Jonah 3:4-10 - It Will Never Happen

Steve Viars February 21, 1998 Jonah 3:4-10

- It will never happen....have you ever said those words?
1) Maybe you were talking about some issue in politics....and a person made a particular promise...and you hated to be sceptical....but this person had made promises and broken them before....and you found yourself thinking about the latest promise....that will never happen.
2) Or maybe it involved sports....A Cubs fan was going on and on about how this was going to be the year the Cubs win the pennant...or this is the year the Cubs win the World series....and you thought to yourself.....and perhaps even said it out loud.....It will never happen.

- Have you ever said those words and been wrong?
- for example, I mentioned sports....after the Purdue football teams’ season opening loss to Toledo, how would you have responded to a person who said “I think Purdue will go 8 and 4 and be invited to and win a bowl game”?.....
- Most of us probably would have used those words...it will never happen.

- Now, let’s take this discussion down to a much more serious level....
- have you ever said those words about a person in your life coming to know Christ?

1) Perhaps it’s a boss or a co-worker.....but in your wildest imagination you can’t picture that person admitting their sin.....and wanting to repent [and turn around].....It will never happen.

2) Or a neighbor......the thought of that person admitting that they can’t get to heaven on their own....and that they need help from the God of heaven in order to be reconciled to Him......It will never happen.

3) Or a friend or loved one....and you like this person.....but them ever placing their faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.....the One able to pay for their sin and the one qualified to take change of their life?.....It’s just not going to happen.

4) Do you realize that some people have written these words over an entire ethnic group, or an entire nation.....them being reconciled to God?......them becoming children of God?......It will never happen.

- now, let me ask you two important questions.....
1) What if you were wrong?

2) What if drawing this wrong conclusion hindered you from doing what God wanted you to be doing in this person’s life?

- with those thoughts in mind, let me invite you to turn to a truly amazing passage of Scripture, Jonah chapter 3.

- the eighth book from the end of the OT
- if you need to look up the location in your Table of Contents, please feel free to do so.
- Now I realize each week that we have folks who are new to the study....so I’ve been looking for ways to quickly review the story so those who are new will be up to speed and ready to benefit from the verses we study that morning.
- the first few weeks, I reviewed the story-line up to the point we had stopped the previous week.
- last week, I turned the tables...because I asked the congregation to tell the story.

- are you ready for something different this week?
- this week I’m going to give you twelve clues on the overhead....except that they are out of order......
- I’m going to ask you to work by yourself, or the person next to you, and unscramble them....you can write in on the bulletin, or on your notes.....feel free to use the pens in the pew racks.....

- are you ready for the clues?
A. Sailors repent
B. Obeyed / went to Ninevah
C. In the fish
D. Storm
E. Disobeyed / ran to Joppa / Tarshish
F. Back on land
G. Command / mission repeated
H. Confronted by sailors
I. Command / mission given
J. Overboard
K. Jonah repents
L. Storm stilled

[Give them a minute or two]

- are you ready for them to be unscrambled?
1. - I. Command / mission Given
2. - E. Disobeyed / Ran to Joppa / Tarshish
3. - D. Storm
4. - H. Confronted by sailors
5. - J. Overboard
6. - L. Storm Stilled
7. - A. Sailors repent
8. - C. In the fish
9. - K. Jonah repents
10. - F. Back on land
11. - G. Command / mission repeated
12. - B. Obeyed / went to Ninevah


- now, the big picture is....we’re talking about a man who was given a mission from God, and he didn’t like that mission.....he didn’t feel like doing what God told him to do, so he ran.
- we’ve been trying to point out that the lessons Jonah is learning are lessons that the nation of Israel needed to learn, and ones that you and I need to learn.

1) for the nation of Israel, they were doing as a nation what Jonah was doing as a person.....they too had been given a mission.....God had called them and established them for a purpose.....
- and instead of living for God and loving God and seeking to accomplish His purposes with their lives.....
- they were running......
- and God is trying to show them through these events in the life of one of His prophets that running has a terrible price.
- and also that forgiveness and restoration were available to them as soon as they would repent and turn back to Him.

2) For you and me, we’ve been pointing out all along that God has a mission for us too....God has a plan and purpose for us.....
- and we can either learn what that purpose is and then pursue it with passion and vigor....
- or we can run from it......because we don't like it, we don't feel like it.....whatever....
- sometimes we do that by commission, sometimes by omission.....but running is running
- and the message to us is the same as to Jonah.....forgiveness and even restoration is available to every person who repent and turn back to Him....
1) That’s true for an unbeliever who needs to become a Christian.....
2) and its true for a believer who needs to straighten out a particular area of his or her life.

