Sermon Series: When God Calls
Title: Trust and Obey
Scripture: Jonah 3-4

Outline: 

1. His Word is Greater than Our Wants (1:1-3)
2. He Still Works When We Wander (1:4-16)
3. We Cannot Run Beyond His Reach (1:17)
4. He Seeks Our Surrender (2:1-10)
5. He Delights in Redeeming not Retaliating (3:1)
6.  He Sees Opportunity through Obedience (3:2-10)
     A. To Proclaim a Simple Yet Powerful Message (3:2-4)
     B. To Provide Far Reaching Life Change (3:5-10)
7. He Has Compassionate Concern for All (4:1-11)
     A.  The Saved (4:1-10)
     B.  The Sinners (4:11)

Sermon Summary:

During the concluding message of our series in Jonah, we find a newly surrendered prophet obeying the calling of God to go to the city of Nineveh and preach against it. The Ninevites believed the message from God, and repented from their wicked ways. This provides us with the 6th lesson in our series: When God Calls, he sees opportunity through our obedience.  He sees the opportunity to provide far reaching life change when we obey his call to preach his simple, yet powerful message of salvation to the people in our world.

God ended up relenting, and decided to show compassion to the Ninevites. But, Jonah wasn't pleased, because he thought they deserved the wrath of God, and he hoped for their destruction.  Thus, the final lesson of our series is: When God Calls, He is compassionately concerned for all. God's compassion is not just for a select few people. He is concerned with everyone receiving his compassion: the least to the greatest, the seemingly deserving and the undeserving, those who love us and those who hate us. Therefore, we must get our hearts in tune with God, trust his plan of salvation, and hope that everyone will receive his compassion just like us. 

Discussion Questions:

1. Sometimes we view obedience to God as a chore (something that robs us of enjoyment).  However, we learned that God sees opportunity through our obedience. . Do you view obedience to God as a chore or an opportunity for something greater? Why?

2. When we are obedient, God sees the opportunity to share a simple, yet powerful message to the world which provides life change to those who receive it.  In what ways has God been challenging you to share the Good News of Jesus to others? 

3. We learned that God is compassionately concerned for both the saved and the sinner. In what ways have you struggled to join in God's compassion for those who you feel might not deserve it? 

4. The reality is, we all have wandered from God, and if we repent, he promises to redeem us and not retaliate against us.  How can this truth help us to view all people with a God-like compassion?

Full Sermon Notes:

Good morning. If you have been here the past two weeks, you have taken journey with us through the story of Jonah. If you haven't, you can always go watch the previous sermon videos online.

The sermon series is entitled “When God Calls.” Through this series, we have been able to arrive at certain truths and lessons about the nature of God’s calling.

In Jonah 1, The Word of the Lord called out to Jonah to go to the city of Ninevah and preach against it because of its wickedness. But, Jonah decided to get on a boat and sail away from God’s calling because he didn’t want to do it. So we first learned that When God Calls,

1. His Word Is Greater Than Our Wants

So, in response, God sent a huge storm, and used others on the boat to get Jonah’s attention. And, thankfully God still tries to get our attention when we wander from his calling. So our second lesson is that When God Calls,

2. He Still Works When We Wander

At the end of the first Chapter, Jonah is voluntarily cast overboard, and the storm calms. While he is drifting at sea and on the brink of death, God sent a giant fish to swallow him up. So, the third truth that we discovered is that When God Calls,

3. We Cannot Run Beyond His Reach

Now, throughout the entirety of Chapter 2, Jonah prays to God from within the fish. He doesn’t just pray a prayer of survival but a prayer surrender. Our fourth lesson is that when God calls,

4. He Seeks Our Surrender

And God proves that he is seeking our surrender because he listens and answers when we call upon him. He gives us strength in our weakness, and provides salvation when we wander.

Jonah recognizes this about God, and surrenders to his calling from within the fish. Last week we concluded our message with the amazing truth that When God Calls,

5. He Delights in Redemption not Retaliation

God preserved Jonah’s life inside of the fish for three days and three nights. Now, imagine being a witness to this event. You and your family are hanging out the beach, and all of the sudden you see what is most likely a whale swim up toward you and and throw up a man onto the shore. Not your typical day at the beach.

It says in Jonah 3:1, that the word of the Lord came to this nasty, filthy, stinky man a second time. This shows us that even when we are at our worst, when we are covered in the consequences of our disobedience, God proves that he delights in redeeming us and not retaliating against us because he gives us another chance to follow his calling when we wander.

