Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jonah - You've Got the Wrong Guy

Audio podcast is HERE.
Power Point is HERE.
“You’ve Got the Wrong Guy!” – Jonah
Matt Messner
November 21/22, 2009


I’m not much of a hero.
Actually there was one time I was. It was the North Bend, Oregon public swimming pool and I had just been baptized…
Did I have to think about that? No.
Heroic behavior usually takes place when people do the right thing without thinking about it.
They just do it.
Whether it was the first responders at Ft. Hood, or the pilot of the US Airways plane that landed in the Hudson – these people say, hey, I was just doing my job.

But in crisis, most people don’t just step up. Most people sit back. It’s what is called the bystander effect and experts who have studied this behavior say that the more people involved in the situation, the less that gets done. “If you are in a crowd and you look and see that everyone is doing nothing, then doing nothing becomes the norm."

A hero is one who selflessly and instinctively does what is right. By that definition, Jonah wasn’t much of a hero. But there is a reason his story is recorded in the Bible. It is a warning to us: Avoid our Jonah like tendencies.

Most of us, including myself, have a hard time stepping up and doing what’s right.
Jonah, who we are going to learn about today, definitely had an issue with this.

When God called me He invited me to lay down my dreams and trade them for His dreams. He was calling me to lay down my plans and to surrender to His plans. Honestly, surrender wasn’t much of a problem for me at first. I was happy to let go of my empty pursuits. I had spent enough time working myself to death in pursuit of success only to come up empty. To follow Jesus Christ isn’t a sacrifice. We can act like it is, but it isn’t. It’s a joy and trust me, you get the better part of the bargain.

In the church we hear a lot about surrender and obedience. Generally we are talking about the “Big issues”. My struggle with obedience is with the small things.

I struggle to be obedient in the small things. I’m not talking about struggling with obvious sins. People tend to notice what we do. They can see our obvious sins and if we’re disciplined enough we can manage those behaviors through pure human effort.

But it is the “sins of omission” that are equally important and invisible to all but God.
A “sin of omission” is when we fail (or omit) to do what is right. For example, I might walk into this service and see a person sitting alone, with their head in their hands, obvious distressed about something. The Lord could say to me, Matt, go over and see what’s wrong. And I could disobey that voice and nobody would notice. And if nobody noticed, no one would fault me for it. You’re generally not going to get in trouble for what you don’t do.

But those kinds of acts of obedience could change a life. They are the decisions that God uses to change cities, one person at a time.

I’m struggling with being obedient to live a life of action motivated by God’s love. God never stops calling us to live a life of actions which are motivated by His love.

A follower of Christ is called to live a life of obedient action.
We are called to live a life of faith in God that propels us to love and serve others.

There is a consistent temptation to flee this calling to demonstrate love in action.

Today we are going to be looking at the story of Jonah. You might not have heard a sermon on Jonah since Sunday School – but listen up! The book of Jonah has a message that is vital to us!

I. 1:1-3 (Read it)
Imagine Jonah, enjoying the beaches on the Mediterranean Sea, and God says go East to Iraq, to the Assyrians (your enemies) and preach against their wickedness. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, the most cruel and ruthless nation of the ancient world. The Assyrians terrified their intended victims because not only did they destroy and burn the cities they conquered; they also subjected the inhabitants to various kinds of suffering and humiliation.
If you want to learn how cruel the Assyrians were, you’ll have to read the notes in my blog because I don’t want to talk about it here.

One king, Ashurbanipal, boasted in the following terms about some plotters that he had foiled: ‘As for those common men who had spoken derogatory things against my god Asher and had plotted against me, the prince who reveres him, I tore out their tongues and abased them. As a posthumous offering I smashed the rest of the people alive by the very figures of the protective deities between which they had smashed Sennacherib my grandfather. Their cut up flesh I fed to the dogs, swine, jackals, birds, vultures, to the birds of the sky, and to the fishes of the deep pools’.
The Assyrians were the ones who had destroyed Samaria and with it the northern kingdom. In 2 Ki. 17:5 it says, ‘The king of Assyria … laid siege to it [Samaria] for three years’. We can imagine the people getting hungrier, more desperate and more hopeless, as they looked out on the Assyrian army, an invincible multitude. They also knew that these soldiers were completely ruthless. They would flay people alive—strip the skin off them and drag them off with hooks in their flesh. And if the people didn’t already know what their enemies were capable of, the Assyrians would have reminded them every day (cf. the speech of the Assyrian field commander to Hezekiah in Is. 26:4–10). In the British Museum there are stone carvings taken from Nineveh which show how the Assyrians dealt with conquered cities. One shows a great heap of heads. The picture of the siege of Lachish shows three men impaled on wooden stakes outside the city, a grisly visual aid to those who were still shut up inside. Captives were often mutilated by cutting off hands, feet, noses, ears or tongues. A relief from Khorsabad shows Assyrian chariots driving over mutilated bodies. Infants were often dashed in pieces (Na. 3:10; cf. Ps. 137:9). Women might be taken as spoil and pregnant women were usually disemboweled.
Jonah says, “Are you kidding me God?!” I would rather die then do that.