- now, we left Jonah as he arrived at Ninevah, and began doing what God told Him to do.
- we’re going to take these verses a step at a time, but when we’re all done, we will have three truths to help us be encouraged in the mission God has given us.

- Read Jonah 3:4

- we said that we’re looking for three truths to help us be encouraged in the mission God has given us.....


I. Be Encouraged Because of the Challenging Message.

- now its important that we define our terms.....when I use the word “challenging”....I’m talking about something that is not easy to believe.....
- its not something that the rational mind would think up on its own...and its not something that the rational mind would automatically accept.

- [if you get this point....you’ll understand where we’re going with this]...If you think God has given Christians a message to proclaim that is challenging for others to accept, be encouraged, you’re in good company.....look at the one God asked his prophet Jonah to proclaim.

- v. 4 - “Yet 40 days and Ninevah will be overthrown...”
- that five simple words in Hebrew.

- now, I don’t believe that’s all that Jonah said to these Ninevites, based on what happens next....

- but even if you expand the message that God asked Jonah to proclaim to include things like....
1) who God was......the One who was telling them to repent....
2) how forgiveness was available to them if they would repent.....
3) and Jonah’s own testimony of what had happened to him because he hadn’t.....

- even if you expand the message God was asking Jonah to proclaim to include all those elements....it was still a challenging message.....in the sense that it was not easy to believe.

- now, there’s something else that needs to be added to this puzzle....
- that is....the wickedness and apparent hard-heartedness of the audience.
- remember, that’s what got this whole thing started in the first place.....
- do you remember what God originally said to Jonah back in chapter 1 verse 2 as His reason for wanting Jonah to go and preach to these people.....
- its because their wickedness was great.....

- so you have a message that is a challenge to believe....coupled with recipients who were notoriously wicked and hard-hearted.....
- listen --- ITS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!
- there’s no hope for these people.....
- there’s no way these people are repent and believe.

- now, let’s push pause for a moment and fast-forward that to where we are today.
1) Is the gospel message easy to believe?
- Is what God says about the way of salvation the same as what the natural mind would have come up with on its own?......- No.
- In fact, Paul said that the gospel is what?....considered to be foolishness to those who are perishing.
- God has never been in the habit of making the message one that was automatically appealing to the natural mind.......
- Its not what the natural mind would have automatically come up with on its own.

- When you think about it, God, all through human history, has asked His people to carry messages to people that were challenging to believe....
1) Noah -- go tell your family and your neighbors that the world as they know it will be destroyed by a world-wide flood.
2) Abraham -- go tell your family to pack up their things because you’re moving to a promised land that I will show you later.
3) Moses -- Go tell the Pharaoh to let my people go.
4) Moses -- Go tell the people to step into the Red Sea.
5) Elisha -- Go explain to the people that you’re replacing Elijah because he was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire.
6) Gideon -- Send all but 300 of these soldiers home.
7) Joshua -- Tell these people to march around the walls of Jericho 7 times.
- Friends, do you realize that we could walk through the Old Testament and right into the New and see example after example of this point all morning long.
- Then we would come to this one ---- Church -- Tell the world that sin has separated them from God...but that He loved them so much He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die in their place.
- What’s the point?
- God is constantly giving His people messages to proclaim that are challenging to believe.

- you might ask --- why is that?
- here’s two answers that fir right in with our study of Jonah....

1) To test the messenger.....
- Will he do what he’s been told to do even when the performing the job / proclaiming the message....
- may result in being snubbed / may result in being ridiculed / may result in being laughed at / called names / persecuted?
- God gives messages that are challenging to deliver to test the messeger.

2) Secondly, God gives messages that are challenging to believe to test the recipient.
- See, for a person to believe the message of God, normally a major paradim shift has to take place.

- The recipient has to go from the PROUD POSITION of....
- I’ll be my own God...
- I’ll decide what’s true....
- I’ll decide what’s right....
- I’ll decide how to gain eternal life....
- I’ll figure it out on my own.....

- A person has to shift from that Position of Pride....to the opposite position of humility....
- I’m not qualified to be God...
- Without Him I can’t know what’s true...
- Without Him I can’t know what’s right...
- Without Him I can’t know how to have eternal life.....

- So I will quietly and humbly come to His Word with my mouth closed and my ears open.

 

- This is why, the Bible from cover to cover, emphasizes the issue of faith.
- The just shall live by .....faith.
- Abraham....believed God, and it was counted unto Him for righteousness.

Hebrews 11:1-16 -  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old gained approval.  By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.  By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.  And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;  for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised;  therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.  All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.  And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.


- now, when we put all of this together, what do we have?
- God gave Jonah a message to proclaim that was not automatically appealing to the unsaved mind.....
- and the recipients in that day were known for their wickedness and hardness of heart.....
- God has given NT believers a gospel to proclaim that is not automatically appealing to the unsaved mind.....