Last week, we were challenged to consider our surrender. Are you a believer in Christ, one of God’s children, yet wandering from a calling to surrender whatever it may be, and take advantage of another opportunity to accomplish his purposes?

Or, have you never responded to God’s call to salvation and trusted in Jesus as your Savior? You've been running, but God’s love has been pursuing you, and if you surrender to him, he captures you and takes you to freedom in Christ. Jonah originally thought God was trying to punish him and banish him from his presence,

But, God showed him that he delights in redemption. I hope that you have strongly considered your how you might surrender to God. Now, we pick up where we left off in Chapter 3:1. Today, we have two short chapters and two more main truths to cover. So, let’s get started. Jonah 3:1-3 says,

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh
and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.

So, Jonah is back where he started, on the beach. The first time, he was boarding a boat headed in the wrong direction. This time, he is standing with the full realization that going that way doesn’t satisfy, but God still used his journey that way to lead him to a place of surrender.

And the word comes a second time and Jonah was no longer looking for another way out. This time, the newly surrendered man obeyed and traveled to Nineveh. Just so you know, this is not like traveling from Slidell to Covington. Nineveh is a 500 mile journey from where Jonah currently stands.

This is equivalent to traveling from Slidell to Jacksonville, FL or from Slidell to San Antonio, TX. And Jonah didn’t even have a car with good gas mileage. Back then it was travel by foot or on a camel. And there weren’t smooth roads, or nice shaded environments like we have here. Nineveh is located in modern day northern Iraq.

Jonah is walking in very hot, sometimes desert like terrain. Even if he was able to travel 10 miles a day, it still would have taken him almost two months to get there. Two months.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t get excited about road trips. You can drive if you want but if I can find a cheap enough flight, then I’ll be waiting 12 hours for you to finally get there. I remember having to drive in a caravan to Disney World with my mom and dad, brother and his family, sister and her family.

From the get go, I am not thrilled about the ride. For one, I am a giant compared to most and I don’t fit neatly into vehicles. Two, I’m not going to fit neatly in this vehicle for 10-12 hrs. But, you know, Disney awaits. And at the time my wife and I didn’t have children.

So, being able to do all of the fun, 4ft and taller stuff, awaited us as well. But the journey there is not bundles of joy for the 6ft and taller guy. But, at least I knew that some sort of enjoyment awaited after I unfolded out of the vehicle. You know, Disney World awaited.

I don’t get the sense that this is the case for Jonah. Not only is his journey miserable, but he has the entire trip to think about the message that he is going to say to the people of Nineveh. You know, these people who, as we learned in message #1, are known for skinning alive and beheading their prisoners of war.

Jonah doesn’t see that end result. He doesn’t know what will happen to him. He may be killed the moment he opens his mouth. He may just get kicked out of town for smelling like fish guts. But, regardless of how Jonah feels or how uncertain he may be, God knows the reason why he is sending Jonah.

But, even though he didn't know what awaited him in Nineveh, God did! And Jonah was obedient this time. This leads us to the 6th truth of our series. When God Calls, He Sees Opportunity through our Obedience

6. He Sees Opportunity through our Obedience

It’s true that many of us see obedience as a chore. In fact, a common reason for people not wanting to follow God is because they believe that in doing so, they will be robbed of opportunities to do things that bring them enjoyment.

You know what the excuses are, and maybe you’ve made them before. I don’t want to follow God because I know that will mean I have to give up the party life. I know that I’ll have to go to church on Sunday mornings, and I’d rather sleep or go fishing. The Lord may start leading me to give some of my money, and I work hard for it.

But, that is the difference between us and the Lord. We sometimes view obedience as a chore or something that takes away our opportunities for enjoyment. God, on the there hand, views obedience as an opportunity for us to be a part of something much greater than ourselves and what we think brings enjoyment.

The next few scriptures outline 2 opportunities that our obedience will bring our way. Let’s look at it. Verse 4 says,

Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming,
“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

The first opportunity that God sees for us, is to proclaim a simple yet powerful message

6. He Sees Opportunity through our Obedience
A. To Proclaim a Simple Yet Powerful Message

Jonah’s message was very basic, but its substance was gut wrenching for those who heard it. Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown. God’s anger toward their wickedness had reached the point where consequences were going to be enforced. But, take a look at what happens next, verse 5,

The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

The Ninevites believed God. They believed his message. Now, it’s possible that Jonah was credible enough on his own, but not likely. He probably looked different, talked different, smelled different. Maybe he was a good motivational speaker and could easily people.

