in Jonah chapter 4, verse 11, God’s saying “You know what photo I have on my calendar for September 2010, I have got a London tube train choc full of people. That’s what I value, that’s what I find beautiful. For October, I’ve got a London bus full of people, and for December, I’ve got a crowded London pub, and so on.”

SLIDE 18: Exactly the same as slide 15
3. God’s love for the city and Jonah’s surprising final twist (vs 10-11)

10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:10-11)

Now there’s also a surprise here in verse 11. God says he’s concerned about the 120,000 people, that’s not the surprise, but did you notice, he also appeals to the existence of cows. Why does God mention the cows? Is it because he’s desperately trying to find something in Nineveh that Jonah doesn’t want destroyed?

You know is God so exasperated with Jonah, that God’s saying:

“OK, Jonah, you obviously couldn’t care less about people, but what about the cows Jonah? Surely you don’t hate the cows? Surely you don’t want me to kill the cows? Jonah, they’re made of steak. You like steak. Come on Jonah, who hates cows? I mean when was the last time you saw a big anti-Cow movement?

No, God’s not appealing to some sort of hidden love that Jonah has for cattle.

No the reference to cattle is rather important for us here in the City of London, because back then you didn’t keep your money in a bank or on bits of plastic in your wallet, no back then your money was hair-ier, and it had to be fed several times a day.

Adrian, are you suggesting that in sparing Nineveh, God actually factored money into his thinking? Yes!

Definitely yes, the reference to cattle shows that God is not simply concerned with individual souls, he’s also concerned about the economy, the infrastructure.

It’s the same in Jeremiah 29, where God’s people are told to seek the prosperity of the city of Babylon. So this goes beyond . . . “I live in London, and my mission in London is to these particular non-Christians friends I have” no it includes that, but God is actually concerned about society, not just individuals. That’s why we don’t just run Alpha courses to reach individuals, but we also run cultural transformation breakfasts. It’s also why we run “Everything” conferences. God is concerned about everything in the city, even the cattle. That’s what the exiles in Jeremiah 29 were told, seek the prosperity of the city as a whole.

Can I ask, as we come to the end of this series . . . how are you doing? Have you realized how important you are to God? How valuable you are? Maybe you are facing a scorching heat that God seems to be allowing. The two crucial things we need to understand are in verses 10 and 11. First we need to know about the Sovereignty of God, verse 10, (God is in charge of your circumstances, he is in charge of vines, God has not abandoned you) and also the grace of God, verse 11 (he loves every single one of the people in the City, that means he loves you too).

And so the book of Jonah ends, but it is a bit sad isn’t it, that Jonah is still angry.

At the end of chapter 3, we thought Jonah had learned his lesson, but in chapter 4, we find out he hadn’t, not really.

And as we finish this series, someone might say:

“Hey Adrian, isn’t that a bit depressing? It just shows that most people don’t change.”

Maybe you’re here today, and like me you’re thinking . . .

“honestly, if there was a plague today, I don’t know if I would cheerfully give my life . . .

Perhaps you’re thinking . . .

“Maybe I’m just too selfish a Christian to change that much.

“Jonah was a prophet of the Lord, he didn’t change, I don’t think I can either, not that much.”

“I mean, Jonah’s just as far from God at the end as he was at the beginning.”

And somebody says: “Adrian, isn’t that a rather depressing end to the book?

No, and here’s why . . .

Who wrote Jonah? Jonah must have written Jonah, there’s no way we could have got all that private conversation between God and Jonah otherwise. Yes chapter 4 ends and Jonah still hasn’t repented. But the book is his repentance. That’s the surprising final twist.

He must have repented before he wrote the book, otherwise he would never have painted such an unflattering portrait of himself. Otherwise he would never have put into the Bible his idiotic: “I hate the God of love” speech in chapter 4.

Jonah must have repented . . . otherwise the book would have been either . . .

a) “Hi my name’s Jonah, I spoke five words and 120,000 repented in one day. I am top gun. Billy Graham eat your heat out!”

Or the book would have been . . .

b) “Look at this mean nasty God, he yelled at me, spanked my inner child, threw me in a fish, puked me up on the beach, sent me to a dangerous place, gave me sunburn, heat stroke and de-hydration, and then asked me what my problem was.” That’s how it would read.

Instead it’s neither of the above. No Jonah writes this book in repentance. He’s showing us: “Look at the stupid things I said. Don’t be like me! I knew better than God. Isn’t that ridiculous! I was a self-righteous, racist fool, who didn’t care if cities burned to the ground, and all I cared about was myself and a plant.”

Because Jonah repented before he wrote the book, he’s now secure enough to tell us his story warts and all. The book itself is proof of his repentance.

So what have you got out of this 4 week series?

Maybe, like Jonah, God has given you a tough assignment. What’s your “Nineveh”? Maybe God has asked you to walk the path less trodden. You’re saying: “God what you’ve asked of me is too much. I can’t do this.” You find yourself right now in a difficult set of circumstances.

Maybe you can totally relate to Jonah who swings between wanting to run away in chapter 1 to radical obedience in chapter 3, and then back again. If so, then be encouraged, look at the end of the book. God’s not finished with Jonah, even after the book ends. And like Jonah, you will end up in a wonderful city, the New Jerusalem, where every day will be better than the one before. They’re be no sickness, no pain, nothing negative. You’ll have no worries, you won’t have anything to dread.

Maybe the band could come and join me?

Maybe like Jonah you feel like you’ve been buried alive . . . Chapter 2 teaches us that even from inside a fish, Jonah’s prayer was heard by God. We can pray anywhere at any time and God will hear us. Your sin is never too great and your predicament never too difficult for God.

Maybe you’re saying, “Adrian, you don’t understand, I’ve blown it too badly. I’ve blown it too often,” the book of Jonah teaches us that God is the God of the second, third, fourth chance. Even after the book ends, there’s still grace for Jonah. He does get there in the end, and so will you. God’s bigger than your rebellion, and he is in charge of your circumstances. He can send a fish, a vine, a worm, a wind. Don’t limit in your mind what God can do.

Let’s stand

Maybe you feel like you are in the depths of the ocean. Maybe your Christian life is as schitzophrenic as Jonah’s – one moment you are very happy at God, the next you are angry with God. One moment you’re disobeying, the next you are obeying, well consider the lesson that Jesus drew from Jonah’s life. The sign of Jonah. The physical resurrection of Jesus, on the third day after his death is the proof that Xty is true, and that therefore, it’s all worth it!

Because of Jesus, death is beaten. You feel like you cannot win, but the truth is because of the resurrection, because of the sign of Jonah, you cannot lose!

And even if you can’t see it now, one day, in the new Jerusalem, in the eternal city, you will, and you will rejoice in joy unspeakable and full of glory!

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