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June 4, 2020 12:01 am
Why would an evangelist be angry about a citywide conversion? Today, R.C. Sproul examines the reluctance of the prophet Jonah to see his enemies repent.
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Today I'm Renewing Your Mind.
The reluctant evangelist. These are Israel's most bitter enemies. Jonah perhaps would been pleased to go to Nineveh simply to be an agent of destruction. Instead, he was asked to go and preach repentance to them. Then they repented and Jonah is furious know when we think about Jonah's story. We tend to go to the part about the big food parole is one of the most fascinating and action-packed episodes in Scripture. But what should Draw attention is God's patience and kindness as were about to discover this message from Dr. RC Sproul, we've been looking at the little book of the minor prophets. The book of Jonah. And we've seen that Jonah heard the word of God. When God commanded him to go on a mission of outreach and of preaching to Nineveh the capital city of the wicked Assyrian kingdom. The hated enemy of the Jewish people of the eighth century BC, and Jonah disobeyed the command, and fled by ship from Joppa headed for Tarshish, and we know the story of how the greats foment arose on the sea and Jonah was thrown overboard and then rescued by the intervention of the fish that God had prepared to deliver him. Chapter 3 of Jonah gives us the narrative as it picks up at that point were we read these words in verse one.
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time only pause for a minute and say fortunately for us, God is a God of the second chance. I've often heard people say were all entitled one mistake, that's not true. God doesn't list any mistakes but if it were true. We have used up our one mistake a long time ago and would be very worthless to us, but in this case Jonah does get a second chance.
God comes to him and re-issues the original command, saying, arise, and go to Nineveh, that great city and preach to it the message that I tell you. So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh. What a striking contrast that is from chapter 1 where Jonah after being called to arise.
We read there.
The Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish. Now he does what God tells them to do. He rises, but this time he arises and goes to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord and the Scripture say this now. Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent, that is, would take you three days to walk through the city, and Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk and then he cried out and said yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be overthrown here. Is this obscure Jewish prophet that doesn't know anybody in the city of Nineveh he comes out of nowhere like Elijah out of the desert or John the Baptist out of the wilderness and he gives an oracle of doom that he announces to this vast magnificent city.
The city that houses one of the most powerful nation's capital in the ancient world and he makes this prediction.
40 days and this city will be overthrown and you would think no one in that pagan city would listen to him at all. Remember when Paul appeared at the Areopagus in Athens and as he was about to speak.
Some of those who were hecklers there said what will this babbler say and I'm sure that's the same kind of greeting that Jonah would've expected on this mission but it's not what happened.
The people of Nineveh. We read in verse five believed God no pay attention to that phrase. There it doesn't say that the people of Nineveh believed in God said they believed God, and there is a huge difference between there are lots of people who believe in God in the sense that they believe that God exists.
They don't believe him when he speaks his word and in the sense that belies the first conviction you say that you believe in God but if you don't believe the God you believe in, you don't really believe in the God who is because the God who is is eminently believable. He is omniscient he's impeccable and never speaks falsehood, why wouldn't you believe God. If you believe in God. The people of Nineveh, their credit believe God and proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.
Now the proclaiming of the fast and the dawning of the sackcloth indicates a spirit of profound and deep repentance. They believed the threatening message and they responded accordingly in deep repentance and then word came to the king of Nineveh and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes and he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of his king and his nobles saying let neither man nor beast burden or flock taste anything. Do not let them eat or drink water but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hand. Who can tell if God will turn and relent and turn away from his fierce anger so that we may not perish Lovin I don't know any record in all of history of such a mass action of repentance is what is recorded here about the city of Nineveh city that takes three days to walk through it and the whole city from the great to the lease, including the king who leaves his throne which is significant by getting off his throne. He is acknowledging the authority of the Lord God over him. He takes off his royal robes. All of those signs of power and authority and dawns for himself the clothing of humiliation he adorns himself in sackcloth and he sits in the ashes, signaling a posture of repentance and together with his nobles issues a decree that his example is to be followed throughout the entire not just an entire city but the entire land, including the animals, then every person in the land that there might be a corporate repentance that the people might mourn over their sins, with the hope that God who was promised the destruction of their city will relent and turn aside from his anger and be merciful to the people. What happens in verse 10 of chapter 3 we read this record and then God saw their works that they turn from their evil way and God relented from the disaster that he had said he would bring upon them, and he did not do it. Sometimes the Bible speaks of God's repentance wanted means, perhaps more accurately, in our language.