But it’s not likely they believed the message simply because it was coming from Jonah. There were a couple of other historical factors at play that made the Ninevites take the message seriously.

First, there were a couple of tribes to the north that started to aggressively fight against the Assyrians, so much so, that they had pushed their way into Assyria and within 100 miles of Nineveh.

Secondly, there was also widespread famine and food was scarce. People were starving to death. And third, there were numerous revolts within the Assyrian Empire which could have also added to the Ninevites believing this message from God.

So, what do they do in response? They fast, and all of them from the greatest to the least put on sackcloth? Sackcloth was a garment made of goat hair, and it was worn to represent repentance and humility.

So, the Ninevites were humbling themselves before God and taking steps to repent of their sin. But, it doesn’t just end here. Look at what happens next. Verse 6-9,

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.

God’s message, spoken through Jonah, coupled with the repentance of the people had a profound impact on the king of Ninevah. It had such an impact that he too put on sackcloth and sat in the dust to show his humility and repentance before the Lord. In addition, he also issues a decree of repentance to all of the people. Verse 7-9,

This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

God sees opportunity through our Obedience to proclaim a simple yet powerful message and secondly to provide far reaching life change.

6. He Sees Opportunity through our Obedience
A. To Proclaim a Simple yet Powerful Message
B. To Provide Far Reaching Life Change

This simple yet powerful message proclaimed in obedience gave the Ninevites the opportunity to experience life change. And this life change wasn’t just for a select few, but it reached all the way to the top, from the least to the greatest. And look at God’s response to the Ninevites in verse 10,

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways,
he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

God relented because the people repented. They turned to him and he showed compassion toward them. And, God is using this 3000 year old story to teach us that he sees opportunity through our obedience today as well.

He has given us a simple yet powerful message to proclaim. He sees the opportunity to provide far reaching life change if we would be obedient to proclaim this message. What is the simple message that we have to proclaim today? Listen to Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The beginning of the verse is similar to the message that Jonah shared with the Ninevites: Because of your evil, destruction is coming your way. For the wages of sin is death. But the free gift of God is life through Christ. Romans 10:8-10

this is the message concerning faith that we proclaim:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

The message is simple. Because of our sin, everyone is bound for a spiritual death. But God provides a gift of spiritual life through Jesus Christ, and if you believe in him and confess that he is Lord, you will be saved from an eternal death to an eternal life with Christ.

The message is simple but it is powerful because it produces life change for those who hear it, and repent of sin by turning to Jesus Christ. Northshore Church, this is what is at stake! This is the opportunity that God sees through our obedience. Romans 10:14-15,

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

"If we were left to ourselves with the task of taking the gospel to the world, we would immediately begin planning innovative strategies and plotting elaborate schemes. We would organize conventions, develop programs, and create foundations… But Jesus is so different from us. With the task of taking the gospel to the world, he wandered through the streets and byways…All He wanted was a few men who would think as He did, love as He did, see as He did, teach as He did and serve as He did. All He needed was to revolutionize the hearts of a few, and they would impact the world.” ― David Platt, Radical

God sees opportunity through our obedience. It’s not complicated. The eternal lives of many are at stake, and we have one simple yet powerful message to share that can ultimately produce far reaching life change in those who receive it. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the Good News. Who are you sharing it with?

With his second chance, Jonah obeyed God’s call, and brought his message to the Ninevites, but his response to their repentance and God’s relenting is one that will surprise us at first. Let’s continue in Chapter 4

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.
He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home?
That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish.

At this point in the story we find out the reason that Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh in the first place. When you understood the history behind the Assyrians, you might think that he is afraid for his his life. When you discovered that it is 500 miles from Jonah’s hometown to Nineveh, you may think that he just didn’t want to travel that far.

When you look at the message he had to deliver, you might think that he felt inadequate to deliver it and therefore stayed at home ashamed. But, Jonah shows his true colors. He reveals exactly why he didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He said,

I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love,
a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

That totally goes against the reasons that I thought he didn’t want to go. He knows the character of God: full of grace and compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love. God relents from sending calamity. But, calamity is exactly what Jonah thought the Ninevites deserved, and would rather die than see them experience God’s mercy.

In the next verses God begins to teach Jonah yet another lesson, and it is our final lesson of the series. When God God Calls,

7. He Is Compassionately Concerned for All

Jonah is part of the nation of Israel. He is a Jew. In Genesis 22:18, we see that God chose Israel to be a blessing to the rest of the world by sharing God’s message with other nations. Yet, the OT shows, that Israel consistently rebelled against this calling because they thought that God should not give his salvation to wicked nations.

