Scripture: Jonah 3
How many of you received spankings when you were a child? I realize there’s a variety of opinions on the issue today, but many of us were raised in that kind of environment, and many of us raised our kids that way. I could tell a few of my own stories, but there is one I read this past week that really applies to the message for today. The man looks back upon his childhood to when he was four years old. He was attending church on a Sunday, and in that church when a person reached four years old he went to “big church.” It was his very first Sunday to attend. His Dad was with him, and as they started to enter the sanctuary his Dad asked him, “Do you need to go to the restroom?” “No Dad. I don’t need to go to the restroom.” The Dad said, “Okay, but we will not be leaving the service once it starts. We are going to sit there through the entire service.” The young boy nodded his head and walked into the congregation and sat down. Well, after the singing the preacher started doing his thing, and it didn’t take long until the boy was bored out of his mind. Finally he looked up at his Dad in a frantic attempt to escape the boredom and said, “Dad, I have to go to the bathroom.” His Dad looked down at him and said, “Son, I told you, we aren’t going to go to the bathroom.” The boy, not wanting to take no for an answer, said, “Dad, if I don’t go to the bathroom I’m going to wet my pants.” His Dad looked at him wisely and said, “Son, I know you don’t have to go to the bathroom.” The boy said, “Dad, if I don’t go to the bathroom I AM going to wet my pants.” The Dad replied, “Son, you really don’t want to go to the bathroom.” The boy said, “Dad, I really do.” The Dad shrugged his shoulders and took the boy to the bathroom. Upon leaving the sanctuary, the boy was happier than going to a toy store with a handful of money. He had freedom! On the way home, Dad didn’t say a word. When they walked into the door, the Dad took the boy by the hand, walked him into his bedroom, and pulled off his belt, and reminded him of the other purpose that belt had. When he finished, the Dad said, “Do you know why I spanked you?” “No!” “I didn’t spank you because you went to the bathroom. I spanked you because you lied to me and disobeyed me, so learn your lesson.” From that time forward, the boy never did “play the bathroom card” as a means of escaping church. He learned a lesson that is found throughout the Bible, and that is found in our passage for this morning – Disobedience brings burdens, obedience brings blessings. This morning we are on part 3 of a 4 part series on Jonah. In part 1 Jonah runs from God. In part 2 Jonah turns to God. Now, in chapter 3, Jonah runs with God. He has chosen to do things God’s way rather than his own way. It is never too late to stop running from God, to turn to him, and then to do things his way. Running with God is always better than running from him. We see three things in the life of Jonah that happen when we’re running with him.
First of all, when you’re running with God, you obey. In Jonah 3:1-2 God repeats what he had told Jonah earlier, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” God has the same instruction, the same command – nothing has changed. This time Jonah has a different reaction. In chapter one after hearing this command, the Bible says, “but Jonah….” In chapter three after hearing God’s command, the Bible says, “so Jonah…” That one word makes all the difference. Responding to a command from God with the word “but…” gets you into all kinds of trouble. It was true for Jonah and it is true for you. When God says, “Don’t marry an unbeliever..” and you say, “but God…” a marriage that is less than God’s best for you is ahead. When God says, “Don’t put yourself in a compromising situation” and you say, “but God, I can control myself,” a loss of virginity and even an unintended pregnancy is just ahead. When God says, “Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together” and you say, “but God, I’ve got some really important things to do,” you miss the most refreshing time of your week. When God says, “You must give your life to Jesus” and you say, “but God, I’ve got plenty of time” the result is that your heart hardens toward God and soon you don’t care. Where was Jonah headed? Ninevah. Heading to Ninevah and preaching in Ninevah was God’s task for Jonah. Every day, you have a Ninevah in your life. You will read something in the Bible you don’t like, but you know you are supposed to do it. You will hear something from a preacher, a teacher or a parent that you know is true, but you don’t want to do it. Your first instinct is to say, “But God…” Just remember when you respond that way, disobedience brings a burden. Disobedience never pays. You are always better off to obey in the first place. So Jonah in chapter 3 does exactly what God told him to do. Verse 4 says, “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Is it possible that Jonah could have felt a little ridiculous doing this kind of thing? He is basically walking around with a sandwich sign that says, “The end is near!” Ninevah was such a big city it took him three days to cover it all. He likely not only felt stupid, but also fearful. The Assyrians were arch enemies of Israel. To walk around with this kind of message would have been bad enough for an Assyrian, but for a Jew to do it was extremely far-fetched. One man goes to a hostile city, claiming to be God’s prophet, preaching a message of God’s judgment and destruction. How is that going to look? What will happen as a result? The perception or the result was not Jonah’s problem – Jonah was to obey. For you today the issue isn’t what other people will think of you or what the result may be of your obedience – your call is to obey. When you’re running with God, you obey.