A relenting, rather than the repenting because for us the word repent suggests turning away from some evil deed. God is incapable of turning away from an evil deed because he was never in the way of an evil deed in the first place. God does not have to change his mind from considering sending so he doesn't repent. In that sense. That's why the Scripture says that God is not a man that he should repent, and even the idea of relenting meaning that he backs off something that he fully intended to do is somewhat misleading even though the Bible uses this language it uses the language of appearance that uses what we call phenomenological language and it uses what we call anthropomorphic language, that is, by which we describe God in human form. We are not to draw the inference from this narrative that God had set about a particular purpose, and had decided in his own mind that he was going to do. Plan a but when he saw the reaction of the people that he didn't know in advance what happened.
He came up with a better plan.
Plan B and was persuaded by all of this fasting and repenting to change his mind. That's a manner of speaking and we need to understand that God knew all along that these people would in fact repent and even though Jonah was directed to give the statement. This city is going to be overthrown, and 40 days and he doesn't say unless you repent that unless you repent is elliptical, that is to say, it is clearly implied that God always has the right when he exercises a threat of judgment.
He always has the right to rescind that threat by executing mercy. The same thing we saw when David wrestled for seven days in prayer when God had said that his child would die and David played with God for seven days begging God to change his mind and God didn't the baby died, and when the servants asked David why he did this he said as long as there were still life in this baby. I had the hope that perhaps God would choose to exercise his grace but he didn't. But in this case, God does exercise mercy over the wicked city of Nineveh. In light of the people's repentance. Now can you imagine how the angels in heaven. We are told, rejoice at the repentance of one sinner and I would say the heavenly host threw a party that afternoon. When they saw this mass movement of repentance from the city of Nineveh and so you would expect that Jonah being so successful in this mission would've thrown his hat in the air and said she Lord, I never would believe that my preaching would have such a marvelous result through your accompanying that word with your power. That's not the response of Joan. Remember, these are Israel's most bitter enemies. Jonah perhaps would been pleased to go to Nineveh simply to be an agent of destruction.
He would've liked to have been an avenger of his own people against this wicked city. Instead, he was asked to go and preach repentance to them and then they repented and Jonah is furious.
Look at chapter 4, but it displeased Jonah exceedingly and he became angry so he prayed to the Lord and said, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country. Therefore, I fled previously to Tarshish, for I know you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness. One who relents from doing harm. Therefore, now, Lord, please take my life.
For me, for it is better for me to bind the live I knew it.
God, I just like you to do this to go to first place. I had a feeling that this is what was going to happen though the last minute. At the 11th hour, you were going to exercise mercy instead of justice grace instead of judgment, and now you're going to let these wicked people go as evil as they are, simply because they repented in sackcloth and ashes is not good enough for me. This really makes me mad and I just assumed Linda have to live through this. This is the same man who has himself after he has been disobedient and after he has repented had been rescued sure and certainly by the grace of God. God was under no obligation to rescue Jonah from the midst of the sea got a lot Jonah just sink to the bottom of the sea and that would been the end of it. The sea would've been quiet the sailors on the ship bound for Tarshish would've been rescued the great fish would not of the Spirit and had his appetite ruined by having to swallow this human bank.
Everything would've been happy injustice would've been done and God could've set another profit to Nineveh. Instead God had saved Jonah out of his sin and out of his hopeless condition and five minutes later he's angry because God saves somebody else does that speak to you.
We have a little slogan in our culture there but for the grace of God go I.
There we really believe that there is no room in the Christian heart to enjoy the prospect of the destruction even of the wicked. We live moment to moment.
By God's grace and if we have been recipients of grace.
Why should we despise someone else's receiving the grace of God. But it's hard when we see God be gracious to those who have been hostile to us. We don't want God to forgive those who trespass against us. We want God to forgive us, but not to forgive those who sin against us. And at that point Jonah is every inch the man he is so common, so typical of all of us in a situation such as this, and then in verse four we read this chapter 4 verse four than the Lord said is it right for you to be angry if it ever was a rhetorical question. Here it is.
Jonah had absolutely no right whatsoever to be angry and God puts the question to him is is this right Jonah doing the right whatsoever to be angry when I bestow my grace on somebody else would you say to that. How would you answer the question. Do you ever have any right to be angry. If God is merciful to your enemies course not. So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there he made himself the shoulder and set hundred in the shape until he might see what would become of the city and the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be straight for his head, to deliver him from his misery hears Jonah sitting out here in the ancient near East in the middle of the heat of the day with no refuge from the blistering heat that is assaulting him. Is he sitting there contemplating the future of Nineveh and God now, doesn't another act of mercy.
In Jonah's behalf. He prepared a plant again. It makes me wonder whether the fish that the liver Jonah was a special creation because the same language is used here that God specially prepared fish to rescue Jonah in the first place and now is he's exposed not to the water, but to the heat.
