Jonah - Part 2

Scripture: Jonah 2:5, Jonah 3:1-10
Though many question the veracity of the story of Jonah being swallowed by a whale and living, the Bible teaches it is true. But most important is the message that God never lost sight of Jonah and still called him to a task to spread the gospel in Nineveh.
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In my last broadcast we followed the tragic footsteps of Jonah's course in running away from God. We learned that Jesus Himself has endorsed the authenticity of the story so often doubted and ridiculed by modern commentators. It did happen, friends. There's no room for doubt on the part of Christians or anyone else. We must either accept the story as true or accuse Jesus of deception. To deny the veracity of Christ is to strike at the heart of the Christian faith. We know He told the truth about Jonah. He was swallowed by a great fish especially prepared by God.

In our last broadcast we learned how Jonah tried to avoid God's orders to preach in the great wicked city of Nineveh. He bought a boat ticket in exactly the opposite direction and tried to run away from God, but a terrible storm arose which threatened to sink the ship at any moment. The heathen crew finally cast lots to find who was guilty of offending the God of the seas. Jonah was designated by the lots, and he confessed his guilt of offending and disobeying God. With prayers for forgiveness, the pagan seamen cast Jonah into the ocean and he plummeted straight down into the black depths of the water. Down, down he sank until suddenly a big black mouth opened up and he went down into the fish and then the fish went down into the bottom of the sea-down, down, down, just as far as he could go. By the way, friends, when he came there he was really down; down in hope, down in the dumps, down in the ship, down into sleep, down in the water, down in the fish, and down into the very bottom of the sea; it was rock bottom.

But you know in spite of all this, God had not forgotten the prophet. To me that's a wonderful thought. God had not forgotten Jonah even after all that Jonah had done. You know, friends, God never forgets you. It doesn't make any difference how far down you've gone. God will not forget. You can't go so far in sin, you can't become so vile, terrible, that God will leave you alone unless you no longer want Him. People often say to me, "I've been so wicked that God wouldn't have me." That's utterly false. The Lord will always have you. His great heart longs for you no matter what you've done, no matter how far down you've gone. And Jonah finally wanted to come back. It's an interesting thing to picture the circumstances that faced Jonah down there. He was in the whale's belly and it was hot, stuffy, and dark, no doubt. Here's a little picture of it in Jonah 2:5, "The waters compassed me about." Yes, I imagine those were digestive juices swirling around him there in the stomach of this great fish. And he also says in verse 5, "The weeds were wrapped about my head." Evidently Mr. Whale had something else for dinner besides Jonah. It was dark. Just picture yourself in that situation for a moment. Maybe it wasn't so wise to run away from God after all.

And so away down there in the bottom of the sea, he began to think. And he did something else brought out in Jonah 2:1. "Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly." He finally began to look to God, and what did the Lord do? Rebuke him? Refuse to hear him? No, the Lord directed that fish, through God's heavenly radar system, over to the shore and somehow miraculously deposited Jonah upon dry land. Now Chapter 3, verses 1 and 2. "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." So the Lord was saying, "Now, Jonah, you've recuperated, I've got a job for you. It's the same job I gave you before, and I want you to preach the same message that I asked you to preach." Friends, listen! It doesn't make a bit of difference who you are or what your background may be, God will never bless you and you will never succeed until you do what God asks you to do. This applies to you and to me and to everybody. That's all there is to it. If you go running off to Tarshish as he did and buy some tickets for far away, you'll never prosper.

So Jonah decided that he would go to Nineveh, He took his journey and walked into that city, a part of a day's journey, and began to preach. "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown." I can imagine people looking at him and saying, "Who is he?" Probably somebody asked, "Have you ever seen him before?" And another said, "No, I don't know who he is." And they thought, I'm sure, "Well, he's just a crackpot of some kind. He'll probably be gone tomorrow. Don't pay any attention to him." But he wasn't gone tomorrow. Tomorrow he said, "You have thirty-nine days and Nineveh shall be overthrown." And people began to say, "Well that's a different message anyway, isn't it? I've never heard anybody talk like that before." And then, "Thirty days and Nineveh will be destroyed." By that time everybody was looking and listening. I can imagine they followed him along and looked him over. More days passed and he was saying, "Alright, friends, twenty-five days and this great city will be overthrown." The inhabitants said, "You'll certainly have to give him credit for this-he's persistent anyway." Again the days passed by and he was saying, "Twenty days!" Some of the people said, "What if he's right? I don't believe he is, but suppose he's right."