Second, when you’re running with God, He moves. Jonah obeys God by doing something that any sane person would have thought ridiculous, but listen to verses 5-9, “And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” Wow – is that cool or what? Scholars indicate that given Ninevah’s size, there were at least 600,000 people there. Chapter 4 speaks of 120,000 extremely young children alone. So by this one man’s obedience to God, about a half a million people repented of their sin and turned to God. The most amazing part of the story of Jonah is not that a fish swallowed him, but that the people of Ninevah believed him. No one would have thought it would happen, but God could foresee the result. You never know what kind of impact you will have on the lives of other people when you obey God. Your obedience, or your disobedience to God, has an impact on others far greater than what you can realize. God realizes it however, and when you obey He moves, astounding other people in the process. I read about a teacher who was teaching her children to spell. She said, “Class, I want each one of you tell us what your father does for a living, then spell his occupation.” A girl named Mary went first. She said, “My Dad is a baker. B A K E R. If he were here, he would give everyone a cookie!” Next came Tommy. He said, “My Dad is a banker. B A N K E R. If he were here, he would give everyone a dollar.” Then came Jimmy. “My Dad is an ophthalmologist.” He tried several times to spell the word, but just couldn’t make it. Finally the teacher asked him to sit down and think about it while she called on someone else. She turned to Johnny. He said, My Dad is a bookie. B O O K I E. If he were here he would lay you 8 to 5 odds that Jimmy ain’t never gonna spell ophthalmologist!” Anyone in Jonah’s circle of friends would have taken any kind of bet on the people accepting Jonah’s message and believing God – it simply was an impossibility. God was working through past events however, before Jonah ever arrived in Ninevah. A solar eclipse had recently occurred, which was considered a sign that a calamity was going to happen. Five years or so before Jonah arrived, two deadly plagues had swept through the city, killing thousands of people. The city had also gotten word that three major tribes north of them, had joined forces and were approaching to attack them. When you are running with God, you are a part of the bigger purpose he is accomplishing. Whenever we step forward to serve God, we are not doing it alone. We are serving with God, he is ministering through us. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are God’s fellow workers….” Every time you obey, God has been moving and continues moving. Sometimes you will see him working, sometimes you won’t, but God is always moving when you obey.
Then, when you’re running with God, blessings come. In the first four verses we see Jonah responding to God, in the next five verses we see Ninevah responding to God. In this last verse of chapter 3 we see God responding to Ninevah. “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” Now everything is going in the right direction. Jonah obeyed. Ninevah repented. God showed mercy. It all sprang from Jonah’s saying “yes” to God. There are two words that will always change your life for the better. These two words will always bring God’s blessing to you and to people around you. These two words will make your marriage sweeter, your home happier, your work more enjoyable, and your life more productive. These two words will take you to places you never dreamed you would go, and to see things you never thought you would see. What are the two words? Yes Lord. All the misery Jonah experienced was because he said “no” when he should have said “yes.” Will you say Yes Lord this morning?
I believe its very possible on the day of judgment God will show every one of us all the blessings we could have had, all the lives that could have been touched, all the things we could have experienced, if we had just obeyed him first. The sad thing is that every one of us has played the part Jonah. Instead of running with God, we ran from him. Are you running from God? Stop it. Have you stopped running from God but aren’t sure how to get back to him? Just turn around – He is right behind you, he’s been waiting for you to turn back to him. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 says, …“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit.