We are looking at the process of discovering God’s
vision for you and this church, to discover God’s purpose for this place. To do this, I want us to look at a couple of
examples we need to learn from: Jonah
and Esther. Today, let’s look at Jonah
1 The Lord gave this
message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up and go to the great
city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment
against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from
the Lord. He went down to the port
of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping
to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.
the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm
that threatened to break the ship apart. 5 Fearing for
their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the
cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But
all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.
If You Can Remember Only One
Thing, This Is It: When We Follow The
Directions But Without The Heart Of God—We Become The Refuser Of
Festivities—And The Consumer Of Blessings.
When God gives us a Recalculating
Moment, He does so to transform us into what can only be described
as Becoming Peculiar People. In other words—to stand out from everything
else. Always to be different from the
world. But sometimes God’s Recalculating Moment is for us to be
different from the Religious Culture.
Don’t you want to be a peculiar people? The phrase is Peter’s, from the King James
Version of 1 Peter 2:9: “But
ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a Peculiar People; that ye should shew
forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous
In Greek, the phrase A
Peculiar People means “a purchased possession”—something that
uniquely belongs to God, acquired at great cost. We are to be Holy Oddities—Sacred Misfits. You can’t make heads or
tails of us unless you bring God into the equation. But we’re going to look at one way to not be peculiar.
It’s the story of Jonah. When I was a child in Sunday School, I heard
the story of Jonah from the perspective that here is a hero of the faith. At first, he didn’t want to go—in fact he
would rather die than go. But God showed
grace in the form of this big fish.
Jonah changed his mind and would go. The Hero, right? Wrong.
Jonah refused God’s Recalculating
Moment at first. Eventually
he followed God’s Recalculating Moment,
but he did so without The Heart Of
God. Jonah shows us that it’s
not enough to simply change direction.
Here’s the Lessons he teaches:
1. Jonah Was A Prophet Who
Wanted Nothing To Do With God.
Jonah—his name means dove. Ironic, isn’t it? Jonah’s name doesn’t fit his heart nor his
attitude. Biblically, the dove was a sign
of hope and peace. In the Old Testament,
Doves represented hope, renewal, grace, beauty, innocence, swiftness,
sacrifice, peace and good news. In the
New Testament, the dove is one of the principal symbols of the Holy Spirit—a sign
from Heaven. Jesus instructed his
followers to be “harmless as doves.”
Hope. Renewal. Grace. Beauty.
Innocence. Spirit. Swiftness. Sacrifice. Good News. Peace.
Jonah is none of this. Jonah’s no dove! He’s a hawk, a vulture. Jonah’s a harbinger of judgment, a conjurer of
despair, and a herald of bad news. He’s
a scrappy, noisy, crow! And that’s the point. Jonah is a prophet that wants nothing to do
with God. He’s an evangelist who wants
nothing to do with the lost—except to see them punished and banished. Jonah Is A Portrait Of Those Who Were A People
Of God But Who Have Lost The Heart Of God.
He’s a picture of a person who is Christian in name
only—not in character, conduct, or conviction. He is an example of what happens to many
Christians and many churches—we get turned in on ourselves, self-satisfied,
self-indulgent, and happy to let the world go to hell. Jonah avoids sinners. When that’s no longer possible, he crusades
against them, picketing their towns.
He first tries to ignore their existence, then he
protests against them, and then he seeks to annihilate them altogether. If I had to identify the primary question that
drives the Book of Jonah, it’s this: Will Jonah Ever Learn To Be A Dove, Not Just In
Name But Also In Heart? And
that’s the question the church must continually wrestle with: Will We Ever Learn To Be Christian, Not Just In
Name But Also In Heart? This is Lesson 1 from Jonah.
2. Jonah Rejects God’s Word.
The Book of Jonah begins with a miracle—God speaks to
Jonah. But Jonah resents and resists the
word of the Lord, finding it to be a mighty inconvenience. It doesn’t fit into his plan. It doesn’t meet his expectations. It doesn’t agree with his beliefs. But the word comes anyway.
The miracle is that the word of the Lord still breaks
in on those who have long given up listening for it or attending to it; it still
comes to those who have not hungered and thirsted for it for years—if ever!
The word that comes to Jonah is firm and fixed: Go. Jonah is to proclaim the Word of
the Lord to Nineveh. Nineveh was the
capital of the blood thirsty Assyrians.
They are the enemy. Jonah is
called to go to the enemy. But the
crucial thing is how God sees this enemy.
First of all, He
sees they are wicked. In fact, their wickedness has come up before
God and reached a tipping point in heaven. God’s had enough; He’s going to act.