We hear this story and think it’s kind of ridiculous that Jonah would do what he did, until we really hear why. Then it makes sense. I believe he was afraid and he said this is not a job for me. “I’m not about to go to them and tell them about your love. They can go to hell.” “I don’t like them.” – It was an impersonal generalization that he had towards a group of people.

Jonah’s temptation: He was committed to being a follower of God but he didn’t want to reach out. So he ran. His excuses and his temptation is the same as our temptation. We have a better idea and we obey our fears by doing what is natural.

Let’s pause for a moment and look into our world.
Who are you afraid of?
Who don’t you like?
Are you aware of a tendency to run away from the opportunities to reach out? Why?
We are called to overcome the barriers that keep us from reaching out.
Ø Fear
Ø Pride
Ø Prejudice
Ø Preoccupation with self
These are some of the biggest areas of disobedience that will hinder the spread of the love
of God. This may be the biggest point of spiritual growth for us.
Here is an example: One day I was at Seatac heading up the escalator from the shuttle and there in front of me was the former UFC heavyweight mixed martial arts champion. I recognized him and had to say “hi” find out what he was up to. A star-struck pastor acting like a kid. That was me. We got on the plane and I felt very strongly that the Lord wanted to encourage that man. I was reading my Bible and a passage in Isaiah leapt out at me. Go, share this verse with the man. God, the guys could kill me. Are you sure?
I did it, the guy was demolished during his fight and hopefully in his disappointment God used that interaction to encourage him.

II. 1:4-16
Tell the story – people around him are fighting for their lives and he is asleep.

Salvation comes to those far from God.
Cried out to God
Feared God
Worshipped Him
Made Vows to Him
God uses Jonah in spite of himself.
God uses Jonah, even in his rebellion.

God uses us, in spite of ourselves. God will use us, even when we’re not doing His will.
Just because God is using you doesn’t mean that you’re being obedient.
In the Church, there are many benchwarmers: Christians called to go. Called to get into the game, but they don’t want to. If that’s you, it’s time to step up!
God will use us with our without our cooperation. The question is will you let your life impact a boat or a city?

III. 1:17-2:9
Some people have a hard time with this part of the story.
Some struggle with the plausibility of a man being swallowed by a fish and staying alive inside the fish for three days and three nights.
Let me help you with that issue.
It’s not possible.
It’s impossible.
This would be a miracle.
If you don’t believe in miracles and you want to find a rational explanation for this, have fun with it. I’ll just accept this as a miracle.

"Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the story written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see."-CS Lewis

Have you spent any time in the belly of a whale? Be thankful! You’ve been given a 2nd chance. Just don’t stay there.

IV. 2:10-3:10

Laying in the sand. Coughing up salt water.
Jonah obeys. Travels over 500 miles.

2nd chances for Nineveh.
2nd chances for Jonah!
He is the God of 2nd chances. How many of you need a 2nd chance. I need one more 2nd chance.

This might be the worse sermon ever preached.
Not mine, Jonah’s. One sentence, eight words, spoken half-heartedly.
This also may be the most effective sermon ever preached.

So what was his key to success? (to step out)
Was this easy for him? (no)
I’m not Pastor Jim. I’m not as tall as him or as smart.
The key to successfully sharing your faith: Do it. Our fears and the temptation of disobedience are the biggest barriers to overcome.
I shared the story earlier…(cold call)
Runners at Bothell Landing
(friendship evangelism)
Holiday opportunities for you and invite cards.

V. 4:1-11 (entire chapter) - paraphrase
Jonah depresses me in this passage. What is his problem?
Jonah had a problem with God. This problem was God’s undeserved forgiveness and love. He felt that God’s love was for Israel only, not for the Assyrians. Jonah was waiting for God to destroy the Assyrians, not save them. He is angry at God’s grace.

And then he becomes angry when that grace is gone from himself. This guy had experienced the most amazing rescue imaginable. His life had been delivered. In spite of that he still is having a hard time reaching out.
Before we pick on Jonah too much we must look in the mirror.

He demanded God’s continuous blessing for himself but refused to see that God wanted him to share those blessings with others.

We are called to care about the things that count, not just what makes us feel comfortable.
I have been more concerned with what makes me comfortable, then what make God uncomfortable.

Where am I withholding grace from someone?
Where am I holding back.