A few more days passed and he was saying, "Yet ten days-you have only ten days more-a little over a week." And some of them began to say, "I don't know what you think but I believe him. I'm going to do something about this." And I imagine by the time he was saying, "Five days, four days, three days," they had all made decisions. According to the scripture, from the King on the throne right on down to the beggar on the street, they repented in sackcloth and ashes-the entire city. And so God spared the city. Well, that was probably the greatest revival ever held, bar none. And that was probably the most wonderful experience that ever came to a preacher or evangelist, bar none.

Now let's come to the lesson for us. The devil knows that God's commands, when followed, bring the only true joy and peace and happiness. So he tries to picture God's commandments as impossible. The only way to joy and peace is found in following those orders of God. The devil knows it and so he'll put his lies in force to keep you from doing what God asked you to do. The Lord says "Go to Nineveh, do this, do that," and the devil comes along and says, "Now wait, you don't want to do that yet." And while you wait, he builds that thing bigger and bigger and makes it seem more impossible until you just feel that it can't be done after all. He'll tell you it's too hard, for one thing. After a while you think, "Well, I guess it is too hard, I can't do that." Or, he'll tell you that it won't work. I'm sure he told Jonah that. "Jonah, you're one man. Look at that great metropolis. You'll cover about three streets down there and they'll lock you up in jail and you'll be the laughing stock of the town. It won't work." He's still using those same arguments today, friends. "It won't work. It's not that important."

Well, listen, everything and anything that leads a person away from God is a ticket to Tarshish. Everything that destroys a person's love for eternal life is a ticket to Tarshish. Everything that prevents you from studying this book, the Bible, is a ticket to Tarshish. Every drink of alcoholic beverage, every cigarette, mark it well, friends, is just the same type of thing that Jonah was doing, and it can cost you eternal salvation. Every curse word, every word of profanity, is a ticket to Tarshish. Every bit of pride and vanity is a ticket there. Every minute of delay is a ticket to that ill-famed city of Tarshish. Some of these tickets are dirty and filthy, nasty, and utterly repulsive; others are beautiful, attractive and embellished, but they're all tickets to Tarshish, to disobedience and to destruction. They lead away from God's plan.

Friends, today, if you've gone down, down, down like Jonah did, if you bought a ticket to Tarshish, remember God still loves you just the same. And if you'll come back and say, "Lord, I'm terribly sorry I've made a mess of things. I'm going to take a new stand and do what's right. I'll go where you want me to go. I'll do what you want me to do. I know you'll help me." If you do this, God will receive and bless you. All you have to do is ask. Come back to the path of duty. Come back to that hard job or that hard decision. Come back to Christ so you can be assured of a place in heaven. Friends, today let's get rid of all those tickets to Tarshish.

Now I want to read Jonah 3:1. "And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying," -oh, that's the part I like. To me that's the most beautiful part of this book. "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time." God is giving him another chance. Isn't that wonderful! Here's where the grace of our Lord and Saviour is seen. He always gives us another chance. What would you have said, friends, if a friend had done you like that and wanted to come back? Would you have received him as the Lord did? What did the Lord say? "Huh, you have your gall! Don't come crawling to me now that you've met a crisis and can't find your way out. You wanted to go your way all along, now don't cry to me." Is that what He said? Absolutely not. The Lord said, remember this now, "Surely, Jonah, I will be with you." And the fish headed for shore and Jonah was cast out on dry land and the Lord gave him another chance. "And the word came to him again the second time." You'll have another opportunity, Jonah, to do this wonderful thing for me.

Alright, friend of mine, I'm so grateful that I can tell you that it makes no difference what your problem is or how far you've gone or how weak your faith, God gives you another chance right now. "Well," you say, "I've had another chance and another chance." Maybe you have, maybe you've had a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand of them, that doesn't matter; that's the kind of God we have. He's giving you another one right now. He's saying, "Will you throw away your tickets to Tarshish and get rid of them? You know what I want you to do. Why haven't you done it? Get rid of those tickets. Come on back and I'll help you and we'll do it together." Oh I know we don't actually bodily run away and go down to the bottom of a ship like Jonah did, but I just wonder how many there are running just the same. You know whether God has called you to do something or not. You know whether some decisions have been made and broken between you and God. Just as surely as Jonah was running, you may be running. You may be buying a ticket right now to get away from something that God wants you to do. Maybe the Lord is calling you now to prayer. I wonder how many would be involved if I asked you the question, "Do you have personal private prayer in your home by yourself every day?" Oh, I know the Lord has pled with you if you don't, but what are you going to do about it?

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