Jonah 3

Sermon preached on February 13, 2005 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2005. 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.

When I was in high school I played for our high school hockey team. Our practice time used to be from 7 to 8 in the mornings, before school. There was nothing scheduled before our practice, the forum didn't open until 7 in the morning and they didn't start renting the ice before then. A couple of guys on our team used to work at the forum as rink rats. That's what everyone used to call them. In the days before Zamboni's the forum would hire young guys to manually clean the ice. Anyway, one day one of them got the bright idea of getting into the forum early. So they arranged it so that we could get free ice time between 5 and 7 in the morning, before our regular practice. So that's what we used to do—we'd get up at 4:30, play hockey from 5 to 7 and then have our regular practice from 7 to 8.

What does that tell you about those guys? They loved playing hockey. There was no doubt about it. Unless you loved hockey, you didn't get to practice two hours early and play your heart out.

If someone tried to tell me that any of those guys didn't love hockey—I wouldn't have believed him. I wouldn't even have considered what he were saying. I would have totally dismissed it and would have replied,

"You're totally wrong. You don't know what you're talking about."

There are some things that we can be absolutely sure of. There is no doubt about them. As we go out with the gospel there are some things that we should be vigorously proclaiming.

God loves showing mercy.

There can be no doubt about that. As the prophet Micah wrote, (Micah 7: 18-19)

"Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin
and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities
into the depths of the sea."

Consider first of all,

God's renewed commission to Jonah.

God not only spared Jonah's life—but he gave him a second opportunity to bring His message to Nineveh. At the beginning of the chapter we read,

"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.'"

What an instance of mercy.

What did Jonah deserve? He deserved for fire from heaven to come down and destroy him like it did the soldiers who came to arrest the prophet Elijah. He deserved to have the earth open beneath him and swallow him alive, like it did those who rebelled against Moses. He deserved to have a giant fish swallow him and slowly digest him. He was like the man in the
Parable of the Talents who hid his talent in the earth and refused to use it for his master. He deserved to be cast,

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

But God did not cast Jonah off. Like Peter, who sinned greatly, Jonah was forgiven.

But there's even more to Jonah's forgiveness for it's clear from
chapter 4 that

Jonah's heart was still not right.

He still did not agree with God having mercy on the people of Nineveh. We read,

"But Jonah was greatly displeased
and became angry.
He prayed to the LORD,
is this not what I said when I was still at home?
That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.
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, O LORD,
take away my life,
for it is better for me to die than to live."

Jonah's heart was still not right. He did not want God to spare the people of Nineveh. Yet God had mercy on him.

How much like the
unmerciful servant he was! You know the story that Jesus told in Matthew 18. A man owed a great debt that he couldn't pay. His master was going to throw him into jail. But he begged him not to and the master had mercy on him. Then the servant went out and had a fellow servant who owed him a little money into jail.

Of course, you may say that Jonah had a
good motive in now wanting to go to Nineveh. It was a love for the people of Israel that prompted him.

But the
apostle Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles, loved the Jews, his fellow countrymen.

How unlike the Apostle Paul Jonah was. Paul loved the people of Israel. Remember what he said at the beginning of
Romans 9? He wrote,

"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying,
my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—
I have great sorrow
and unceasing anguish in my heart.
For I could wish that I myself were cursed
and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,
those of my own race,
the people of Israel.
Theirs is the adoption as sons;
theirs the divine glory, the covenants,
the receiving of the law,
the temple worship and the promises.
Theirs are the patriarchs,
and from them is traced
the human ancestry of Christ,
who is God over all,
forever praised! Amen."

Paul loved his fellow Jews so much and he wished so much that they would know Christ. He could wish himself cut off for Christ for their sake.

But when the Jews rejected Christ, Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, went to the Gentiles. He knew that the hardening of the Jews meant the ingrafting of the Gentiles into God's people. He embraced God's plan. Indeed, at the end of
Romans 11 he praised God for it, for its wisdom and magnificence.

