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Bending God’s Direction (Jonah 1:2-2:10)

Sermon on 15 November 2020 by Ps Paul

Introduction

Jonah was a prophet called by God to go to the great city Ninevah. God was going to punish this city because of their sinful deeds. However, Jonah did not obey God’s instructions and went the opposite way on a ship. God sent a powerful wind over the sea and almost destroyed all who were on the ship with Jonah. Then the sailors threw Jonah over the sea, and the storm ceased. God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah and he was inside the fish 3 days and 3 nights. Inside the fish, Jonah humbled and prayed to God. God ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. When God instructed Jonah to go to Ninevah the second time, Jonah obeyed this time. He delivered the message to the crowed – forty days from now, the city will be destroyed. The king and people of Ninevah humbled and repented before God upon hearing the message. They turned from their evil ways. God saw this and did not destroy the city. Jonah was upset at this outcome. God used a leafy plant which provided shade for Jonah to describe His heart of mercy and compassion for the people in Ninevah who repented.

Message

Why did Jonah bend God’s direction? Jonah 4:1-3 tells us how Jonah felt at the time. He knew that God was merciful and would spare the people but also hoped that God would carry out judgment on wickedness. Are we also like that? While we receive God’s grace and mercy, do we hope that others will receive punishment?

Let us understand the heart of God from Jonah’s prayer.

1. God hears our cry when we humbly call out to him

He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me!” – Jonah 2:2

Our God cares for all of us as we are made in His image. We are His creation and His children. When we call out to Him, He hears and attends to our cry and prayer. But are our hearts set right with Him?

2. God humbles us so that we will repent

You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The might waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence. Yet I still look once more toward your holy temple.’ – Jonah 2:3-4

He allows us to go through suffering so that we can repent and humble ourselves, so that we will look upon Him.

3. God rescues and saves us by His mercies and salvation

“I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head. I sank down to the very roots of the mountain. The earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy temple. Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfil all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” – Jonah 2:5-9

God did not condemn the world but sent His Son to save us.

God has given us direction. What is His direction for us?

1. Know that God is merciful and compassionate

Jonah knew that God is slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. His is eager to turn back from destroying people (Jonah 4:1-3). God does not want wickedness to dwell in us. He wants us to repent and live a righteous life.

For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost. – Luke 19:10

So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship with Christ. – Colossians 1:28

2. Our duty is to tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with God’s wisdom

Our God actively searches for sinners to repent. Hence, we have a duty to share Christ with others. Note that we are to go out and share. Our duty is not to convert others, as we do not have this ability to change their hearts. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to do this. Our duty is to be God’s messenger to go and tell.

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to everyone.” - Mark 16:15

3. Do not judge others. Have compassion for others

God did not pass judgment on us. When we share about Christ, do this without judging. Who knows which of those people whom we share the good news with will turn their hearts to God? Who are we to judge who is deserving of God’s grace?

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. – Matthew 7:1-2

You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. – Luke 6:36

There are 3 examples of disciples of Christ who had obeyed God’s direction – Philip, Ananias and Peter.

Philip was respected and full of wisdom. If he had bent God’s direction to go to the south of the desert road, he would not have met this Ethiopian eunuch. Then the gospel would not have reached Ethiopia. As for Ananias, he was directed to see Paul. At the time, Paul was so wicked. But Ananias obeyed and the grace of God was upon Paul, who repented and followed Christ. Peter was sent to go to the house of Cornelius. Had Peter thought it was unclean to go to the house of a Gentile, the entire household may not have received the message and the Holy Spirit.

So let us not think about whether someone was deserving to be saved. Had the early disciples bent God’s direction, many would not have had the chance to hear the good news.

Closing

In Christ, all things are possible. Our duty is to be faithful servants.

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