People often say: The Holy Spirit is a gentleman; He doesn’t barge in where he’s not wanted. As we see from the story of Jonah, that’s not quite true. It’s not true because the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. [Romans 11:29]
Jonah was a prophet & despite what he did he continued to be a prophet. He continued to operate as a prophet even while he was being disobedient. He confessed the God of Israel. He confessed his sin. He even knew that if he was thrown into the sea the storm would cease. He knew his God well enough that he was the only man sound asleep in the hold during a life~threatening storm! In that way he reminds me of Jesus.
All the time the Holy Spirit was keeping an eye on things because God was in the storm. He even used Jonah’s disobedience as a testimony but what He did not do was let Jonah get away with it! From the moment Jonah stepped out of the will of God for His life things started to go catawampus ~ & God let them! He did not intervene. He did not say: Well, I’ll just raise me up another prophet who will obey me. No. God is the master of *tough love* & he let Jonah run. He let him run till there was no place left for Jonah to run. He let Jonah run till he ran out of options. We see the same principle at work in the N.T story of the Prodigal Son.
Meanwhile Ninevah was still under threat of destruction. Not only was Jonah not going there, no~one else was going there either.
So here we have 4 tiny islands. When I first came here you had 2 choices for churches: either you were Catholic or you were Anglican. The number of churches has tripled but our evangelization has not. We hide away in our churches & say we are worshipping God when the reality is we are disobedient children because God has said Go! Most of us are doing a Jonah & running just as hard as we can in the opposite direction.
Now you need to understand there are a number of different words translated as *worship.* Shâchâh is one. It means to prostrate oneself. ?âbad is another. *This term literally means to work in any sense, but by implication to serve or enslave. It is used more than 250 times in the Old Testament, most often translated as "serve" and 31 times in conjunction with shâchâh*.
I have pointed this out because we need to understand that in the Hebrew mindset there is no distinction between prostration & service. One aspect of worship is service! So too in Hebrew to hear [shema] implies both to hear & to obey. Always, always God expects action, not passive acquiesce.
Jesus reinforced this idea in John 14:23 Jesus replied, "All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” Here we are better of than Jonah for the implication is that we will be enabled to obey. That is part of the work of the Holy Spirit. Jonah understood that also for as a prophet he was anointed with the Holy Spirit to operate in the office to which he had been called.
As individuals & as a church body we have been called to preach the Good News ~ & this good news I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 1 Cor 15:3
We cannot complain we have not received revelation or know the further will of God when we have not obeyed His clear instructions.
When we willingly & knowingly disobey we place ourselves beyond the protection of the Blood of Christ. When we repent & confess, the Blood covers us. If we do not, we give access to satan & this is what we find with Jonah.
Jonah blames God for the storm. See the only way we can know most of Jonah’s story is from Jonah himself. We know from John 10:10 that The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. The thief is satan ~ & he was perfectly happy to destroy Jonah & thwart the plan of God for Jonah’s life. God’s purpose & desire is to always bring us into His life. He wasn’t fazed by Jonah’s running. He knew how it would all play out & he had that big fish ready & waiting! Jonah then claims the storm is *all his fault* ~ which is the height of arrogance for Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? [Matthew 6:27]
In amongst Jonah’s confused theology God is still working. Here is our starting point. Wherever we find ourselves God is working. It is easier if we co~operate with Him but it is not necessary. God is God & He will continue to work out His purposes.
We see God let Jonah run as far as it was possible to run. It was only when Jonah ran out of Himself that He admitted what we all know is true: Salvation comes from the Lord.[2:9]
We need to stop running. Satan loves to keep us running. Busy, busy, busy. No time to think. No time to praise. No time to reflect on the goodness of God.
I am going to share with you a joke I heard many, many years ago that is pertinent to Jonah, to us & to how we deal with our Ninevahs.
The devil was instructing his minions on how best to seduce people. He asked the first one, What would you do to convince people not to believe in God? And the minion answered, I’d tell them there’s no devil. Satan laughed & said, Oh, no. They know I’m real alright!
So he asked the second imp, What would you do to convince people there’s no God? And the imp replied, I’d tell them there’s no God. Satan shook his head. No. There will always be some people who will believe.
So he asked the 3rd imp, What would you do to convince people? & the 3rd imp replied, I’d just tell them there’s plenty of time…
When Jonah landed inside that big fish he was brought to a crashing stop! He wasn’t dead ~ yet, but he had nowhere to go & nothing to do. He was stuck inside a dark smelly fish [with a decidedly limited future] & a fish that was busily trying to digest him & surprise, surprise, he suddenly remembers the God whose prophet he is. Mind you he’s still blaming God. God never drove him from his presence, Jonah ran from it!
We need to remember whose children we are, the Spirit who lives in us. What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
We need to be honest with ourselves & before God. We need to be honest about the heart of God for wherever & whatever our Ninevah is, God cares about it. God made his heart abundantly clear to Jonah: Ninevah has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?
On this island alone there are more than 3 000 souls perishing; shouldn’t God care about them?
We sing, God open the eyes of our heart…but do we mean it? Have we counted the cost? Are we prepared to obey?
Now for some practical application.
The first thing is to hear the call of God. We know there is a general call to all God’s people to tell others the Good News but we learn from Jonah that God is pretty specific. He told Jonah exactly where he was to go & to whom he was to preach. I know this was true for us. We tried a number of different approaches but we knew by the Holy Spirit when we had understood how God had called us specifically! If you don’t know ASK!! Luke 11:9 "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. This is a broad, general spiritual principal. Ask who it is that God wants you to speak to specifically.
Secondly: Pray! You see in Jonah’s prayer in chapter 2 both positive & negative confession. He admits his wrongdoing & disobedience. He admits he’s in rather dire straits. He also proclaims the goodness & mercy of God. He affirms God hears & answers.
Thirdly: OBEY. Jonah got a second chance. Not everyone does. One day we will not have a tomorrow. We will not have *plenty of time*. There will be no further opportunity to share the gospel with those who are perishing & what excuse can we give before God for not speaking out when we knew their end?
Fourthly: learn from Jonah’s hardness of heart. In the end Jonah did what was asked of him but it brought him no joy & no satisfaction! He would much rather Ninevah had gone up in flames; for fire & brimstone to rain down & to be able to say: See! I told you so! He admits this to God. Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful & compassionate God, slow to get angry & filled with unfailing love.[4:2]
Like Jonah we sometimes get more satisfaction out of saying: I told you so, than seeing the redemptive power of God work in a sinner’s life ~ until it hits a lot closer to home. Maybe it is an unbelieving parent or a lost child but that is exactly how God feels about each & every person on the planet. His heart is the heart of a parent whose child has strayed & is in perilous danger. He is asking those of us safely in the fold to act on His behalf showing the unfailing love & compassion of the Lord to others.
The last thing is something we often get wrong but it is the one thing Jonah got absolutely right! He didn’t mince his words. He wasn’t *seeker friendly*. He didn’t compromise the truth. He didn’t beat about the bush. He served it up straight & simple exactly as he got it from the Lord: Forty days from now Ninevah will be destroyed.
There is something powerful about the Truth. It is compelling. People mightn’t like it but generally they will respect it. See the Holy Spirit is The Spirit of Truth [John 16:13] And when he comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God's righteousness, and of the coming judgment.
Our job is not to save anybody ~ because we can’t! That is the Holy Spirit’s job. He convicts them & the Father provides salvation through His son, Jesus Christ. We have one job & one job only: to preach the Gospel! Why? Because faith comes by hearing & hearing by the word of God. [Romans 10:17