Jonah 1:1-2

Sermon preached on December 5, 2004 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

In his book, '
Into Thin Air' John Krakauer details some of the horror of what took place on Mount Everest in 1996. Several climbers lost their lives, among them Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, two experienced expedition leaders who had conquered Everest many times before. Like most tragedies, the cause of the loss of life was not one thing, but a series of things. A delay in getting a tough section roped, a sudden turn for the worse in the weather, decisions not to turn back at when time ran out—all were things that contributed to the tragedy. But there was even something worse that than—the failure of climbers from other expeditions to help those who were in trouble. There were many people trying to summit Everest that day and when some of the climbers came upon fellow climbers who were in trouble, instead of stopping and helping them down the mountain, they left them. Afterwards, when they were questioned about why they did not help those in trouble, one of them answered,

"Above eight thousand meters there is no morality."

That response reminds me of Cain's when the Lord asked him where Abel was. Cain said,

"Am I my brother's keeper?"

Those who didn't help others on Mount Everest didn't think they were responsible for those in trouble. They denied their responsibility for their fellow man.

But not only do people deny their responsibility toward their fellow man, many deny their responsibility toward God. Many don't even believe that God exists. They believe that we just evolved and that the universe and everything in it is just a giant cosmic accident. Thus they live however they want and deny that God has any claim on their lives.

But one of the great things our text shows us is that

all men are responsible before God.

We read,

"The word of the LORD
came to Jonah son of Amittai:
'Go to the great city of Nineveh
and preach against it,
because its wickedness
has come up before me.'"

The people of Nineveh were responsible before God. God claimed sovereignty over the Nineveh and its people. All people, even the heathen, are responsible before Him. God is Lord over all the earth and over all peoples. God created all things for His glory. All men are His creatures and have a duty and obligation to live as He commands them. In Colossians 1:16 we read,

"For by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things were created by him and for him."

All things were created 'for' Jesus Christ. Everything in this universe was created for His honor, to bring Him glory.

Adam's fall into sin seemed to derail that. But one of the Father's great objectives in sending Jesus to redeem sinners was to bring the whole universe to completion under Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1 speaks of this telling us that Jesus has been seated at the Father's right hand in the heavenly realms, (verses 21-22)

"far above all rule and authority,
power and dominion,
and every title that can be given,
not only in the present age
but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things under his feet
and appointed him to be head over everything
for the church,"

Philippians 2 speaks of the glory that will come to Christ at the consummation of all things. It says that, (verses 10-11)

"at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."

On the last day all are going to acknowledge Jesus. Even the most vehement enemies of Jesus are going to bow before Him on the last day. Before they are told to depart into everlasting fire, the ungodly are going to glorify God. They are going to confess that Jesus is Lord.

Thus we see that God's goal in sending Jesus was not just to save His people, but it was to assert His rule over the entire creation. All men are responsible to God.

When God ordered Jonah to go to Nineveh and rebuke the Ninevites because of their sin He was merely asserting His lawful authority over His creation. The people of Nineveh, that great city in what would be now be northern Iraq, were responsible to God. They were in God's jurisdiction.
God is the Lord of the earth. God claimed sovereignty over the Nineveh. All people, even the heathen, are responsible before Him.

We see this in many places in Scripture. In the book of
Daniel we read about King Nebuchadnezzar and how he took credit for building the city of Babylon. He said, (Daniel 4:30)

"Is not this the great Babylon
I have built as the royal residence,
by my mighty power
and for the glory of my majesty?"

Right after he said that God afflicted him with mental illness. For sever years he was out in the wild—until he acknowledged that God the Most High is sovereign. King Nebuchadnezzar owed praise, glory and honor to God.

It was the same with his son
Belshazzar. He knew all that happened to his father. But he didn't learn from it. One day he was having a party with his nobles. He ordered that the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem be brought so they could drink from them. As they drank they praised the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. When they did so, fingers appeared and wrote on the wall.


Daniel interpreted it.

"Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign
and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales
and found wanting.
Peres: Your kingdom is divided
and given to the Medes and Persians."

That very night Belshazzar was slain.

