God’s love is for all!Jonah 3:1-10
Pastor Nathan Buch
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 important city—a visit required three days. 4 On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When the news 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 Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let man and beast 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 had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
There have been a few times that I have screwed up in my ministry. I don’t mean, I have intentionally went out of my way to make someone angry and upset. I don’t mean I have schemed to sin against someone. I mean that I have said the wrong thing at the wrong time. I have given someone the wrong impression by my body language. I have been too quick to speak and not patient enough to listen.
Many times I don’t even notice these things. I have done this or said that and walked away and not given any more thought to it. The other person has not done the same.
The only way I can apologize and makes things right is if the person comes to me and shows me what I have done wrong. There have been a couple of times when this has happened. They’ve come to be and said, “You know when you said that or did that I really felt bad.”
This is what a Christian is supposed to do and it is the only way that a Christian ever has the opportunity to apologize and to ask for forgiveness. When this happens, I usually feel really bad about what I have done and I do just that I apologize and ask them to forgive me.
Have you ever done something like that? Have you ever made someone upset, or hurt someone and you didn’t even notice? Did they come to you and tell you what you did? What did you do when you heard that you had done something like that? Did you apologize? Did you ask for forgiveness?
In the Word of God before us this morning, we see a group of people who didn’t realize that they were sinning against God. Yet, instead of punishing them for their sins God does something different. God loved them and sent his servant Jonah to show them their sin. They listened to the message, repented and were forgiven of their sin.
What do you think of when you hear the name Jonah? I am sure you think about the big fish. Everybody knows about Jonah and his attempt to run from God. God gives Jonah a mission to go to Ninevah and preach. Instead of heading to Ninevah, Jonah hops on a ship that is going the opposite way. While they are on the journey, there is a great storm. Jonah is thrown overboard and he is swallowed by the big fish.
After three days of repentance and reflection inside the fish, God allows Jonah to leave the fish. It is here at the beginning of chapter three that God gives Jonah his second call to go and preach to the people of Ninevah. This time Jonah listens and does what God tells him to do.
Many times when we read from the book of Jonah, we focus so much on Jonah. For a few moments this morning let’s get to know the Assyrians and why Jonah didn’t want to preach to them. Assyria was known as a country which was good at war. They were on the forefront of the best techniques and tactics and also had the best weapons that a nation could make. They were good at winning battles, enslaving people and making them work for them.
Israel was afraid of Assyria. For almost 100 years, the nation of Israel was a vassal state of Assyria. They were forced to pay a harsh tribute or face the consequences. The nations around Israel showed the scars of the destruction that Assyria would bring if Israel did not continue to pay. Yet, throughout that 100 years, the kings of Israel had tried rebellion from time to time and Assyria was swift in putting it down and demanding more tribute.
Ninevah was the capital city of Assyria. It was a huge sprawling metropolis. One verse says that it was so large it would take 3 days to walk the city. It is estimated that more than a million people may have lived in the metropolis of Ninevah. A city only gets that size if has an immense amount of wealth and power behind it.
To the Israelites and any other country that had been overthrown, Ninevah represented all that was evil and bad about the Assyrian people. Its prominence and growth had come at the expense of all the nations that had been crushed. While they grew wealthy and prosperous, other countries suffered under the weight of tribute. In many ways, all of these countries looked at Ninevah with disgust, in the same way that many of the enemies of the US might look at New York City of Los Angeles today.
God sent Jonah to this nation, this city and this people who seemed so far from the Word of God. Yet, although God sent him to these people, Jonah decided that Assyria and the people of Ninevah were not worthy of his time to go and preach God’s message and to offer God’s forgiveness.
Have you ever done that before? Have you ever decided that because of who someone is, their history, their past, their lifestyle, or where they live, that they are not worth our time to sit and talk with them about Jesus? Have you ever walked away from someone that God has brought into your life because you have decided that they are not worthy of God’s love and message of forgiveness?
The answer is yes. No one is immune to this sin of a lack of love for the souls of others people; not God’s own prophet and not you or me. We have all made snap judgments about another person. I’ve know that person since…… and they have never wanted to hear the Word of God, why should I try now? Have you heard the mouth on that person, it wouldn’t make a difference if I shared the Word with them. That person is so mean and cruel, I don’t think that person could possibly have faith in Jesus, they just don’t seem to be the right type of person. Those kind of people all believe in another god anyway, why should I even try to reach out to them?
I want to ask you a very serious question: Is there anyone that God does not love? Is there anyone that God does not want us to love? There are many examples in the Bible where we see God’s love for people who don’t seem very likely candidates for his love and forgiveness. King David, The Ninevites, an Assyrian general named Naaman who was cleansed of leprosy, a prostitute by the name of Rahab, a Moabitess by the name of Ruth. A tax collector by the name of Matthew. A woman who had been possessed by 7 demons named Mary Magdalene. A Pharisee who killed Christians by the name of Saul. The list goes on and on until it stops right in front of you and me.
What we fail to realize is that we are unlikely candidates for God’s love and mercy because we sin in thought, word and action just like those people that we refuse to share the message with. The only difference might be that we might be better at hiding our sins than others around us. But what if others could see our sins? What if they were written down like those people in the Bible? What would others see about you?
If people could see our sins, I am sure that they would look at us the same way that Jonah looked at the Ninevites, and as we look at other people, as unworthy sinners who do not deserve the love and mercy of God.
The truth is, without God’s love for sinful people, none of us would be able to stand before God. That love motivated God to send his prophet, Jonah, to call the people of Ninevah to repentance and in his love he forgave them when they repented. 6 When the news 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 Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let man and beast 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.”
The Holy Spirit was at work through this call to repentance. The people showed their faith by repenting in a very Jewish way, with sack cloth and ashes, showing that they knew their sin and were sorry for it. We know the Ninevites believed and were forgiven because Jesus used them as an example in Luke 11 when he contrasts the unbelief of the Jews and their lack of repentance to the repentance of the Ninevites when they turned from sin in faith. Jesus said: The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.
God also calls us out of sin. Like the Ninveites we are unlikely candidates for God’s mercy and love, yet, in his mercy, he has compassion on us as he had compassion on the Ninevites. He sends people into our life like pastors, God-fearing friends and neighbors who are willing to show us our sin and call us to repentance. Thank God that when we turn from our sins in repentance he offers to us the free and full forgiveness that can only come through a Savior who has paid for every one of our sins.
We thank God especially for his love in forgiving our sins when we are slow to love others who need that Word so much. He forgives us and continues to give us more opportunities both through our church and in our personal lives to bring the Gospel to others. A person’s history, what they are like, or where they are from doesn’t matter to God or the mission he has given to us to share the Gospel. God’s Word is powerful. The Gospel can and does work under the best conditions, in his house with those who believe, but it can and does work in other circumstances as well just as it did in Ninevah.
May we look at the example of God’s love and see that he loves everyone and wants everyone to be saved. Let’s embrace the work that God has given us to do. Let’s share the Gospel with friends, neighbors and even people we don’t know because God sent Jesus to save the whole world.