But Jonah did not embrace God's plan. He was angry with God. Yet God had mercy on Jonah.

There's a great lesson here for those of you who are not Christians.

You're repentance doesn't have to be perfect for you to go to Christ.

Your repentance doesn't have to be perfect for Christ to forgive you for your sins. Jonah obeyed God when God told him to go to Nineveh the second time. But when they repented he was angry. His repentance of his great sin was not thorough. He was angry with God, with what God was doing. His repentance was not what it should have been. He still did not embrace God's plan with gladness.

It's the same way with
faith. Your faith in Christ does not have to be perfect for God to accept it. Remember the man who's son was demon possessed and who asked Jesus disciples to heal him? The disciples could not. When Jesus arrived the man turned to Jesus and told Him about it. The demon then threw the boy to the ground and he started to convulse. Jesus then asked the boy's father how long he had been like it. The father replied, (Mark 9:20)

"From childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.
But if you can do anything,
take pity on us and help us."

Do you remember how Jesus replied? He said,

"'If you can'?"

He was incredulous that the man should doubt His power. "If you can?" It was a question that never should have been uttered. It showed a greatly defective faith. It showed a faith that was unworthy. But Jesus continued,

"Everything is possible for him who believes."

At that point the man realized that his faith was defective. He realized that he had just insulted Jesus. He realized that he didn't deserve to have Jesus heal his son. Yet he still looked to Jesus. He said,

"Immediately the boy's father exclaimed,
'I do believe;
help me overcome my unbelief!'"

Jesus then healed his son. He accepted the man's appeal to him.

Those of you who are not Christians, realize that God does not look for anything in us that is good.

When you go to Jesus you don't have to go with anything good, anything perfect. No. All you need to go to Him with is your sins, your imperfections, your unworthiness. Go to Him and ask Him to cleanse you. He surely will.

You should not let the thought of your unworthiness stop you from going to Christ.

Nor should you let the unknown stop you from going to Christ.

Mark well the King of Nineveh's words in verses 8-9. He said,

"let man and beast 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."

Who knows?

This teaches you who are not Christians that you should not let the unknown stop you from going to God.

The people of Nineveh did not know for sure that if they repented God would relent and not destroy them. They didn't know that for sure. They hoped it would be so.

I'm a
Calvinist. By that I mean that I believe what the Bible teaches us about the sovereignty of God. God rules all things. He controls all things. I believe that the Bible teaches that salvation comes from God and does not originate in man. In Romans 9:15-16, the apostle Paul writes about what God said to Moses,

"'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion
on whom I have compassion.'
It does not, therefore,
depend on man's desire or effort,
but on God's mercy."

Some unbelievers might hesitate and say, "What if I'm not one of the elect? Then I can't believe."

That's approaching it the totally wrong way. Rather, learn a lesson from what happened to the King of Nineveh. God showed him mercy. There are things God has kept secret. But other things he has clearly revealed. One of these revealed truths is that if you go to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins He will accept you. As Jesus said in John 6:37,

"whoever comes to me
I will never drive away."

What mercy there is in Jesus Christ. Sinners, go to Him. Jonah didn't weep over Nineveh. But Jesus wept over unrepentant Jerusalem. He said, (Luke 13:34)

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
you who kill the prophets
and stone those sent to you,
how often I have longed
to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,
but you were not willing!"

How Jesus loves sinners!

The gospel is for guilty sinners. The gospel is for those who don't deserve it. The gospel is for those who have squandered their opportunities.

Jonah had sinned deliberately and willfully. He didn't deserve a second chance. But God gave it to him.

We saw this in Peter. Peter denied Jesus three times. What the apostle Paul said about himself in
1 Corinthians 15:9 applies to Peter. He wrote,

"for I am not worthy to be called an apostle"

Jonah was not worthy to be called an apostle. Yet God had mercy on Him. So, too, if you go to Christ, He will have mercy on you.