God makes another special preparation to rescue Jonah.
He prepared a plant made it come up over Jonah to be safe for his head, to deliver him from his misery and reread. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant but as the morning dawn the next day, God prepared a worm and it settled damage the plant that it withered and it happened that when the sun arose that God prepared a vehement east wind and the sun beat on Jonah's head so that he grew faint.
Every Jewish person who reads this tax every personal lives in Palestine would understand it immediately. Not just talking about hot summer day in Florida he's talking about the effects of the Sirocco that dreaded wind that comes out of the Mediterranean picks up heat and dryness from the desert and it causes the skin to become like sandpaper and the Sirocco is known to kill many many people because it just sucks the moisture out of a person's body and out of their face and it's like being caught in the middle of a sandstorm almost although with exceedingly great heat that accompanies this is what happens. God prepared to see what God prepared.
He prepared a plant. He prepared a worm, and now he prepares a vehement east wind and the sun beat on Jonah's head so that he grew faint and he wished death for himself and said it is better for me to die than to live. So God asked John another question. Is it right for you to be angry about the plant. Jonah said it is right for me to be angry even to death. I am to be mad at you until I die because that's not fair. My only comfort was that plant. Thank you very much for giving the plant. What kind of game are you playing God. No sooner did you give me the shade and the benefits and the relief or misery.
The plant the next thing I'm to send this worm to eat the plant and so I lose my shadiness is I lose my shade. You compare a vehement east wind the Sirocco to commit and scorch my very life. Yes, I'm angry about the plant and this time I'm going to stay angry with you about, but the Lord said Jonah you've had pity on a plant for which you have not labored nor made it grow which came up in the night in Paris that night and should I not pinning Nineveh, that great city in which are more than 120,000 persons who cannot discern between the right hand, and their left and much livestock in the story ends. What's the lesson Jonah. You care more about that plant and you care about these people. Centuries later Saul as he contemplated the state of the soles of his own countrymen who had rejected Christ swore of the hall before God saying that he would that he himself were cursed. If it could mean the salvation of his people. Paul cared so much about people that he was willing to surrender his own redemption for their sake and what God is showing Jonah and showing us is that it is not right. The care more about things that about people care more about our own about the redemption of one call that so many of us probably need to hear our comfort is not worth more than the eternal souls of those around us the profound message from Dr. RC Sproul you're listening to Renewing Your Mind and thank you for being with us today by Lee Webb earlier this week Dr. Spruill taught us how to interpret Scripture how to discover the real meaning of passages we read.
By understanding the context and today RC is put those lessons in the practice by showing us how to interpret Jonah is critical that all of us learn how to study God's word. That's why we've put together a generous collection of teaching materials as our resource offer today when you give a gift of any amount to look at your ministries. We will send you RC's teaching collection that contains four complete DVD series, including knowing Christ knowing Scripture and the parables of Jesus, but you will receive four complete audio series including the message we heard today from the series. Jonah contact us today with your gift of any amount he will be glad to send your way there couple of ways you can reach us. You can call us at 800-435-4343 and also go online to Renewing Your Mind.org. The Bible brings life and when you support within your ministries with your gifts and prayers that you make it possible for us to produce and distribute Bible teaching resources like the ones referred this week and out with new translations, we are able to reach people around the world who have not had trustworthy Bible resources in their language, so were grateful for your financial gifts and will say thank you today for your gift by sending you RC Sproul's teaching collection or web address again is Renewing Your Mind.org in our phone number 800-435-4343 before we go today. Let's return to Dr. Stroh's lesson on Jonah for a final thought, the story of Jonah is a lesson not in ancient living, but in contemporary living because though I believe Jonah was a real historical person and their host of reasons why I believe that the New Testament certainly regards him as a real person of history.
Our Lord himself regarded Jonah as a real person from history beyond his uniqueness is a real live individual in a significant way.
Jonah is every man is all of us who failed to keep the great commandment to love the Lord his God with all of his might and all of his mind and all of his soul and his neighbor smudges himself. He was not prepared to love his enemies which commandment is at the very heart of the teaching of Jesus, he could not delight in the salvation of those whom he hated. He wasn't able to rejoice in the repentance of others and became more concerned for his own comfort than for the eternal rest of human beings 11.
That's a powerful message and it's one I need to hear and I'm sure it's one we all need to hear tomorrow we will turn our attention to the book of Ecclesiastes and learn how to interpret some of the difficult passages we find in the genre of Scriptures known as wisdom literature and will learn some compelling lessons for living the Christian life. That's Friday here on Renewing Your Mind