Friday, December 19, 2008
Jonah - Week 3
Jonah and the crew of mariners are in a terrible storm, I would dare say the worst storm of their lives as this one was "hurled" by God (Jonah 1:1-4). Remind you these sailors are seasoned veterans, professionals who have done all and seen all yet their fear was so great it caused them to pray to their many gods and when that didn't work they began to throw their cargo overboard in hope of lessening their load, speed the up the boat and reach dry land.
The boat is creaking, twisting, and cracking. Things are breaking and snapping as the boat takes on water and is tossed around the sea by the waves and the wind. Where is Jonah in all of this? He is below deck asleep and for the first time since God called him to Nineveh he must have thought..."Finally I am safe, alone, and away from God." The whole world is going to hell in a hand basket and Jonah is taking a nap with no urgency to God's calling and completely oblivious to what is going on. That is until the captain wakes him up.
The captain brings Jonah to the crew and that storm has gotten so bad that they decided that the storm is not of nature...that something or someone is so bad that God must have caused this storm as a direct result. How do they determine what is going on? By casting lots, Jonah 1:7.
The casting of lots was used extensively throughout the Old Testament as a means to discern God's will when knowledge or specific details were not specific from scripture. Lots were bits of bone probably thrown like dice into the lap of a seated man. Now I know what you are thinking..."these guys are about to die and all they can think about is playing dice?" It would be the modern day equivalent of you taking your family to the beach, checking into the hotel, getting into your speedo, lathering up with spf275 and as soon as your foot hits the beach you think to yourself..."I knew we shouldn't have brought grandma." Then the wife breaks out Yahtzee to see whose fault it is or who has sinned to cause such great calamity.
But casting lots weren't like that at all. Proverbs 16:33 tells us that we cast the lot but the outcome is determined by God alone. There was no chance, gambling was not involved when the lot was cast. In fact the lot was used on such important matters as - selecting the scapegoat, allocating parts of the promise land, matters of war, and determining the order of priests and their duties.
The lot is cast to see who caused the storm and of course it falls on Jonah. Immediately Jonah is bombarded with questions, Jonah 1:8. Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do? Boxers or briefs? Question after question after question to which Jonah replies, Jonah 1:9 "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land."
This is truly an example of God's irony. Jonah was running away from God's calling to preach to pagan people. The very reason they were in this position was because of Jonah's unwillingness to take God's word to a people he didn't like yet in spite of himself, in spite of his disobedience and unwillingness Jonah ends up delivering a short, 21 word sermon to a group of pagans, some of who could have very well been from Nineveh!
Statement #4 God uses all circumstances to accomplish His plans.
Romans 8:28 is an often quoted and often misused verse from scripture. Many use this text as a lucky charm, a rabbit's foot, a promise that because someone loves God, because someone is saved, because God loves us that all will forever be good and nothing will ever happen to the believer. That is not what the verse says at all. What it says is that all things work together, the good, the bad, the ugly to produce good things in our lives. This means that every circumstance, every situation every triumph, victory, every defeat, failure, sickness, death, struggle all work together to produce good results in our lives.
"You mean to tell me that God can use great tragedies for good? Tragedies like 911? Abortion with over 30 million babies killed? The death of my dad? A miscarriage? a job loss?"
Yes He can and yes He does.
Our problem is that you and I see our lives as if looking through a microscope. We have limited view, limited visibility. We see the great evil, the great tragedies. We feel the great hurt and experience the great disappointments in our lives and very often never see any good result. Yet God sees both on the micro and the macro level, seeing the intimate details of what is happening today as well as the eventual outcome way into eternity future.
I will give you the one perfect example....Jesus Christ on the cross.
Jesus Christ existed as God in all of eternity past. He is God's only Son. Jesus is the Great I AM, the Alpha and Omega, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is the sinless, perfect Lamb of God and He willing came to earth to live as both fully man and fully God. Jesus subjected Himself to every hardship and temptation you and I could ever face so that He could completely identify with our struggles so that He could represent us as the perfect High Priest yet through all of this Jesus never sinned. Never said a bad word, had a bad thought, operated from an evil motive or broke any law. Jesus was arrested, beaten, mocked, and murdered as His blood soaked body was mercilessly nailed to a cross, His internal organs turning to sludge due to lack of oxygen, dying of thirst, He who was sinless taking our sins upon Himself. This was the greatest evil ever perpetrated on earth in all of history. You know the disciples did not understand as they scattered and fled and we know through Peter, 1 Peter 1:12 that the angels don't understand. Surely in the microcosm of what was happening no good could be seen or realized in the death of Jesus. How could God allow His only Son to die this way?
Yet even in such great evil the death of Jesus was used by God to accomplish His great plans to forever pay for our sins, conquer Hell and death. Romans 6:10 gives us this promise that the cross was a onetime, once and for all event.
Even Jonah who ran from God, who intentionally purposed in his heart to not preach to pagans found himself delivering this 21 word sermon to a bunch of pagans.
Jonah 1:10, upon hearing the word the mariners became "exceedingly afraid." The word has been preached clearly and concisely, their eyes are opened, and suddenly everything makes perfect sense. Now what? The storm is getting worse and they turn to Jonah, Jonah 1:11. What does Jonah say? What do they do? "Hurl me into the sea!" Jonah says puffing his chest out trying to use his deepest voice.
Is that the only option? What about repenting? What about calling out to the men on the boat to repent and follow God? How about...I don't know? Give me an oar! Or what about..."Turn the boat around. It is obvious God wants me to go to Nineveh."
Instead Jonah chooses to be thrown into the sea as opposed to obeying God. It's as if Jonah is saying, "I'd rather die than do God's will." Instead of immediately following Jonah's advice the mariners begin to row harder, Jonah 1:13. Jonah, who knows God is willing to let millions of pagans die in Nineveh yet a handful of pagan mariners are unwilling to let Jonah die! We need to be very careful that we do not act worse than the pagans do as sometimes non-believers are kinder, more loving, more forgiving, and more patient than Christians.
They try, they fail, they give up, Jonah 1:14-15, they pray and throw Jonah overboard and immediately the sea ceased from raging. Can you imagine what this must have felt like. One minute the sea is raging and the men are about to die and the next minute the sea is calm, the boat gently sways with the waves, and Jonah is gone.
Jonah 1:16 the mariners respond to God and even though Jonah did not want to preach to non-believers, through God's complete control, he ends up preaching to non-believers anyway and they believe! Here is a group of pagan sailors who prayed to their many gods yet now they fear the LORD, offer sacrifices to the LORD, and make vows to the LORD.
Statement #5 Only God saves
Because they heard the word these men were converted. Not because Jonah gave a great message, it was only 21 words, not because he was crafty, witty, hip, or clever. These men didn't covert because Jonah argued them into the kingdom it was part of God's plan they through these circumstance God used all things for their good.
Psalm 3:8, Psalm 25:5, Psalm 37:39, Psalm 62:7, Psalm 68:20, as well as many other verses all say that salvation belongs to the LORD.
You say..."but I share and I share and I share and I share but nothing!"
I want you to leave this morning with great confidence knowing that only God saves! I want you to have this as fuel thrown onto your evangelistic fire. This should take the pressure off as we seek only to be obedient to His calling in our lives for it is God alone who saves. It is only by God's power that anyone is saved. It is not our job to save. We do the sharing, teaching, preaching, and inviting and God does the rest.
1. What circumstances are you going through right now? Be of great courage for God will use all circumstance to accomplish His perfect plans for you.
2. How great is your evangelical zeal? Are you discouraged? Burned out?
Wherever you are I beg you today to turn to Him and to Him only for His glory and your benefit.