I hope you have enjoyed this study of the book of Jonah. I hope that it has inspired you, challenged you, and stung you back into obedience.
The story of Jonah is more than a fairy tale. It is more than just a myth. It is story of truth and conviction. What is interesting is a story not written in first person. It is not written by Jonah, but about Jonah. If you would like to have an outline of the book of Jonah, here is how I would describe it.
Chapter 1 – Running away from God
Chapter 2 – Running back to God
Chapter 3 – Running with God
Chapter 4 – Running ahead of God
It seems like the story has come to a logical conclusion. We have the disobedient prophet, the suffering of having to live with the consequences of disobeying God, thus living in the belly of the fish for three days. Then we have the happy ending where Jonah repents, follows through with the mission set aside for him, and then all of Nineveh repents and follows God. The perfect ending… or is it.
The prophecy was that God would destroy the city in 40 days. Now, I am not sure if the mark of the 40 days began when he entered the city or left the city (which was a 3 day journey to get across), but the point was that it was 40 days.
40 days is an important number. Psychologists tell us that if you want to create a new habit in your life, you have to spend about 6 weeks working at it – 40 days. Jesus went into the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry, and he spent 40 days fasting and praying.
I have grown up in the culture of the Baptist church my entire life. I was born in the Baptist hospital. I went to college at a Baptist college. My seminary degree came from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – you do not get more Baptist than that. If you were to cut me, I would bleed Cooperative Program.
We, as Baptists have had a revivalistic strategy. A preacher will preach a sermon of salvation, hard on sin and its consequences. Then there is an altar call at the end of the service to invite people to come down an aisle and get saved right then and there. There have been a lot of people who have come down an aisle of the church, have been baptized after that event, and have become members of the church, but I need to tell you that there are going to be many who are counting on that aisle event, and the dipping of the water, and they will not be saved. And when they face the judgement seat of God in the last day, they are going to be very surprised.
Salvation is not walking to the front of the church. Salvation is not getting dunked in the pool of water. Salvation is not being a member of the church. Salvation is a commitment of your life to Jesus Christ. Last week, I performed a wedding for a couple in Arkadelphia. They repeated vows of commitment. They stated that they would, in sickness and and in health, in poverty and in wealth commit their lives to one another so long as they both shall live, so help me God. But what if they never joined their lives under the same roof? What if they never merged their bank accounts. What if they had never quit dating other people. You would say that they were not truly married because there is no commitment.
There have been people who have walked down the aisle due to the conviction of their sin, knowing that they have been caught, and feeling sorry for being caught, but never, NEVER made that commitment to follow Jesus Christ. You can go to church, but it does not make you a Christian just like going to McDonalds does not make you a hamburger. You can be dunked a dozen times, and the baptism does not save you. It is your commitment to follow Jesus all the days of life. That is the plumb line of your life!
So the 40 days is a good test to see if you really are a follower of Jesus. You should wait for 40 days before a new Christian is given responsibility. It is a time to see if the fruit of change is in their life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states that if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, and the new has come.
So God gave Nineveh a test. He stated that they needed to repent, or in 40 days they would be destroyed. And Nineveh repented of their sin, and followed God, and God gave them a break.
So that is where we are now. Did you notice what the first verse said?
4 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry.
Jonah slipped back into his old ways. He did not learn the lesson of running from God. He did not learn the lesson of repentance when he was in the belly of the fish. The next verse says that Jonah complained to God… his complaint.
IT’S NOT FAIR
How many times have you said to God, it’s not fair. A co-worker gets a raise and you don’t. A classmate gets an A and you get a D. Your spouse makes more money than you do. A friend at church gets a new car, or goes on an exotic vacation, and you have to work. It’s not fair!
What is amazing to me is that Jonah knows the nature of God. Verses 2 and 3 are wonderful testimonies as to the character of God. We read it, because it is in the Bible like it is some wonderful word of inspiration. But the attitude I see is absolute sarcasm. It is even whining.
Here is another set of things God arranged.
- he arranged a shade – leafy plant
- he arranged a worm – that took away the leafy plant
- he arranged for a scorching hot east wind and a hot sun
But this time is was not a fish! Hello? Could Jonah ever get the message? Can we? Can’t we ever learn? Time after time we fall into the same trap, doing the same thing over and over.
Jonah’s pity party was so deep, so ingrained, he said he was angry enough that he wanted to die!
Let me read the last two verses, and I want to say something very strong.
10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness,[a] not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
Jonah, you care about no one else but yourself. Your comfort. Your ease. Your good life. Your God. Your salvation. But you do not care about anyone else. You did not care about the sailors on the ship. You did not care for the Ninevites. All you cared about is your cushy little existence, nothing more, and nothing less.
Let me bold for just a moment. You probably will be glad to see me go after I say this.
You have a beautiful sanctuary, a great fellowship, and a sweet spirit. But I do not see much concern for the person across the street. You have done things that make you comfortable, things that are familiar to you. And things that make you feel good. But, I do not see a coherent vision and strategy to reach the people in your community. I asked last week about the name, and no one seemed to know why your church is named the way it is. My guess is about a pastor who launched the church, but no one remembers him… He is not here any longer, but the name reflects him, and not your mission. Your sign out front announces times for events that do not take place at the stated time. And the outside of the facilities look tired, and says to the community that nothing is happening here. You have a sweet community of friendships. You have a beautiful place to worship God, but I am afraid that you have become comfortable with the way things are and have been, and not concerned for the Nineveh around you.
I want to remind you that there are more who do not go to church than there are those who do. As Jesus said to Peter, you have in your hands the keys of the kingdom of God. Whatever you bind on earth you will bind in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth you will loose into heaven. For God so loved the world, and that includes right here, on this street, in this neighborhood, that he gave his only Son, Jesus.
Be the word of God. Be the Bible. Be the point where people come to know Him.