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A COMMUNITY TO REDEEM
March 14, 2010
Lesson 2
Background Scripture: Jonah 3:10; 4:1-11
Print Passage: Jonah 3:10; 4:1-5
Key Verse: Jonah 4:2

BACKGROUND:

The destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by these very Ninevites (Assyria) is no more than 30-40 years away, Jonah the prophet is from the Northern Kingdom , but has no knowledge of the impending disaster. All he knows is that he has been compelled by God to preach to these “heathens”. As such, Jonah finds himself on the east side of the city, after having preached from west to east across the town...

The sermon was eight words – as Jonah preached only what God had demanded he preach. The good news about that is that Jonah didn’t inject his personal prejudices into the message; the bad news is that Jonah showed no compassion as he preached...

INTRODUCTION:

The “revival” is over. Jonah had done just enough to escape further wrath from God. It was a revival in which Jonah’s heart was absent. This is evident in the fact that Jonah went to such great lengths to avoid Nineveh in the first place. He had to be forcibly delivered by God. The message that Jonah preached warned that doom would fall on the city in 40 days. It took two-to-three days to deliver the message. That left 38 days. In fact, according to the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), the message called for three days (not 40) before destruction. In any case, the time of reckoning was at hand – unless God changed his mind...

GOD’S ANGER SUBSIDES -

Jonah 3:10

Notice how this all-important verse begins; “…And God saw their works…”. It is clear that the people had not simply pretended to change; they had truly changed. It was in God’s eyesight that they had “turned from their evil way”. And because God knows the heart as well as the outward actions, He knew that their repenting was sincere. They didn’t just have “good service” as we sometimes do; no, their hearts were in these efforts. It was, then, not so much the process that got God’s attention (the sackcloth, ashes, etc.); no, it was the contrite hearts. Notice that the verse before us makes no mention of the people’s outward actions. God was rather looking at the fact that the people “…repented of evil”...

JONAH’S DISAPPOINTMENT -

Jonah 4:1

Jonah was angry. Why? Because the revival he had just conducted had been a smashing success. Clearly, Jonah had taken pride in making his “announcement of doom”, while being careful not to leave the people with any hope of redemption. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh in the first place, mainly because he didn’t like the people. But Jonah apparently didn’t understand that God’s messengers (whether clergy or lay) are often called on by God to deliver messages of hope to people that the messengers don’t like...

What displeased Jonah? It was the fact that he somehow came to know that God had “changed His mind” about destroying Nineveh . In truth, it would be almost 150 years before that great Assyrian city would fall to the Babylonians and Medes. As for Jonah, he just wanted to see the people perish...

JONAH, AN AMBIGUOUS PROPHET -

Jonah 4:2-5

Here Jonah prays and asks God to take his life. Why? Because he was so angry that God was a “gracious God, merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness…”. Of course when it came to the Northern kingdom of Israel , these attributes were welcomed by Jonah; it was just in dealing with people for whom Jonah bore prejudice that he wanted God to be without mercy...

There was another portion of the complaint: Jonah had predicted with certainty that the city would be destroyed. Now it was going to remain standing. To Jonah, that made him look bad. He was, in other words, angry for personal reasons...

Jonah proceeds to go out to a mound on the east side of the city and construct a temporary “residence”. The Scripture tells us that Jonah wanted to se “what would become of t he city”. But why? God had already let Jonah know He would not destroy the city. Perhaps Jonah was hoping against hope that something may still happen. Was Jonah prepared to sit under that “booth” for up to 38 days? Was he that angry?

A CONVERSATION WITH GOD -

Jonah 4:6-11

God still loved Jonah. Even while the prophet was seething in anger, God performed an act of love (He still does that for us today). God “prepared” a plant that had leaves sufficient to provide shade for Jonah in the desert heat. But this would last for only a day. Why? Probably because God had no intention of pampering Jonah for the duration; He simply wanted Jonah to know He was still God, and the same compassion He was showing for the Ninevites was also available to Jonah. Further, this compassion was being provided at a time when Jonah least deserved it...

Next came the worm, that destroyed the gourd. All this happened in a one-day period. The Bible student should not be alarmed, since this was never intended to be a natural occurrence; it was a special act of God...

Jonah was happy to see the gourd grow to provide shade, then angry when God took it away. This led to a probing question: “Jonah, you’re angry because I destroyed a plant, yet angry that I did not destroy a city full of people?”

It is a sad fact that, like Jonah, we today often place more value on things than we do on our fellow man....

A
 
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