Click play to listen to the audio version of this sermon.
1. 40 days after Jesus' resurrection, He gathered His disciples together and said, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them everything I have commanded you." We call that the "Great Commission."
2. The "Commission" that the Lord gave to Jonah was very similar. "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city and call out against it."
3. Unlike Jesus disciples however, Jonah doesn't go as he's commissioned. He flees from the presence of the Lord.
4. As Jonah is literally drowning in his sin, he prays to the Lord for deliverance and rescue. And a great fish becomes the more obedient and faithful servant of the Lord than the prophet. Jonah gives thanks to the Lord for hearing his prayer and rescuing him from Sheol.
5. The fish does what it was commissioned by the Lord to do. It rescues Jonah and spits him out onto dry land. And Jonah is given a second chance. With that we begin scene 4. Or maybe you could call this "Jonah – the Sequel."
II. God Calls Jonah – The Sequel
A. 2nd Time
1. "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah THE SECOND TIME."
2. What wonderful words these are. "THE SECOND TIME." All of the forgiveness and patience and forgiveness of God is packed into those three little words. "A SECOND TIME."
3. Picture the scene as best you can. Jonah, man of God, rejecter of God; he knows what he's done; he's fled from the presence of the Lord. He got caught. God found him and made it very clear He was angry with his prophet.
4. How much time goes by between 2:10 and 3:1, between Jonah being vomited on the dry land and the Word of the Lord came to him the second time? Does the Word of the Lord come to Jonah while he's still sitting on the beach, dripping in vomit, gasping for fresh air? Or is this a while later after Jonah's back in Jerusalem, back at the Temple which he swore he'd never see again, wondering if the assignment's still on, or is the whole thing off because he screwed up? He blew his chance?
5. I think Peter could certainly identify with Jonah at this point. Peter, man of God, Rock, upon whose confession Christ said, "I will build my church." Peter, denier of Christ, who tried to flee from the presence of the Lord, not once or even twice but three times. "I don't know the man." Not exactly the confession upon which Christ wants to build His church. And then Jesus is crucified, dies and is buried. And Peter's wondering, now what? Is he still a disciple? Is the assignment still on? Or is the whole thing off because he screwed up?
6. The Word of the Lord came to Peter a second time. "Peter do you love me? Feed my sheep." Three times that word came to Peter. Once for every time he denied Jesus.
7. That tells you a lot about this God whom we call "our God" doesn't it?
8. The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a 2nd time. You get the feeling that had Jonah rejected the call again, the Word of the Lord would have come to Jonah a 3rd time and a 4th time. As many as 70 x 7 times. As many times as Jonah wanted to go to hell and back again.
9. Let that stick with you. We tend to want to project our image onto God and along with our image. We might give someone a 2nd chance, maybe a 3rd and possibly even a 4th. But there's a limit. And when we project those limits onto God, we tend to give up on others much more quickly than we should. Yes, there's a limit to how many times someone can deny the Word of God and reject God's word for their life before it doesn't come anymore. But I think that that is what death is. And until death comes, we shouldn't give up praying, hoping, inviting, re-inviting.
10. And by the way, how many times has the Lord come to you again with His Word after you've disobeyed, rejected, ignored or ran away from it? How about as many times as you've been to church in the past year, times the number of years old you are. You do the math.
B. The Commission
1. The Word of the Lord that comes to Jonah a 2nd time is this: "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city and call out against it the message that I tell you."
2. That's almost word for word the same commission as the 1st time. The only difference is that this time, the Lord says to Jonah, "call out against it THE MESSAGE THAT I TELL YOU."
3. Sounds like the Lord has got Jonah on a shorter leash than the 1st time. And who can blame Him for that.
III. Jonah's Response
A. Jonah changed by the experiences of life.
1. When the Word of the Lord came to Jonah the 2nd time, we must realize that he is a different person than when the Word came to him the 1st time. He's been changed by the experiences of his life. Which in Jonah's case are the direct consequences of his poor decisions.
2. We should be able to understand this pretty well. We've all been shaped by the experiences of our life haven't we? Some of them were the consequence of our decisions, but others not. Sometimes we experienced bad things and good things because of someone else's decisions or actions.
3. What we learn from Jonah is to see God's hand in it all. Those experiences, painful, pleasurable, tragic, joyous – all from the hand of the Lord, change us, shape us – according to God's purpose.
4. This is what Luther was getting at when he said that God hides behind masks. Moses wanted to see the face of God but God said, you cannot see My face. I will only show you my 'back parts.'
5. These experiences that we have, or sometimes, that have us, are very often, the way that God works in our life. But we can only see His face in the situation or experience by faith – not by sight.