Can God break through our lovelessness? Absolutely!
“He whom you would change you must first love.” – Luther


Being born again was just the start.
This Holiday Season, let’s remember that we ourselves were once lost. Remember what that was like?
We who have been rescued now have a responsibility to rescue.

If I’m going to enjoy grace I must learn how to share that grace with others.
If you’re going to accept grace, you better give it.
If we’re going to accept love, we better give it.
If I’m going to receive His mercy, I better give it.
If we’re going to receive His forgiveness, we better give it.

1 Timothy 2:3-4
“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand
slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Why is this book in the Bible? It’s a warning to us – that we all have a tendency to be like Jonah. We collectively, as a church, could be guilty as well. So it’s a warning to us about what not to do. Let’s rid ourselves of our Jonah like tendencies.

God wants lost people found more then you do.
“Our church could double in a week.” 2 weeks ago. What would it take for that to happen?
The God who rescued a disobedient man and saved a city is with you.

How does He want to use you this week?

God didn’t call me to leave my family and to give up my dreams for nothing.
God didn’t call me to follow Him in order to merely have a self fulfilled life.
God called me to let go of my dreams of success in this world, and to instead embrace His dreams. He called me to go to Bible College not so that I could be a part of something that makes no difference. He didn’t just call me to live a happy life. He didn’t call me to lead a church full of empty seats.
He didn’t call us to be a church defined by its past.
He didn’t call us to manage a debt.
He didn’t call us to be a church known for a building.
He didn’t call us to be a church known by its former minister
He didn’t call us to watch the people around us suffer while we experience His peace.
He didn’t call us to ignore things while the people around us go through a living hell.
He has called us to be a church known for what it is doing now and what it is going after in the future.
He didn’t call you to a life of quiet desperation.
Jesus didn’t suffer and die on the cross for no reason.
He did it because He loves lost people and he wants to give us a compelling vision to reach them with His love.
Some of you say, I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work.
But look at Jonah: a one sentence sermon awkwardly communicated out of obedience.
Let’s start preaching our one sentence sermons and let God do the rest.
Care about the things that count, not just what makes us comfortable.
Live a life characterized by love in action.
If we’re going to enjoy His grace, we must offer that grace to others.

Many people feel that the account given in the Bible of Jonah is legendary, since even if there were a fish big enough to swallow a man, certainly no man would be able to survive three days in its digestive tract and then escape to the outside world.
However, again and again, Jesus referred to this as a historical event, and even pointed to it as a foreshadowing of his own death and resurrection.
There are, however, several documented accounts of people who have been swallowed by whales and large fish, and have lived to tell about it, even after several days. One species of fish, the "Sea Dog" (Carcharodon carcharias), is found in all warm seas, and can reach a length of 40 feet. In the year 1758, a sailor fell overboard from a boat in the Mediterranean and was swallowed by a sea dog. The captain of the vessel ordered a cannon on the deck to be fired at the fish, which vomited up the sailor alive and unharmed after it was struck.1
Sperm whales can swallow lumps of food eight feet in diameter. Entire skeletons of sharks up to sixteen feet in length have been found in them. In February of 1891, James Bartley, a sailor aboard the whaling ship "Star of the East," was swallowed by a whale in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands. He was within the whale for more than forty-eight hours, and after he was found inside the whale, which had been harpooned and brought aboard the whaling ship, it took him two weeks to recover from the ordeal. Sir Francis Fox wrote as follows about this:
Bartley affirms that he would probably have lived inside his house of flesh until he starved, for he lost his senses through fright and not from lack of air. He remembers the sensation of being thrown out of the boat into the sea. . . . He was then encompassed by a great darkness and he felt he was slipping along a smooth passage of some sort that seemed to move and carry him forward. The sensation lasted but a short time and then he realized he had more room. He felt about him and his hands came in contact with a yielding slimy substance that seemed to shrink from his touch. It finally dawned upon him that he had been swallowed by the whale . . . he could easily breathe; but the heat was terrible. It was not of a scorching, stifling nature, but it seemed to open the pores of his skin and draw out his vitality. . . . His skin where it was exposed to the action of the gastric juice . . . face, neck and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness and took on the appearance of parchment . . . (and) never recovered its natural appearance . . . (though otherwise) his health did not seem affected by his terrible experience.2
Another individual, Marshall Jenkins, was swallowed by a Sperm Whale in the South Seas. The Boston Post Boy, October 14, 1771, reported that an Edgartown (U.S.A.) whaling vessel struck a whale, and that after the whale had bitten one of the boats in two, it took Jenkins in its mouth and went under the water with him. After returning to the surface, the whale vomited him on to the wreckage of the broken boat, "much bruised but not seriously injured."3
cf. compare
[1]Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: The new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.) (Mic 7:8). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

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