But notice the second thing God sees in Nineveh—she is a great city. Her greatness is not just in sheer physical
size. The Hebrew word used in the text means
more than magnitude. It speaks of
importance and weightiness. Nineveh’s greatness is her potential—if
only she turned from her wickedness.
We See People, Towns, Cities, Cultures, Civilizations, Neighbors, And Strangers
As God Sees Them, We Will Never Experience God’s Heart For Them. If all we miss seeing their greatness, we’ll
miss their potential, and the dreams God has for them.
Jonah only sees Nineveh’s wickedness and refuses to
see her potential for greatness, so he runs away. He is called to something too hard, so he
flees. This is where the story gets
interesting. Jonah doesn’t just flee the
call of God or sidestep his assignment; he tries to escape God’s presence. Verse 3: Jonah…went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.
Jonah is more than disobedient—he’s practically an
atheist! Jonah wants to live as though
God does not exist—or at least as if God has no claim on him. Those Who Have A Jonah Heart Want God’s Blessing
But Want Nothing To Do With Either God’s Purposes Or Presence. Jonah is not a worshiper—he avoids God’s
presence. He’s not a follower—he avoids
God’s call,. Jonah is a Consumer Of Blessings.
This Jonah heart is in each of us. We all face a constant temptation to demand
God’s blessing but avoid obedience and service. Entire church communities can have a desire to
seek God’s blessing, but not His Face or His Kingdom. Entire churches are
sometimes preoccupied only with What’s In It For Me.
Entire churches are tempted to be consumers but not
worshipers or followers. When that
happens, everyone is impoverished. The church—which is to be the very body of
Christ in the world, becomes just another country club—bored, snobbish and
flabby. The world that so desperately
needs the gospel of Christ is left to stew in its own juices. When A Church Craves God’s Blessing But Shuns
His Presence And Avoids His Purpose—It Has Lost Its Heart For God.
Let’s finish the story, and see why Jonah isn’t a hero.
Jonah flees, but he doesn’t get every far. He books passage on a ship bound for
Tarshish—a city at the edge of the known world. Here’s something I learned just this week
about the name Tarshish. According to the New Unger’s Bible
Dictionary, Tarshish is a Phoenician word from the
Akkadian meaning Smelting Plant Or
Refinery. In biblical
times, metals were obtained from the ore by fire. He’s trying his best to get as far away as he
But Jonah jumps out of the pan and into the fire. God Pursues Jonah Through A Storm, Still
Wanting Jonah’s Heart The sailors on the boat force Jonah to confess his
identity, and they discover that he’s the source of the trouble.
At Jonah’s request, they throw him into the sea. Jonah is suicidal. God sends a large fish to swallow Jonah whole.
Three days later, the large fish spews
him up on the shore. Jonah, duly
chastised, heads to Nineveh and does his duty.
He only does it because the pain of God’s chastisement is greater that
his desire to run away.
He preaches fire and brimstone and then goes and camps
on the outskirts of Nineveh, waiting for God’s fireworks to fall on the city
and its people. But something strange
takes place. The king of Nineveh hears
Jonah’s message, and he’s broken in his heart. He puts on sackcloth and ashes and calls on
the city to fast, pray, repent, and trust God’s mercy. The entire city turns to God, and God shows
mercy. And Jonah couldn’t be more
Jonah is a representative of a class of people we meet
in the pages of Scripture, in the drama of life, and in the pews of our
churches. He is a Refuser Of Festivities.
He misses the grace of God and lets
bitterness take root. Like the older
brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, he won’t join the party; he won’t
live in grace.
God is involved in an extravagant, surprising,
mercy-drenched business—seeking and saving those who are lost, throwing feasts
once they’re found—but Jonah and his ilk sit on the sidelines and sulk about
how hard God is on them and how soft he is on everyone else. They stew about things taken away from them,
and things they never wanted others to have that God has given to them without
In C. S. Lewis’ story, The Silver Chair,
a selfish little girl named Jill asks the great lion Aslan—the story’s Christ
figure—if he eats girls. Aslan responds,
“I have swallowed boys and girls, men and women, kings and kingdoms.” And here is an even more interesting
question: Has He swallowed you?
How are you handling God’s Recalculating Moments in your life? With joy?
Or with the resentment of Jonah?
- Remember that to follow God’s directions, we have to
change our direction. And to change our
direction, we need to bring along the right attitude. What needs to change with your attitude?
- It’s done by putting aside our fear of
failing or the uncertainty of how it will happen. Don’t wait for someone else to step up. It’s time for you to step out.