Jonah is a spokesman for the nation of Israel. And just look at how he is acting. Verse 4,

But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.

Even after he knows that God has already relented, he still goes to a place outside of the city and watches in the hopes that God would change his mind again and destroy the city. That is how much he despises the Ninevites. But, God continues to gently teach Jonah the truth. Verses 6-10 say,

Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.

God is teaching Jonah that he has compassionately concerned for all. First he reminds him here that he has concern and compassion for the saved.

7. He is Compassionately Concerned for All
A. For the Saved

He has compassion for his people, for his children who have called upon his name. God says, you have been concerned about this plant, but failed to recognize that I am the one who was compassionate enough to give to you in the first place.

You didn’t make it grow, I did. You didn’t deserve my compassion, but I gave it to you. I spared from the sea. I spared you from the fish. I even provided shade for you when you were whining the desert. Don’t forget that I am the one who gives the compassion. But it’s not just for you. Look at verse 11,

And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than
a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left-and also many animals?”

God is teaching Jonah that He has compassionate concern for all. He is compassionate toward the saved, but he is also concerned with showing his compassion to sinners as well.

7. He Is Compassionately Concerned for All
A. For the Saved
B. For The Sinner

It’s as if God is knocking on Jonah’s head saying, My compassion is not just for the nation of Israel. You have forgotten what I am concerned with. My concern is for those hundred and twenty thousand people who don’t know their right hand from their left.

They are clueless about how much I despise their wickedness. They are clueless about my judgment that is coming. But, more than that they are clueless to the fact that I will relent. I will show compassion if they turn from their ways, and that is why I called you here Jonah.

My grace already covers you Jonah. This is not just for you. I am so concerned for them that I even grieve over their animals that would be lost if I destroyed the people of Nineveh.

And the story just ends right there. The next time we see the name Jonah is when Jesus talks about his story to the Pharisees, the spiritual leaders of the people of Israel. The leaders of the Jews. Fast forward about 800 years, and we can read what Jesus says to them in Matthew 12:38,

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.

God has compassionate concern for all. He’s not just concerned for the Jews. He’s concerned for the Gentiles as well. The Gentiles, meaning everybody other than a Jew.

Jesus is saying that even those Ninevites, those Gentiles, who repented will stand up at the judgement at the end of the age and witness the condemnation of those who didn’t repent, even citizens of Isreal. But, God is concerned with all people repenting and turning to him. And His compassion is great for them when they do.

So, in closing today I want to ask you, “Do you have compassion for those who don’t know God?” Jonah went outside of the city to watch in hopes that God would destroy the Ninevites. You probably say, I don’t wish that upon people. Really, Do you not?

When you keep looking at the page of that “friend” on Facebook. That friend who wronged you in some kind of way. When something good happens to them, you roll your eyes at it. You call them a friend, but you are using Facebook to watch from a distance.

You hope that one day you can find satisfaction when you see them make a mistake or when something bad happens in their life. Do you share in God’s compassion for them? Are you concerned at all for their for their relationship with God.

What about that bully at school? I know I had a couple. Your anger has turned to hate and bitterness, and you are just waiting and hoping that one day they get what’s coming to them. It doesn’t make it right what they've done, but do you share in God’s compassion for them.

If you were abused, would you have the same attitude of Jonah if your abuser repented and received compassion and salvation from God in Christ Jesus? Doesn’t make what they’ve done right. It doesn’t heal the wounds, but do you hope that one day they can come to know the same love that Father has for you?

You’ve prayed for your husband or wife to turn their life around, and years later, when they finally do, you get angry, rather than rejoice, because it seems that everyone has forgotten the years of pain and heartache that you have to endure.

Do you have compassion for those who don’t know God? Do you thank God for his compassion that he shows to others even we feel that they don’t deserve it.

You see, The reality is that all of us are runaways from God. But his love runs beyond our reach, and he seeks our surrender. And when we do surrender, he delights in redemption not retaliation.

And because of this freedom that we now have in Christ, he is calling us to be obedient and seize the opportunities before us to proclaim a powerful message that produces life change for those who accept it. But in the end, will we trust God’s plan for salvation, and join him in being compassionate toward those who turn to him.

From the least to the greatest, those who seem deserving, to the most undeserving, those who love us, to those who hurt us…God’s compassion is great for all who surrender to him when he calls. Let’s pray.