- and you think about all of this and if you’re not careful you’ll conclude....Its not going to happen....there is no hope of that person around me repenting and believing....
- In fact, I wonder how many of us have explained away our lack of faithfulness in telling others about Christ by hiding behind that excuse.....
- Its never going to happen......
- Its never going to happen.....

- well, then, explain this.....read verse 5-9.
- and that brings us to our second point this morning.


II. Be Encouraged Because of the Unexpected Response


- I’ve put the words from the first half of verse 5 on the overhead so we’re all looking at the same translation....
- but would you please read this out loud with me.....
- “Then the people of Ninevah believed in God....”

- now, there’s some difference of opinion on exactly what kind of belief this verse is talking about....
- did they really forsake their other gods....
- did they really come to faith in Jehovah in a real and genuine and personal way.
- and my only response to that is....our Lord said that the men of Ninevah would rise up to judge those who would not believe in Christ’s day.
- and I think the conclusion you have to draw from that is that their belief was genuine and real.
- see, what’s the point?
- Be Encouraged Because of the Unexpected Response......

- if none of us had ever read / studied the book of Jonah before.....
- and this morning we issued copies of the first half of the book to everyone who came in....and our copies stopped at chapter three verse 4.....
- and so we read this story, to that point, for the first time this morning...and then asked you to write what you would predict would happen next....
- what you believed would happen next....

- and then if we compared what we thought would happen...to what actually happened, would it have been close?

- that’s why its so bad to be in the habit of thinking / saying....It will never happen.
- I wonder how many of us have hidden behind that excuse....
- have hidden behind that wrong conclusion...
- and failed to say what God wanted us to say....
- or do what God wanted us to do....
- or go where God wanted us to go.....
- because we concluded that such and such would never happen....

- when in fact it very well could have.

- I didn’t say it would happen.....
- but in between...”It will never happen”....and “I know it will happen” is......
- it certainly could....so I am going to faithfully do what God wants me to do, and then how He chooses to work in this particular situation.

- Now, let’s make three observations about the Ninevite’s belief:
1) The people weren’t simply believing Jonah...they were believing.....?.....God.

- O. P. Robertson said.....
- The Bible says the people of Ninevah believed God, not Jonah.  It was not the force of the argument presented by the prophet that moved the people.  It was the power of God’s truth that pierced to the heart.  Never rely on your own persuasive powers as the way to save sinners.  Never wait until you have confidence in yourself to speak up for Christ.  It is God and his truth that people believe.  You must remain only the instrument.

2) A second observation about the belief of the Ninevites is that it was led by the king.

- Please don’t miss that point....[see v. 6]

- no one would have expected a man of this stature to humble himself in this way....but that’s what God did.
- His willingness to believe, and be open and unashamed about his belief, not only impacted his own life, but it impacted many others as well.
- Can I just stop there for a minute and make what I think is a very important application.

- For most of the people in this room, God has put you in a position where others are following you....or looking up to you.....or imitating you.
- Does the way you live out your belief in Christ stimulate others to believe in Him?

- and if you’d say, well, I haven’t come to believe in Him, yet.
- let me say this to you......You need to.
- you need to because of your eternal destiny......
- but you also need to because of the impact that the way you handle this issue on your life is going to have on those God has placed around you.

- If you’re married, you’ve got a spouse watching.....
- If you’re a boss, you’ve got employees watching.....
- If you’re a friend, you’ve got friends watching.....
- If you’re a parent, you’ve got children watching....
- If you’re a teacher, you’ve got students watching.....
- If you’re a big sister, you’ve got a sibling watching.....

- So this unexpected response involved:
1) the people believing in God, not Jonah.
2) It was led by the king.
3) and thirdly, its genuineness was proven by repentance.

- we can learn much about the nature of biblical belief by the words we have before us.
- its impossible to believe in God without repenting.....
- the word means to turn around, to do an about face, to determine that the way I was going is not the way I want to continue to go....
- the way I was living was not the way I want to continue to live.....
- it is an admission that I was wrong.....
- it is a genuine sorrow over the way one has lived....

- and who would have ever believed that these proud, and wicked, and hard-hearted Ninevites would actually repent?
- but that’s exactly what they did.

- its impossible to believe in God without first repenting of ones sin.
- we’re being told today that in order to grow a church, you have to soft-sell the gospel.
- you have to de-emphasize personal sin....
- you have to de-emphasize repentance....
- just emphasize the positive elements of the gospel....
- emphasize what a person gets by coming to Christ.....
- that approach to ministry is very wrong headed.....
- there’s no reason to genuinely come to Christ unless a person understands his / her need.
- To only talk about the benefits of salvation simply reinforces the selfishness the person brought to the table to begin with.