God is sovereign over peoples and nations. They owe Him allegiance and obedience. As we read in
Psalm 33:13-15,

"From heaven the LORD looks down
and sees all mankind;
from his dwelling place
he watches all who live on earth —
he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do."

God is constantly observing people. The wickedness of the Ninevites had come up before Him. It was an affront to God. He

They were not living as they should and they were responsible to God.

This teaches us an important lesson about

Part of our message in evangelism is that people are responsible before God.

One of the great and fundamental mistakes of many people today is that they deny their responsibility before God.

In his book,
Tell the Truth, Will Metzger tells a question Francis Schaeffer was once asked, (p. 71)

"'What would you do if you met a really modern man on a train and you had just an hour to talk to him about the gospel?' He replied, 'I've said over and over, I would spend 45-50 minutes on the negative, to really show him his dilemma—that he is morally dead—then I'd take 10-15 minutes to preach the Gospel. I believe that much of our evangelistic and personal work today is not clear simply because we are too anxious to get to the answer without having man realize the real cause of his sickness, which is true moral guiltÖ in the presence of God."

People have been taught that human beings are just the product of evolution—that we're not responsible to anyone, that no one is lord of our lives except ourselves.

Metzger writes, (Tell the Truth, p. 58)

"most people aren't hostile to Christianity, they're just indifferent. Psychology and sociology have told people their guilt is not real; they just haven't adjusted to their environment or social situation yet. They are not responsible for many of their actions."

This past Tuesday, Pierre Berton, a prominent Canadian writer died. He was one of the prophets of this modern thinking. He did not believe in God's rule. He once wrote that, (From Canadian Press, Halifax Herald, Dec. 1, 2004)

"premarital sex isn't always a bad thing (and) what is bad is the sense of guilt, shame and sin."

He flaunted God's commands. He wasn't worried about doing so. He also wrote,

"I think when you're dead, you're dead. No need to worry about it."

Many non-Christians don't realize the danger that they are in. And they don't want to know the danger. They don't want the church to preach about the Great Judgment to come or the dangers of hell. Those things aren't politically correct. People today are just like the people of old who said to the prophets, (Isaiah 30:10)

"Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
prophesy illusions."

The sad fact is that much of the professing church has capitulated to the world's desire. There's no more talk about sin or guilt, the judgment to come, hell's fires. No. The world doesn't want to hear that and so they don't.

But we must remember that the world today is in great danger. We, like Jonah, need to warn them of their danger. We, like Jesus, need to tell them that they're responsible before God. They were created for God's glory and that if they don't live for Him they're going to suffer grievously. Remember the
Parable of the Talents. There was one guy who hid his talent in the ground. He didn't use it on his master's behalf. Jesus said about that servant, (Matthew 25:30)

"throw that worthless servant outside,
into the darkness,
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Jesus didn't mince words. He warned them of their danger.

That's what the preaching of the early church was like. In Acts we see both Peter and Paul speaking of the judgment to come. We see them telling people that they are responsible before God. That's what the apostle Paul did in
Athens. (Acts 17:24f) He said,

"The God who made the world and everything in it
is the
Lord of heaven and earth
and does not live in temples built by hands.
And he is not served by human hands,
as if he needed anything,
because he himself gives all men life and breath
and everything else.
From one man he made every nation of men,
that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he determined the times set for them
and the exact places where they should live.
God did this so that men would seek him
and perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from each one of us.
'For in him we live and move and have our being.'"

This generation needs to be told that they are responsible to God, that God created them for His glory. They need to be told that they have a great obligation to serve God and that if they refuse they are going to be judged very severely.

We need to tell people that they're in danger unless they repent and turn to Jesus for salvation.

The second great lesson we learn from our text is that

nations, cities, societies, governments are responsible to God.

God said to Jonah,

"Go to the great city of Nineveh
and preach against it,
because its wickedness
has come up before me."

The city of Nineveh was responsible before God. It wasn't just the rulers who were responsible—everyone was responsible. This applied collectively. The society as a whole was responsible.

