Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
At Christmastime every year, it’s become pretty common in churches for pastors to remind everyone that the Christmas story we’ve all come to know…isn’t necessarily the true Biblical story.
Sidenote: Less than 4 months to Christmas now. J
For example, contrary to photos on the internet, no Santa, wasn’t kneeling at the manger.
But a lot of the other pieces we have come to cherish aren’t actually the Scriptural truth
For instance, we say there were 3 wisemen, we even give them names…
But the Bible just says there were wise men
Nativity scenes always have the wisemen at the nativity site, but really, they don’t show up for sometime
We always picture Mary riding on a donkey to Bethlehem, but the Bible doesn’t tell us if she walked or rode the donkey.
And there are a bunch more
It seems like the more famous the story is in the Bible, the more likely the common rendering of it is to be false.
Which, I suppose makes sense.
It’s kind of like a game of telephone…the more people you play with, the more likely the story is to get wrong over time.
We’re gonna look at an example of this in the Old Testament today as we continue in our short series on the Book of Jonah.
Last week, we started a short 3 week, verse-by-verse series on the Book of Jonah, and we covered almost all of chapter 1…where Jonah is told by God to go preach repentance/forgiveness to the evil Ninevites in Assyria.
Jonah, however, runs away, gets in a boat going the complete opposite direction.
God is, as you might guess, not pleased w/ Jonah’s decision making, and he causes the sea to rage.
Jonah’s shipmates eventually decide to throw him overboard after he admits that he’s the problem.
And that’s the suspenseful moment we left off on last week.
Let’s continue in the passage
It’s on page 754
(Jonah 1:17) – NIV
Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
And there we have it. What does the Bible say about Jonah and the Whale?
Turns out it wasn’t even a whale, but a Huge Fish. Not even in the Mammal family. J
And once again tradition screws up the actual Bible story J
So, the sailors dump Jonah overboard, but God has mercy on the rebellious prophet, and has a Huge FISH swim over to him and swallow him up for a few days.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this today, but it’s worth mentioning…
For a lot of people, this is one of, if not THE hardest story to believe in the Bible.
And it’s often pointed out as a prime example of the Bible just being a bunch of fables.
Now, there have been stories over the centuries of sailors being swallowed by whales, etc. and living…but even if none of those are true…I don’t think it should be a very concerning story.
It’s a miracle! If you could easily explain it, it wouldn’t be a miracle.
And I would say, I don’t even think it’s one of the bigger miracles of the Bible.
Like, how in the world does Jesus turn 5 loaves and 2 fish into enough food for 5,000 people.
Can you imagine WATCHING the bread multiply. Seems like a bigger deal than being in a large stomach of a ginormous fish for a few days.
How come no one tries to explain that like they do with Jonah? Oh yeah, because it’s a miracle!!
Or Jesus healing someone of leprosy. Can you imagine watching the white skin slowly recede back as they were made clean?!?
I think we just forget how miraculous so many other tenets of our faith are.
If you can’t believe in Jonah and the Huge Fish, I don’t know how you could believe in the rematerialization of your body after your death, which will allow your body to continue in an immortal state in heaven for all of eternity?
That seems like 10,000 times harder to believe than Jonah…yet, we all believe.
If God wanted to create a fish that big, with a stomach that big, and an environment that could keep Jonah alive, I’m sure it wasn’t too difficult for him.
It’s important to note though that the central message that God wants teach us through the book of Jonah is not about the miracle of the huge fish…unfortunately, readers have gotten sidetracked there.
The central point is about evangelism and reaching people.
Let’s see what actually happens while Jonah is in the fish:
(Jonah 2:1-10) – NIV
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. 3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ 5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” 10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
So once Jonah is in the fish for 3 days, which in Jewish counting is really 2 nights and one full day….much like Jesus’ resurrection.
Once Jonah is in the fish for a while, he reconsiders.
He realizes that God has rescued his rebellious heart, and he declares SALVATION comes from the Lord!
One of the lasting legacies about the book of Jonah is that Jesus uses Jonah’s story as a prophecy about himself while he is on earth
(Matthew 12:38-40) – NIV
38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
So Jesus prophesies that just as Jonah was in the belly of a fish for 3 days, he will be in the belly of the earth.
But by the time he’s placed in the tomb, they’ve all forgotten his prophecy that he’s going to be the new Jonah.
