Jonah 1:1-3 | Deep Disobedience, Deeper Mercy
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Jonah 1:1–1:3
| DeeChristopher Rich – May 14, 2017
Jonah | Deeper Mercy
Part I - Deep Disobedience – Deeper Mercy | Jonah 1:1-3
Introduction | Book and Series
Good Morning! Welcome to Damascus Road Church where we are Saved by Jesus Work. Changed by Jesus Grace. Living on Jesus Mission. Today we are beginning our series Deeper Mercy from the Book of Jonah.
In this series, we will see a distant foreign city of sin condemned to destruction. A well-known, but self-righteous, prosperity preacher from a religious culture that has chosen self-rule and short-term security over long-term faithfulness and flourishing. A bold mission given and fearfully avoided. Savvy sailors and a sudden storm. The preacher swallowed and saved by a great fish sent from a greater God. Mission advanced turns to mission accomplished and a city is saved. A small tree, a worm, and much cattle. It is a story shallow enough small children can navigate the key plot points with ease. It is a tale deep enough that learned academics and amateur theologians have searched its varied meanings and purposes for countless generations spanning multiple millennia. A lesson on rebellion and obedience. A superficial prayer of devotion given in a point of desperation. A picture of deliverance for penitent pagans. A frustrated response to an amazing act of salvation. So many counterintuitive reactions, the book of Jonah cannot make sense unless it is seen for what it truly is. Despite the deep sin of pagans and prophets alike, our God shows His Deeper Mercy.
The broad goals for this series are the same for every series. That we would have the target of our affections, hope, and worship moved from the things of this world to the Creator of this world who reveals Himself through the scripture and most clearly in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ. Additionally, as disciples of Jesus who are called to go into the world to make more disciples, we do seek to faithfully engage with a world opposed to the God of the Bible. We do this by knowing the nature and character of our God through searching the depths of His word, praying it would sink deep into our hearts and flow out in our lives. Specifically, we hope this series helps those who know Jesus grow as disciples in three ways:
Deepen our understanding God’s Sovereignty – There are so many details needed to fall into place and God is orchestrating them all with maestro like precision. God controls the storm, the cast lots, and the fish. He grows a tree and destroys it all in a day. He causes an entire city previously bent on their own destruction to repent. In Jonah’s eyes God is small enough you can run from Him. In reality, the God we see in Jonah is greater than any conceivable obstacle including the hearts of men.
Deepen our Gospel Obedience – In Jonah we learn anew there are consequences for disobeying the call and commands of our God and King. He is merciful yes, but His mercy is given to lead to our repentance. Because our God has shown us mercy we get to live gratitude and grace fueled obedience in response. Not reluctantly like Jonah but joyfully.
Deepen our identity as Humble Ambassadors – God saves people in part to proclaiming His salvation to others. Jonah knows God is both willing and able to save Nineveh, but he is reluctant for the mission because he does not actually desire their salvation. We can have a similar sinful attitude towards individuals and people groups. We need to repent where we have judged others unworthy of God mercy in Jesus.
PART I | Who is Jonah ? | Verse 1-3
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
The Man - A prophet, whose name means “Dove (a symbol of Peace), son of truth. Beyond the account of this book, little is known about Jonah. A Hebrew, he grew up in the small town of Gath-hepher (not exactly a sprawling metropolis) in Galilee north of Nazareth (a town you’ve likely heard of). He lived in Israel seven to eight centuries before the birth and arrival of Jesus into human history. This period of time for Israel was after the reigns of King David and Solomon (universally considered the high point of Israel’s strength, influence, unity, faithfulness, and prosperity) and the time of Israel’s exile into Babylon after generations of sin, division and unfaithfulness. Despite the humble nature of his hometown Jonah apparently had had rather high profile prophetic ministry. This included speaking to Israel’s King Jeroboam II giving him a “word of the Lord” about Israel’s borders being restored to include former territories by Jeroboam II’s expansion.
2 Kings 14:23-26 | 23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. 24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 25 He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. 26 For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel.
In these verses, we see the nature of Jonah ministry included overwhelmingly “good news” (God’s favor will be with Israel and her boarders will be extended/restored) to a decidedly “bad king” (Doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD). Jeroboam was in fact considered to be one of Israel’s worst kings, yet “The word was indeed from the Lord because it was accurate. Jeroboam did win a great battle which extended Israel’s territory. It is easy to imagine Jonah enjoying great favor with the King after this outcome. People tend to think highly of those who bring them good news. However, all is not good for this King or for the Nation of Israel under his reign. While the people enjoyed military victory, political stability, and financial prosperity; there was great social injustice, corruption, idolatry, oppression, and religious apostasy. If Jonah saw or understood this there is no record of him speaking out against Israel’s sin. It’s easy to tell people when you know things are going to go well, and they are going to appreciate what you have to tell them. It is a far more difficult thing to share the hard truth of a message of judgement. “Bad news” of God’s judgment and calls for justice in Israel didn’t come from the mainstream Jonah but from the marginalized Amos.
