Learning from Jonah. Jonah 4:1-2

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1 Learning from Jonah Jonah 4:1-2 1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, Isn t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. The other day, while I was driving a car I saw a sticker on the bumper of a car in front of me. It said, God bless the whole world. No exceptions. and there was a picture of the earth. That was the first and only time I have seen it. Even though this particular sticker does not seem to be so popular, it interested me. I assume that the bumper sticker was meant to oppose the popular bumper sticker slogan, God Bless America. The interesting part of the sticker is that the picture of the earth shows the American Continent. So I assumed that the sticker was made by those who live in the U.S. These days, we can go online and do research on almost any topic. I went online and did the research on the sticker. I found an interesting fact. It was produced by a church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I visited the website of the church and it looked like a regular church in the U.S. Personally I don t oppose the slogan of, God Bless America. It is true that God wants to bless America. However the slogan might give the impression that the enemy of America will not be blessed. If there is an evil country, God will pronounce judgment on it. However, according to the Bible, God still loves everyone on the earth and He wants to bless each one of us. I believe we all know that in the world there are a lot of people who hate the U.S.A. I also believe that we all know that in the world there are a lot of people who hate Japan. When I think about this fact, it really hurts. One of Jesus teachings is to make peace. We are all called to be peace makers. We cannot do it by our own strength. We need God s power to accomplish it, so we need to learn from the Bible. Today we will learn about this topic from the book of Jonah. The book of Jonah contains only four chapters. If you are a good reader maybe you can read the whole book in less than ten minutes. If you haven t read this book before, please take time to read it. I think this is one of the easiest books to read in the Bible. Today I will read some parts from it and try to find out what we can learn from it.

2 Let s read from the beginning, chapter one verse one through three. 1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me. 3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. The prophet Jonah was Jewish. It is assumed that he was a patriot. In the book of Second Kings chapter 14 verse 25, Jonah was introduced as a prophet who prophesied that the Northern Kingdom of Israel would expand their territory. As a patriot, he did not want to go to city of Nineveh because the city was a main city of the enemy country, Assyria. If he was assigned to pronounce the judgment of God, he might have been more eager to go there, but his mission was to call the people to repentance. Jonah, however, didn t listen to God s voice and tried to escape from his calling. Although he was a prophet, he decided not to obey the Lord. He must have had a strong will to choose disobedience. It is assumed that his love for his country overwhelmed his love for the Lord. Love is the one of the major themes of the Bible. The Bible teaches how and whom we should love. At the same time the Bible warns of loving someone in wrong way. For example in Genesis there are many examples of a man or a woman who loved someone in wrong way. In Genesis chapter 27, Rebekah loved her son Jacob in a wrong way and incited Jacob to betray his brother. This led to a big problem. In the Bible there are other examples where from time to time love causes problems. The way in which people loved was sometimes wrong. So Jesus clearly taught us how to love. Jesus taught, Love the Lord first and love your neighbors second. He also taught that our neighbors may be our enemies. It is sometimes not easy to love our neighbors. That is why we need help from the Lord. It seems easy to love people who are on our side, but the truth is, it is not always easy to love in a right way. So we need help from the Lord. Our love for country might be wrong like Jonah s was. Our love for family members might be wrong like Rebekah s was. We need help from the Lord. There is no exception. We all need help from the Lord. I believe that to have the Lord s help, we need to know how God loves us. God s love will give us wisdom and power to love others in a right way. And I also want to mention that we are told to love the Lord first. Loving the Lord first will keep us in balance of loving others in a right way. Let s go back to the story of Jonah. Jonah first refused God s calling, but later he repented and decided to go as directed to the great city of Nineveh. Let s read what Jonah did at the city and what happened to the city. I will read from chapter three verse one through five.

3 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you. 3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day s journey into the city, proclaiming, Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown. 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. The message of Jonah was very simple. He warned the people of Nineveh that they would perish. As Jonah was saying this, maybe he did not expect to see their response. But God was with him so that the people responded to his voice. The people of Nineveh repented of their sins and God called off his plan of punishment. This is found in verse ten of chapter three. When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. What do you think happened to Jonah? Was he happy because his message helped the people of Nineveh? Was he glad that God could work through him? Was he proud of people of Nineveh? Let s read chapter four verse one through three. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, Isn t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live. How did Jonah react to the repentance of people of Nineveh? The answer was he became angry. He said to God that from the beginning he didn t want to come, because he knew that God would forgive them because of His love. Jonah didn t want God to forgive them. He wanted to see God punish them. Maybe this is because they represented the enemy of his country. He came to preach, but still he didn t want to see the people repent. He wanted to see God s punishment against his nation s enemy. My favorite part of the book of Jonah is verse three. He said, Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live. I reflect on his ignorance and his stubbornness. It reminds me someone I know very well... myself. I can confess that I have the same kind of ignorance and stubbornness in myself. I could never be as generous as our God. I probably would have reacted the same way, so I can understand his feelings. Let me ask you a question. Do you understand Jonah s feelings? Does this story remind you of yourself? If your answer is Yes, please know that you are blessed person,

4 because the gospel is for you too. And also from this story of Jonah we can learn how God loves us. Let s read what happened to Jonah next, verse four through six. 4 But the Lord replied, Is it right for you to be angry? 5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. Jonah couldn t stay at the city, because he didn t want to see his enemy s happy face. He still wanted to see God s judgment over the city, so he went outside of the city. While he was waiting there God gave him a present. God gave him a leafy plant to provide a shaded place. It was to ease his discomfort. Even though Jonah said he wanted to die, he was so happy about the plant. God knew what the best gift for him was. Let s go onto verse seven and eight. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, It would be better for me to die than to live. God gave and took away. The plant disappeared in one day. The sun blazed on him so bad that again he wanted to die. Then God started to talk with him. Let s read verse nine. 9 But God said to Jonah, Is it right for you to be angry about the plant? It is, he said. And I m so angry I wish I were dead. God asked Jonah how he felt about the disappearance of the plant. Jonah told God about his anger. This is also reveals how much he liked the plant. Then God used a metaphor to explain why He wanted to save the people of Nineveh. Let s read verse ten and eleven which is at the end of the Book of Jonah. 10 But the Lord said, You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left and also many animals?

5 God told Jonah that He wanted to save them because of His love. The city was a very sinful place, so God could have meted out a just punishment. But He wanted to save them instead. The city was also created by God and He still wanted to save it. It was because of God s love. The book of Jonah tells of God s love toward a sinful city and Jonah, who could not consent to God s plan. Jonah explained God s personality. He said, I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Let s think about how we should apply this story to our lives. First we should know our sinful nature. We are all sinners. We all need to admit our sins and repent before God like the people of Nineveh did. Jonah could not obey God s word, but God gave him a chance to repent and obey. God always gives us a chance to repent and obey. Maybe today is your day to think about repenting seriously. Let s think about Jonah s mistake. We need to be careful of how we love. Jonah s love for his country caused a problem. He should have loved the Lord first and consented to God s plan for Nineveh. Maybe he loved his country more than the Lord. This world was created by the Lord, so if we fail to obey His teaching, we would make problems. God s teachings give us a well balanced life. He taught us to love Him first and to love our neighbors including our enemies. Speaking of the sticker of, God bless the whole world, I think we can also say, God bless America so that we can bless our enemies. We have to learn the love of God day by day to know what His love is. Let s praise the Lord for His love and ask God to send us the Holy Spirit so that we can experience His love. Let s ask God for helping us to love our neighbors in right way. Let s ask for His wisdom and power to lead us. We need the Lord. Let s pray.

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