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Jonah in Nineveh -- Running without God (Jonah 4:1-11)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 14 April 2013 00:00

In Jonah 4, we saw that when you run without God’s love, God runs to make you love Him so that you will begin to love people the way God loves people – more than anything.

Jonah became vehemently angry when God spared Nineveh. He prayed, which is a good thing, but how he prayed leaves quite a bit to be desired: 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”
The LORD is not going to allow His servant to have this wrong attitude, so He confronts Jonah with a question: 4 Then the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

This is a conversation between God and Jonah. We’re third party. Jonah is saying to God, “I’m mad that You spared the Ninevites and forgave them and showed Your love and mercy!”

God responds by asking Jonah a question: “Is it right for you to be angry?”
So what would you say? Is it right for Jonah to be angry? (Yes? No?)
As a third party listening in on their conversation, we can easily make the call: NO it’s not right for you to be angry! You’re so foolish, Jonah, to be angry! Who are you to get angry that God showed love and mercy and forgiveness toward these people? What has God shown toward you, Jonah?? You believed in the coming Messiah for eternal life and God gave you life you didn’t deserve, life with God forever; He showed mercy toward you. He delivered you from the ocean and the fish and gave you a second chance to serve Him that a rebel who ran from God and disobeyed God doesn’t deserve!
And now God spared the lives of these people and you’re mad??!
Who are you to think that you have a right to be angry? You have no right to be angry!

We see it pretty clearly sitting out here as third parties listening in on their conversation.
Surely Jonah would agree that he’s a bit out of line here. But, oh no! NOT JONAH!!
He’s not giving in that easily! Do you know that Jonah doesn’t even answer God’s question?!
Jonah acts as if he didn’t even hear the question, as far as we know from the text.
Instead, what does Jonah do? Look at verse 5 ~
5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city.

What does Jonah do here? He made himself a little shelter and watches, pouting, he’s still mad!
What does it mean ~ till he might see what would become of the city ~ it means that he is still holding out hope that GOD changes His mind and lets them have it!
I hope they start doing evil things again so You can blast them into oblivion! That’s Jonah! He has absolutely no love for these people!

He’s running without God’s love. And God is not going to let up on him any more than He’s going to let up on you and me until we get hearts like God’s ~ and start loving people like God loves people!
The rest of this story demonstrates how God is so creative in the way that He deals with people. Look how He deals with Jonah in verse 6 ~ 6 And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant.

Jonah’s so grateful! Now he’s got it made in the shade!! He can sit here and pout and wait for God to destroy the city, AND he’s got shade over his head. Man! It’s coming together for Jonah, and he’s grateful for the plant.

But God also prepared something else! Verses 7-8 ~ 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. . 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

There he goes again! Wishing he could die. This is the third time in the book Jonah wished he could die:
(1) Back in the boat – toss me overboard (1:12) What Jonah was saying there was, “Throw me overboard so I can die BECAUSE I’M NOT GOING TO GO TO NINEVEH! I’D RATHER DIE THAN GO TELL THEM GOD’S WARNING!”

(2) Then, earlier in this chapter (4:3) when he sees the people turn and God relents from the disaster that He said He would have brought upon them, Jonah says, 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

(3) He had shade; God sent a worm; plant died; sun beating down; east wind blowing; he’s getting hot and thirsty; he’s miserable, and he says, “I’d just rather die! Than to sit here like this! Waaah! This guy is in sad shape! Just like you and me when we’re running without God’s love!

We just can’t even see clearly what life’s about because we’re so self-centered, so focused on ourselves, we lose our focus on why we’re here, and that’s to share God’s love with others.
It’s a symptom of getting self-centered rather than God-centered and thus others- centered.
Yet God keeps running to Jonah. He could have given up on Jonah here because he’s so pitiful! But God keeps running. God’s not going to give up! God keeps dealing with Jonah by asking him another question, as we read in verse 9 ~ 9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”
I’m mad about You saving the people and now I’m mad about the plant and it’s right for me to be mad about the plant even to the day that I die! Talk about a pitiful attitude!

So now God makes His point and He makes it strongly in these final two verses ~
10 But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”

Jonah, you had pity on your little plant; I had pity on people.
You loved your plant; I love people.
Jonah, there are 120,000 little children who don’t know the difference between their right hand from their left. GOD says, “I love those children and all the people of Nineveh. I love the people; you love your little plant.” You’re all worked up over what’s happened to your little plant; you ought to be worked up over what was going to happen to all those people – if they hadn’t turned to Me.

Look at the end of the book. God raises a question11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”

A Question Mark? That’s the end of the book? That’s no way to end a book! What happened? What happened? Did Jonah change his heart? Did he start loving people? Or did he just sit there and pout? And wither like a raisin in the sun? Remember, Jonah wrote the book!

Jonah ended it like that because he wants you and me to fill in the blank because we know the answer. And the answer is, “Absolutely, LORD, You should have pitied Nineveh.”
After awhile, Jonah indeed got the message. He got it loud and clear! God had run after Jonah to make him more loving, and there was no question the way Jonah ended this book, that Jonah became more loving. He began loving people the way God loves people.

Jonah finally got it. But Jonah tells his story honestly and with cutting straightforwardness.
He wrote his story in what we’ve been studying in the book named for him. May we learn from Jonah’s experiences and be those who do not run away from God concerning that one thing He wants us to do (chapter 1). May we rather run to Him (chapter 2). If we do, He will run to us (James 4:8). Then when we run with Him in obedience, we will see others run to God (Jonah 3).

It is possible to be going through the motions of obedience but without love for people (Jonah 4).
If that is the case, God will work in us and on us so that we might come to the place of loving people like God does – more than anything!

 

 

 

 

 

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