- the tendency in our day to soft-sell the gospel needs to be confronted with a passage like the one before us today.
- Who would have believed that the Ninevites would actually repent?
- How many of us would have said....that will never happen!.....- well, guess what?......it did.
- Be encouraged in your ministry for Christ because of the unexpected response.
- Can I encourage you to do this.....
- think about the ministry opportunity that God has given you....
- and then substitute that person’s name....or that organization’s name...or that company’s name.....in the place of “the people of Ninevah” in verse 5.

- Then the people of “your company” believed in God.
[You didn’t think --- that will never happen --- when I said that, did you]

- Then the people of “your school” believed in God.
- Then the people of “your family” believed in God.
- Then the people of “your neighborhood” believed in God.
- Then the people of “your team” believed in God.
- Then the people of “your group” believed in God.
- you say, PV, will God do that?
- I don't know......

- but you need to be concerned about you and verse 4, and let God be concerned about Him and verse 5.

- Do you think is still in the business of working in the hearts and lives of people?
- review stats from this year.....


- so far we’ve said....
I. Be Encouraged Because of the Challenging Message....
II. be Encouraged Because of the Unexpected Response....

III. Be Encouraged Because of the Complete Forgiveness

- read verse 10.

- now you understand that when the Bible talks about God relenting, or repenting depending on the version of the Bible you have in front of you.....
- that’s a way of trying to use human terminology to describe what God was doing.
- He changed His course from a human perspective because the men of Ninevah changed their course.

- but when they were willing to repent....when they were willing to forsake their sin.....God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them.  And He did not do it.

- could develop Jeremiah 18:7-8
- Iraq, US

- the blood of Christ is sufficient to forgive all who will come to Him.
- Could close with some of the quotes from Robertson

 


A. Sailors repent
B. Obeyed / went to Ninevah
C. In the fish
D. Storm
E. Disobeyed / ran to Joppa / Tarshish
F. Back on land
G. Command / mission repeated
H. Confronted by sailors
I. Command / mission given
J. Overboard
K. Jonah repents
L. Storm stilled

 

 

 

1. - I. Command / mission given
2. - E. Disobeyed / ran to Joppa / Tarshish
3. - D. Storm
4. - H. Confronted by sailors
5. - J. Overboard
6. - L. Storm stilled
7. - A. Sailors repent
8. - C. In the fish
9. - K. Jonah repents
10. - F. Back on land
11. - G. Command / mission repeated
12. - B. Obeyed / went to Ninevah

 

 

 


Hebrews 11:1-16 -  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old gained approval.  By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.  By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.  And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;  for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised;  therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.  All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.  And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.


Jonah 3:5 - “Then the people of Ninevah believed in God....”

 


The Bible says the people of Ninevah believed God, not Jonah.  It was not the force of the argument presented by the prophet that moved the people.  It was the power of God’s truth that pierced to the heart.  Never rely on your own persuasive powers as the way to save sinners.  Never wait until you have confidence in yourself to speak up for Christ.  It is God and his truth that people believe.  You must remain only the instrument.

 

 

 

First Seven Weeks of 1998 Compared to First Seven Weeks of 1997

Sunday School
1997 - 706
1998 - 800 (13%)

Sunday Morning
1997 - 834
1998 - 969 (16%)

Sunday Evening
1997 - 482
1998 - 504 (5%)

Wednesday Evening
1997 - 488
1998 - 547 (12%)

 

The story of Jonah is a great one.  It has captured people’s imagination for hundreds of years.  But the story you have been commissioned to tell is not only about Jonah.  It is about One greater than Jonah.  The story you tell the nations is about the death of Jesus Christ for sinners, and His resurrection from the dead on the third day.  You speak not only of death but of resurrection.  Your message not only is of judgment of God for sinners, but His mercy as well.
It is startling to see the mercy of God toward Jonah.  That man deliberately ran from the will of God.  He showed no more love to others than a hardened granite stone.  Why then should God love him?  At the bottom of the sea is where he belonged.
But God raised him up.

 

Now the love of God is extended to the king of Ninevah, his leaders and all his people.  How could it be?  They were far worse than Jonah.  They did not merely run from the will of God, they brutalized the nations of the earth.  The king himself readily admits that brutality is the sin for which they must repent.  God sees their repentance, and He turns from His decrees of judgment.
How merciful is your God!  The resurrection of Christ and His subsequent commission says; “Whosoever will, let him come.”  No matter what a man’s record of running from God or of brutality toward man, he may find God’s mercy and compassion.
The story of Jonah is a great one.  But greater than the story of Jonah is the story of Jesus.  It is this story that we tell to the nations.
Are you telling the story?  Telling it to the world?  That is your commission.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video