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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Jonah Chapter 3: God's gracious recommissioning.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

Jonah was thrown up onto the beach, he had gone through the worst experience of his life but God had met with him in a most amazing way. He had come face to face with death but in God's mercy had been saved. Now we find him on an unknown beach. Sometime soon:

  • God speaks to him a second time.
  • God speaks to the people of Nineveh through Jonah.

God speaks to Jonah a second time:

It is so different this time around. God speaks to Jonah a second time and he obeys. That is how it should have been the first time.

God is amazingly gracious with His people. We might have thought that Almighty God would not want to have anything to do with this rebellious man let alone appoint him to be a prophet. As we have seen previously Jonah was faithful in preaching to Israel but he was not willing to be a missionary to Nineveh. 

At this point put we need to put some theology in place in order that we understand more fully God's grace towards His own people otherwise we might jump to the wrong conclusion that Jonah's rebellion took God by surprise. In Ephesians 1:4 Paul tells us that we are chosen by God before the foundation of the world. We were not chosen because God knew that we would ultimately repent or because we have special qualities; He simply chose us by His grace alone and for His own pleasure and purpose otherwise salvation is one area where man is sovereign over God. In all things God is sovereign and so He must be in control of our salvation as Ephesians teaches. The reality of this is that God knew exactly what Jonah was like with all of his complexities and yet He chose him for this very task which he would rebel against. As we saw last time God took Jonah to the point of death to bring him to repentance and obedience. Until that time Jonah neither had the desire nor the ability to repent but God provided the way for him.

This is equally true of all of us today. God knew all about you and your own unique character long before you were born but yet He has chosen to save you at the time, place and circumstance which He ordained before the foundation of the world. At this time all of heaven rejoiced with you as you repented and were born again. Do you remember how you rejoiced at the time when you knew that our sins had been dealt with and you had been born into the family of God?

Do you continue to continue to rejoice as you did the day that you were converted?

When heaven rejoiced over your salvation it was not a momentary event but it is an ongoing situation. Every soul is precious to God and as such pleases the whole company of heaven as they await our arrival. Our stay on earth deprives heaven of our presence. All of heaven clearly knows of our conversion which suggests that heaven knows our current state and also the quality of our Christian life also.

Certainly God knows all about us just as Jonah experienced.

This helps us to understand why God came once again to Jonah and spoke to him. He did not come with a new message, the word of the Lord for Jonah on this occasion was a repeat of the command to go and to preach God's word. God does not change His mind simply because His prophet is rebellious, He simply changes the prophet.

That is an amazing work of His grace.

.God has also given each of us a command to take His word to our own Nineveh.
  • Where is it that God has given to you or us corporately as your or our unique mission field?
  • Are you/we fulfilling His call or are you/we rebelling?

God speaks to the people of Nineveh through Jonah:

Jonah obeyed and went directly to Nineveh where he preached the word to the people just as God commanded. The city was so large that it took 3 days to cover with many thousands of people, possibly more than a million.

This might come as a surprise to you but:

Jonah is one of the most effective preachers in the bible.

His message was simple, 40 days and Nineveh will be judged by God Almighty the result was amazing, the whole town repented. We ought to pray for the anointing that Jonah had on his preaching that day it would be wonderful if our little town were affected by our gospel witness. If I read the account correctly the word came to the king second hand but nevertheless when he heard of it he was immediately challenged by it.

The Holy Spirit of God who is the One who enlightens hearts and causes people to repent was powerfully at work that day through Jonah's preaching.

It would be fantastic if people listening to our preaching today were as affected as were the people of Nineveh on that day. The immediate result of the message was faith to believe it to act accordingly. How wonderful it would be if it were the same here today! The people of Nineveh not only believed God but they also displayed their faith by changing into the clothes kept for mourning the death of a loved one and instead of sitting in comfortable surroundings sat on the ash heap which displayed to God their sincerity of heart.

Even the King removed his royal robes and stood as an equal alongside his people, all of the people of the city were humbled before God!

As the king sat on his ash heap he was concerned for his people and their animals.

He passed an edict that all must fast and pray to God for help. Everybody must change their ways. They must give up their evil practises and their violence. The were to fast and pray in the hope that the judgement might be averted.

Repentance always has an effect, it changes ways and attitudes.

The king did not fully understand God's ways at this point because he hoped that their actions might change the mind of God from judgement upon them to mercy towards them. He hoped that their deep sorrow might turn away Gods anger and that salvation might come to them.

It was due to their faith and repentance that God saved them.

God did forgive them and did not bring about the threatened disaster. Ephesians clearly teaches us that this was God's intent all along. Jonah knew that to be the truth also as He boldly tells God later on in Chapter 4 verse 2

The great lesson for us here is that the Word of God is powerful and effective and it always accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it. For Jonah the preached word was effective for the salvation of an entire city. For others their ministry was ineffective for salvation. For instance Jeremiah was told to go to Israel with God's a message of judgement upon them but God forewarned him that they would not believe. Was Jeremiah less effective? His ministry was just as effective as Jonah's but the outcome was very different. It is obedience to God's calling on our lives that is paramount, results are His and so we must never be tempted to count blessing by numbers!

The outcome of all gospel witness is God's and not ours, therefore we are fully effective when we are obedient. It is always our desire to be effective for the salvation of others but if converts are our measure of blessing then we are deluded. We live in days when it is rare to see conversions in the UK but that does not mean that God's work is not accomplishing it's purpose! God's word always accomplishes it's purpose but the reality is that we do not always fulfil God's command. When we do not take our gospel opportunities we are guilty of running away from God's calling as was Jonah God's command is that we go to all people everywhere with the good news of the gospel. People will never be converted if we do not preach in the first place!

The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:8-17
In the great commission as recorded in Matthew 28 the Lord Jesus tells His disciples that they must make disciples wherever they are. The gospel is for all ages and for all people and as Jonah found out the responsibility of all believers is to tell others without fear or favour. That is OUR commission here at the Mustard Seed. The question that needs to be answered is; how do we accomplish it?

In effect your experience over recent months has been something of a roller coaster ride. It has not been easy but the Lord has brought you to this place now. We must remember that:

  • God knew all about you and this situation from before the foundation of the world.
  • He knew all about Pam and I and our difficulties.
  • His purpose is for us to work together.
  • As with Jonah we have our own experience as to how God has brought us together.
  • The only thing that we have that is effective for the salvation of people is the Word of God.
  • Our commission is to make disciples of all who are converted and to teach them to obey the commands of Jesus.
  • Our comfort is that Jesus is with us always, Jonah learned that in the depths of the sea but we have the promise articulated in our bibles from the lips of Jesus.
  • Together we are about gospel work here in East Cornwall.
  • A line needs to be drawn in the sand now, this is a new beginning but we rejoice and praise God for all that has gone before:

A new beginning for the Mustard Seed Evangelical Church therefore let us work together for the glory of God.

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