Amos 6:14 | “For behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel,” declares the Lord, the God of hosts; “and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath to the Brook of the Arabah.
The Mission Jonah is a called prophet. He is sent to leave the comfort of his ministry in Israel and go to a foreign city to deliver a message to her people. Jonah’s mission to Nineveh is unique. He is the only recorded prophet in the Old Testament who is sent to a pagan nation (opposed in word and deed to the God of the Bible) to tell them God’s judgement is upon them and to call them to repent, to turn from worshiping idols they have created and instead worship the God who created everything. God has had enough, no longer will He let this city continue to rebel. Jonah is to go with a message of coming judgement with the hope they will surrender and peace will be restored. Nineveh is a preeminent city in the Assyrian Empire situated on the eastern bank of the Tigris River (Now the outskirts of modern day Mosul, in Northern Iraq). A booming inland city, many estimates at the time had over 600,000 people living in the city and her many suburbs. Known to have massive 100 ft high and 50 ft thick walls with one stretching 7.5 miles long. A capitol of a nation on the assent, the people worshipped Asur and Ishtar as male and female deities. With growing influence, worshiping pagan gods, military strength and likely the largest city in the world by population, Nineveh represented a real and growing threat to the continued security and prosperity of Israel. Seen as Israel’s enemy many patriotic Hebrew’s likely prayed for God’s judgement on the city or at the very least that her flourishing would be halted. Jonah, fresh off accurately prophesying Israel recent victory, would have very little worldly motivation to go on mission to Nineveh. Nineveh represented the “forces of evil” rising up against God’s people. The mission is clear, Jonah needs to respond.
The Message - All other books of the Old Testament Prophets (i.e. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, etc) are focused on recording the words of the prophets to God’s people. This is why you see many phrases like “Thus says the LORD…” or “The word of the LORD is…” in their volumes. The message takes center stage. Jonah is distinctly different in that is not primarily about the message but about the physical and spiritual journey and experiences of the messenger. The most of what we called to learn and how we are charged to respond isn’t from long theological discourses but from short dramatic scenes in the story. These accounts of these scenes designed less as documentary record and more as a didactic tool to teach what it looks like when we disobey God resulting in distress, claim great devotion, see His deliverance, or respond to God’s work with displeasure. We can all learn from Jonah, because we are like him.
Yet there is also a specific message Jonah has been commissioned to proclaim to this city. A mere eight words we find in Jonah 3:4 “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Like John the Baptizer’s simple sermons recorded in the Gospels, the message Jonah is given to deliver is both as frightening and firm as it is simple and short. All have sinned. Sin merits God’s judgment. God’s judgment is coming. Repent, turn from sin and rebellion from God and judgement may be stayed. Throughout the Old Testament we’ve seen God send prophets on difficult missions with hard words to harder people. Each has responded affirmatively and obeyed the call of the Lord. Jonah is different. He rises as God said but then runs the exact opposite direction of God’s mission. He is not only failing to obey but is active in directly disobeying his God.
PART II | We are Jonah
Jonah is trying to get away from the presence of the Lord. His stated desire is not to follow the path God has for him but to flee “away from the presence of the LORD.” Like Adam and Eve in sin believing hiding in the garden is sufficient to keep them from God’s oversite Jonah believes in a god that is too small to see his disobedience. Called to go East to the inland city of Nineveh Jonah goes instead to the sea port of Joppa. He finds a ship headed West to Tarshish (in modern Spain) and willingly pays the fare to continue to attempt to flee God.
“Our heart is continually inclined to rebel against the Lord our God. So ready to rebel, that O, so gladly, were it but for a single day, we would take from His hands the reins of His supreme rule, imagining that we would manage things far better and direct them far more effectively than God.” - Abraham Kuyper, Reformed Theologian and Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Is this not us! Are we not like Jonah in desiring to direct our own path. Jonah turned from God’s word. God spoke and said Go! And Jonah heard and said no! This wasn’t even that difficult a message to discern. It is clear message to a real place, with a great responsibility. Our difficulty isn’t usually in that parts of God’s word we don’t understand but in doing the parts we do understand. It’s not an intellectual level but a heart level. A moral level. There is God’s will and there is our own. Will we align ours to His or will we senselessly follow our own? We know the answer to the question, we keep following our own.
Jonah isn’t a sloth in fact he is a flurry of activity. Activity and obedience are not the same thing! Many probably thought “Jonah is being so bold! Jonah isn’t fleeing from God’s omnipresence but from his experience of God’s presence. No prayer, no gathering with other believers to affirm or discern God’s will. He is fleeing from the specific mission God has called Him too. What specific mission has God called you to? Disobedience actually costs Jonah something. He literally paid a fare spent from His resources to continue in in disobedience. We can be very creative and resourceful in our disobedience. When have you went to great expense to continue to walk in disobedience?