In our nation we hear a lot about
separation of church and state. I hope that you don't accept the interpretation that many people put on it. Some people will tell you that the government is autonomous and that it is not responsible or accountable to any god. They will tell you that we are pluralistic society and that the government shouldn't be any more responsive to the Christian God than they are to the Muslim god or any other god. They interpret the separation of church and state to mean that no god has a claim on the state, the government. They would say that it would be wrong for the state to listen to what the Christian God has to say.

There has been some controversy about monuments with the 10 Commandments on them being on display in public buildings. Many people think that such monuments should not be in public government places. The idea is that Christianity should not intrude on how the government or courts act.

But is the United States government accountable to God? Is in responsible to God? The answer is an absolute, "Yes". God is Lord over the whole earth. He has set up the government of the United States (and every other country) by His authority. As we read in Romans 13:1,

"Everyone must submit himself
to the governing authorities,
for there is no authority
except that which God has established.
The authorities that exist
have been established by God."

Not only have they been established by God, but God set them up to establish what is right, to administer justice. In Romans 13:3 we read,

"For rulers hold no terror for those who do right,
but for those who do wrong.
Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority?
Then do what is right and he will commend you."

Not only that, but in all that they do they are to be God's servants. In verses 4-6 the apostle Paul declares three times that the governing officials are to be God's servants. We read of governing authority.

"For he is God's servant to do you good.
But if you do wrong,
be afraid,
for he does not bear the sword for nothing.
He is
God's servant,
an agent of wrath to bring punishment
on the wrongdoer.
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities,
not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes,
for the authorities are
God's servants,
who give their full time to governing."

Those who rule are to rule in justice, maintaining what is right, acting as the servants of the Most High. No government is autonomous. Those who govern are responsible to God. Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar learned that.

Now I certainly don't think we should set up a theocracy where the church runs the government. The church must remember that the warfare that we are involved is essentially spiritual. We're ultimately concerned about the state of men's hearts, not about political activity. The church has been called to go out and preach the gospel. We're concerned about the Holy Spirit changing people's hearts.

But the fact is that we who are Christians should not accept the fact that the state in autonomous and has no obligation to the God of Scripture. Such a notion is preposterous. Our God is the Lord, the great Creator of all things. Everyone is responsible before Him. This is true of rulers, nations, cities and individuals. They have a duty to God- to promote justice, to enact laws that are just and right. The state in not autonomous—it is responsible to God. One day government officials of the United States will stand before God and give an account of how they ruled. The standard by which they will be judged will the be the Word of the Lord.

Now the application of this for Christians is that

you ought to be praying much for our government.

Historically our country has been blessed with a government that has respected and abided by the Word of the Lord. This is one of the reasons why our country has been so blessed.

But this is fast changing. There is a great move on to move our country away from God's standards. We need to pray that this movement will not succeed. Pray. Vote. Become involved in politics.

For Christians on a much more personal level,

How thankful you ought to be that the Word of the Lord has come to you.

At some time in your life the Word of the Lord came to you and warned you of your danger. It showed you Christ. The Word of the Lord coming to you was the best and greatest thing that ever happened to you. How thankful to God you ought to be for the Word of the Lord. It is your life, your salvation, your glory. As we read in Isaiah 52:7,

"How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
'Your God reigns!'"

Lastly, for those of you here who are not Christians.

The Word of the Lord has come to you today. How are you going to respond to it?

You're responsible before God. You're a sinner in rebellion against God. You're in great danger. But there is a way of deliverance. John 3:16 says,

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish
but have eternal life."

Jesus died for sinners. He now offers you full and free salvation. It's by faith—by trusting in Him, by realizing that you can't save yourself and by trusting in Him to save you. He's your only hope. Go to Jesus. Go to Him now.

If you don't—you're condemnation will be very great. In
Matthew 12:41 Jesus said,

"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 one greater than Jonah is here."

The men of Nineveh didn't know much about Christ. They didn't know the full gospel. You have a much better understanding of God and His plan of salvation than they did. But they repented at Jonah's preaching. The great question is: Will they stand up at the judgment and condemn you? Don't let that happen. Believe in Jesus. Find life in Him.