Let’s take a look at chapter 3 since it’s just 10 verses:
(Jonah 3:1-10) – NIV
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. (explain) 6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” 10 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.
So Jonah brings this message to Ninevah: “in 40 days, Ninevah will be overthrown.”
In Hebrew overthrown, really does a dual meaning.
It’s for bad or for good.
Overthrown by God into destruction
Or the evil of the city will be overthrown, overturned, into GOOD!
GOOD TO OBEY GOD…DON’T MESS WITH THAT
When I was a kid, I grew up with a lot of clear rules.
My parents weren’t overbearing, but they were also anything but absent or withdrawn.
My mom especially was always very quick to lay out the all the rules for me and the things I was supposed to “Be Careful” with
The neighborhood I grew up in in Cambridge had a very small pond in it.
My mom, always told me, “NEVER, EVER, EVER Walk on the ice in the winter! It’s not safe.”
Well one day, (maybe you can see where this story’s going)…I was hanging out w/ my friends and one of my friend’s said, “Hey! Why don’t we go play out on the ice on the pond. It’s a good clear space to play”
Now, in my defense, I immediately heard my mom’s voice in my head, “David, don’t you dare!”
But the problem was…I did dare…and I started to walk out on the ice.
I got about 4 steps out…and CRACK, my legs went right through…(don’t worry…I don’t die)
Thankfully, I had only taken 4 steps, so the pond was only a few feet deep at that point.
My friends pulled me out and I walked a block home soaked to my mom who asked, “What happened to you?!?”
To which I replied “Umm….so…funny story actually…”
But falling in the pond was a terrible experience. I was freezing to death. It was miserable. I don’t think I walked on ice again until I was 20…in Northern MN…after someone assured me that you could drive an SUV on the ice and it wasn’t going in
And I learned a good lesson that day. LISTEN to your mom. She knows what she’s talking about.
And that’s a little of what we see in our passage today.
God already told Jonah once: “Go to Ninevah.” And Jonah disobeyed.
When Jonah is Vomited back on dry land, you can almost imagine God saying, “Hey, how’d that work out for ya?”
And then God says, “Now go to the great city of Ninevah (like I already asked) and proclaim to it the message I give you”
And just like I was never going out on the ice again…you can bet Jonah wasn’t going to be disobeying God’s commands anytime soon
And there’s a great Biblical principle in here for us:
If God asks you to do something…do it. J
It’s kind of funny…and kind of NOT funny.
If God is calling you in your heart…to get your life together…to be bold and share his love…to ask somebody for forgiveness…to start spending time with Him everyday….
We can’t be ignorant enough to think that He’s not going to get involved.
He’s going to get our attention through whatever creative way He chooses to.
If He’s calling you to do something…do it the first time J
And Jonah finally gets this while he’s IN the fish.
And he gives thanks to God…and he’s subsequently vomited out
HE DESERVED DEATH, BUT WAS SHOWN MERCY. SAME W/ NINEVITES
Jonah’s greatest revelation in the HUGE Fish is perhaps when he recognizes that he deserved death, but yet God showed him mercy.
He realizes that he was hurled into the sea (admittedly by his own choices), but that God sent him the Fish to “Save Him from the Pit”
And what must have, at least somewhat clicked for Jonah, is that THIS IS THE SAME THING GOD IS ASKING FOR THE NINEVITES!
See Jonah didn’t deserve mercy, but God sent a Fish…and gave it to Him anyway.
The ninevites don’t deserve mercy…we talked last week about what a violent & murderous ppl they were…but God wants to give it anyway.
And understanding God’s mercy in your life, will have a profound effect on how you look upon others.
If I can be transparent and personal for a moment, this is something God has really been working on me in my own life this past year.
My whole life I’ve struggled with pride. Thinking I’m better than. Which is really just insecurity.
And with pride and insecurity…often comes judgmentalism.
When people are nervous about what people think of them…they’re usually pretty quick to point out the faults of others.
It keeps the focus off of themselves.
But as God has really been doing a work on my heart this past year, he’s really revealed to me that I am indeed, just as big of a sinner as everyone else. If not worse. J
And when I can calm down and realize that I didn’t DESERVE anything…I start to see more of his mercy in my life.
A lot more of it.
And the more and more mercy and grace I start to see in my own life, the more I want other people to have it to.