Disobedience can look like obedience at first. Especially if it’s partial obedience. Jonah is a prophet called to preach to a foreign city. He was told to rise and go! These are both true things God had told him to do but it was still disobedience. God didn’t give him general instructions but specific ones. There is nothing inherently wrong with getting on a boat to Tarshish… unless you’re called Nineveh. Many of God’s commands are general but individual obedience for us is specific. Not love women, love your bride. Not care for kids, but raise your children. Not build into all churches, but love and serve your church. Not reach the world, but your neighbors. There are some mission and callings that are specific to you. What are they? What have you been called to run towards (i.e. family, marriage work, church community, mission, etc) that instead you have either failed to pursue or even ran from? Who is God asking you to reach with the Gospel?
PART III | I am Jonah |
Here is my disobedience. I’ve been an elder/Pastor at Damascus Road for nearly 8 years. I came on staff right after we sent out our first church plant as Executive Pastor. We were growing and on mission to keep planting. New people were coming and being integrated. Budgets always growing. New groups were being launched. We were hiring more staff. To top it off we were quickly getting ready to launch another campus which ended up becoming Restoration Road Church. I was Executive over both campus enjoying the mission at both. Like Jonah, I enjoyed giving and seeing good news. Mission was fun and exciting. That was until we needed to distinguish the churches and missions. End of 2013 through Prayer and Fasting my me, our elders, and counsel from 3Strand it was clear I was called to be the Lead Pastor of our church in Marysville. Like Jonah it wasn’t vague what my mission was or that God was leading. But I had expectations of what my obedience and mission would look like. I knew it was a challenge but I still assumed excitement and thought I would be taking over an established church and felt entitled to certain people going or remaining on mission with us. After telling the church at the beginning of 2014 families and people kept telling me and Tara “We love you, are excited for you, support you, and we’re going to Snohomish. In my view, there was a boat going to Snohomish. I even signed the lease for it! We didn’t get on it, but I didn’t go into the city either. We stood on the dock and wept as we saw the boat filled with friends enjoying a party I felt like I helped plan but didn’t get to go to get farther and farther away as the music and party got louder and louder. I didn’t do nothing. I was busy, I was doing my job, I was active not every day or week was bad so not everyone noticed. But my heart was in intermittent turmoil of sinful comparison and entailment. I was selfish and acted like the mission was about me and my experience forgetting there was a specific city place and people I was called to reach and serve.
God used to painfully difficult things pull me out of my malaise of disobedience. 1. The Elders Confronted my sinful comparison, never fun to have sin confronted. 2. The MPHS Shooting reminded me there is great spiritual darkness, the mission is urgent and the stakes are high. Repentance from sin to radical obedience.
“I need to stop fantasizing about running away to some other life and start figuring out the one I have.” - Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest.
PART IV | Mercy For Jonahs and Ninevites
The Mercy There is judgement for sinners from God, because God is just. The city of Nineveh has systemic sin by the nature of their worship of gods they have created to serve their purposes rather than the God who created them for His purposes. Jonah’s sin is also self-evident. He directly disobeys God, not only failing to go to Nineveh but running the opposite direction. He claims deep devotion to God hoping God will save without confessing sin or repenting. His delayed obedience is reluctant and halfhearted. When Nineveh does repent, Jonah is hardhearted toward God sparing them. Nineveh, sin is worshipping the wrong gods, Jonah’s sin is self-righteously believing he knows better than the only right God. While Jonah can appear outwardly faithful, both are attempting to live apart from God.
But there is good news for the sinners of Nineveh, and the self-righteous Jonah. As deep as there sin and disobedience is; God shows Deeper Mercy. Mercy is not getting the just consequences you have earned for sin. Jonah runs and God in mercy keeps him from his false destination. Jonah is in distress drowning in the ocean and God in mercy swallows Jonah and keeps him ‘safe’ in the belly of a fish before ejecting him back on dry land. God could condemn Jonah but instead commissions him again to go to Nineveh as a prophet. Nineveh has earned wrath for their idolatry but God give great mercy when they repent. Jonah remains self-righteous while withering in the desert and God shows mercy by providing shade and a clear explanation of His mercy motivated of His love for all His creation, but especially people who are created in His image. This the character of God on display to save His people through righteous judgement and deeper mercy. These all mere muddle puddles compared to the ocean of God’s deepest mercy. The Gospel is the good news of God answering our deep disobedience by Jesus being deeply obedient in our place.
Philippians2:4-11| 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Lastly, we know when people hear and experience the Deeper Mercy of God it radically changes the lives and missions of individuals. As such this series is also explicitly evangelistic. Our hope is those who do not know God’s Deeper Mercy found in Jesus would hear the Gospel. Like Jonah’s prophecy to Nineveh, everyone is under God’s judgement and need His mercy. God shows His deepest mercy at the Cross by pouring out His judgement on Jesus in our place. Because of His resurrection, Jesus is alive ruling and reigning over everything. Because of His mercy we can live new eternal lives of enthusiastically worshiping King Jesus now and forever. Everyone who hears this must respond either by confessing sin, repenting, and depending on God’s mercy; that they would reflect on their own lives , and then respond to the offer of life with God in Christ leading to a lifelong reorientation from trusting themselves to Trust Jesus.