6. So for Jonah, the storms, the being thrown overboard, the near drowning experience, the great fish swallowing him up – he sees all of this as from the hand of God. But we wonder how this has shaped him, changed him. Our hope for Jonah is that these experiences changed him, shaped him, according to God's purpose.
7. Before we see how these experiences have affected Jonah, lets just take the opportunity to ask ourselves a few questions. As you look back on your life, think about some of the hard experiences you've had – the trials, troubles, tragedies, and failures. Did you see the hand of God at work in them? How did they change you, shape you? Can you look back on them now and see how God changed you for the good, according to His purpose and good and gracious will for your life? Or did you blame God for letting such things happen to you and instead of shaping, changing you, did it just harden you?
8. So much of the affect that these experiences have on us depends on what we believe about God. Depending on what your attitude toward God is, you will either see these experiences as God for you or against you. If you believe without doubt that God is good and gracious, that God is love, then you'll see that even the most painful, tragic and terrible experiences of your life, God was at work "for the good of those who love Him."
9. But if your attitude towards God is a bit more suspicious than that, not so sure that He's completely good, that He may just send trouble, suffering and tragedy your way to punish you out of His anger and wrath, with no real redeeming or salutary purpose behind it, then you'll grow to resent this God more and more and avoid Him as much as possible. Instead of being changed according to God's good and gracious purpose for your life, you'll harden your heart against God and, like Pharaoh, refuse to let the circumstances that God is clearly behind, change you.
B. Changed by his baptism.
1. But there's another way that Jonah was changed. And in this way, we can all identify with him. Jonah's experience of being drowned in the sea and swallowed up by a swimming coffin, and then ejected out of that coffin to new life, bears all of the marks of holy Baptism.
2. This is literally what Baptism is. It's a drowning of the old sinful man in us. It's the drowning of that stubborn Jonah in all of us that hears the Word of God and wants to escape it because he disagrees with it or finds it to be 'not his thoughts,' and 'not his way.' Through the experience of drowning, God drowns the old sinful Jonah in us.
3. But that's not the only part of the experience of Baptism. It's only half of it. The other part is the rising from death to life. Simultaneous with the old sinful man in us being drown, a new man, this one in the image of Jesus Christ is born in us, and just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so are we given a whole new life.
4. And the Scriptures make it very clear that if there's one experience in our life that should change us and shape us according to God's Word and will, its our baptism. Speaking about our life after baptism, Paul writes to the Ephesians saying, "Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires… and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph.4:22,24).
5. To the Colossians, Paul writes now that they have been changed, shaped in their baptism, the old ways should cease and desist. "Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge after the image of its creator." (Col.3:10).
6. And to the Romans, Paul describes the change that should take place in us after baptism. "Let not sin rein in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. (Rom.6:12-13).
7. Now, the very fact that Paul feels it necessary to write such things to the baptized means that baptism doesn't change us in a mechanical way like when you disable a faucet from giving hot water by shutting the hot water valve off. Even after baptism, we remain capable of sinning. We remain saint and sinner at the same time. We will need the Word of the Lord to come to us a 2nd time, 3rd time, time after time, recalling us to the change that has happened in us in our baptism.
8. And so, what about Jonah? How has the experience changed him? How has his baptism changed him? I'm pleased to report, "Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the Word of the Lord."
A. In Nineveh
1. So, scene 4 comes to a close in Nineveh. It opened in Israel, probably Jerusalem. Jonah had to cross 500 miles of desert to get to Nineveh. It would have taken him 30 – 45 days to make the trip.
2. That's lots of time for Jonah to do some serious thinking. What did he think about as he traveled? We wonder. Jonah doesn't tell us.
3. All we know is that here we are in Nineveh. It's where we've been headed all along. The rest of this story takes place right here, in this foreign, pagan nation. Next week, we'll listen to Jonah's message to the Ninevites and see what their response will be.
1. But as we conclude, we can't help but wonder, why does Jonah arise and go to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord? I don't mean to be the skeptic, but I do wonder just how humbled and changed by his experiences he was.
2. 1 – Did Jonah have a renewed faith that desired to serve the Lord who delivered him from the belly of Sheol?
3. 2 – Or is it that he has come to terms with the reality that he can't escape from God, that God isn't going to let him alone, you can't just say 'no thank you' to the Word of the Lord, so he might as well go do this thing and get it over with. Maybe then he can get God off his back?
4. 3 – Or, does Jonah arise and go to Nineveh because he believes that Nineveh would never actually respond positively to the word that the Lord has given him to speak, and that when it's all said and done, Jonah will be able to say to the Lord – "See! I told you this was a bad idea."
5. We'll see.