This is exactly what we said last week:
The best evangelists (telling others about God) are often not the people who are the most bold….or the best w/ words…they are the people who best understand how sinful they are, and yet God forgave them anyway.
Back to our “Sharing for Adults” theme for this series: I think we’d all share “our Jesus” more if we realized that we’re not any more deserving of Him than anyone else is!
Sometimes…we have to remember that we came from the belly of the fish before we can get out and share with others.
If you really want to live this life where you are telling the people around you about how awesome God is…the best thing you can do is understand his mercy for you first.
Then you’ll want to extend it to others. Just like Jonah.
We must point out though, that Jonah was indeed conflicted. He finally understood that the Ninevites deserved mercy like Him, yet, we’ll see in chap 4, deep down, he still didn’t really want them to have it.
Sometimes we just need a “Huge Fish” moment in our lives to really get us going in evangelism.
And, as you might suspect, they’re usually not that fun. J
But, if you have a moment like that…WHEN you get back on dry land…and God has shown you his mercy… Don’t go back into the vacuum of your self again.
God has shown you love. Share the love.
EXPECT GREAT RESULTS WHEN YOU GO W/ THE LORD
And can you imagine what Jonah’s thinking on his way into Ninevah?
We know that he’s thinking a couple of things:
One) That these people deserve some mercy like He got it
Two) That…he’s never gonna disobey God again…that wasn’t fun
But you gotta think, he’s also thinking, “So…how’s this all ACTUALLY going to work out, God? These people are evil. Like, really evil.”
Many people have pointed out that the biggest miracle in Jonah is not the huge fish, it’s that one of the most wicked cities of all-time, repented…in a day!!
How is Jonah supposed to trust that to happen?
One of my roommates back in college is a computer genius.
He was the guy that everyone brought their computer to in college when they needed it fixed…and he would fix it.
Today: he’s a computer genius for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester
If you have kids, when you check your kids in, and the nametag comes out…etc. He built that whole system…for scratch for us. J
But WHENEVER…I give him my computer to have it fixed, I have NO idea HOW he’s going to fix…but I know he will.
One time, I sent him one of my old laptops to fix, and he fixed it by putting the motherboard in the oven, and it started working again!
Again, I don’t know HOW he’s going to do it, but I know he will.
I gotta believe that Jonah was walking to Ninevah with that same sort of faith.
He’s gotta be thinking…”Now, I don’t know HOW God is going to pull this off, but if the dude can keep me alive in a FISH for 3 days…I’m sure he’ll figure it out”
But when we think of sharing God’s love and forgiveness with our friends…even if we’re just thinking about inviting someone to church.
Like say, you’re thinking about inviting a nonbeliever to our Relationship Maze series that starts on Sep 9th…
A lot of us…we think about it…but we say, “Yeah, I just don’t see how that’s going to work out.” “They’re going to say no. And probably laugh at me in the process.”
But the Bible shows us today that we can’t think that way.
We’ve got to trust in God.
It’s the same sort of trust I have in my computer-friend from college. I just say, “I don’t know how…he’ll work it out.”
We should have the same boldness as we share w/ our friends: “I don’t know how…but God will work it out.”
If we only focus on how it “wouldn’t work out,” we’ll never say anything.
But if we believe that God can do whatever He wants to do, whenever he wants to do it, then we’ll go.
And, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what people do w/ what you offer them.
Our responsibility, like Jonah, is just to be obedient to our call, and go.
So start praying this week about how God can use you in this in the next few weeks.
Looking for baby step applications?
Here you go:
I think everyone can progress in this:
Here are four levels of evangelism (explain each)
Level ZERO: SITTER
Level ONE: INVITER
Level TWO: BRINGER
Level THREE: SHARER
Where are you on this chart??
As we progress through this book in the Bible, and God challenges us about this topic, my encouragement to everyone in this room, is to go up one level in response to God’s word on this topic
If you’re a SITTER….start being an INVITER.
If you’re an INVITER….Start being a BRINGER
And then… let’s trust God for some miracles!!
Can we do that?
If he could feed the 5,000….If he could part the sea….If he could walk on water…If he could keep Jonah in a Huge Fish for 3 days…if he could cause one of the most notorious cities of all time… to en masse turn to Him in one day…
….He can get your friend to church to hear about Him.
…He can open up your family member’s heart while you talk about Him.
Let’s start believing in miracles again.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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