Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rejoicing In the Savior’s Birth – Matthew 1:18-25

Rejoicing In the Savior’s Birth – Matthew 1:18-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 16, 2007 AM

Each of the four Gospels begins differently in looking at the birth of Jesus. Matthew begins with Jesus’ family tree. Mark begins with a brief introduction followed by an account of John the Baptist’s ministry. Luke begins with the details of the Christmas story, focusing on Gabriel’s appearance to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and to Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus. John’s Gospel starts with a more theological introduction about the Word becoming flesh (John 1:14). Both Matthew and Luke included genealogies of Jesus, but Luke did not include a genealogy until after the record of Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:23-38). While each is different view of Jesus’ birth, they all give us a fuller picture of the actual event.

People in our day and age look at the birth of Jesus differently also, but for different reasons than the gospel writers. Some think it is just a nice story that is related, kind of like the story of Santa and his elves at the North Pole. Others, see it as a myth or there are those who never think about it at all. Still others see the story of the birth of Jesus as one of the most significant events in human history: The Savior of mankind coming to earth to free people from their sins. For those who do it is a time of remembering who Jesus is and rejoicing in the Savior’s birth.

READ: Matthew 1:18-25

As human beings we always want things to go the way we desire them to. But life does not always go the way we desire, does it? In fact, within the story of the birth of Jesus we discover…

I. A Disturbing Situation! (Matthew 1:18-19)

1. God ways are not our ways! Matthew had already mentioned “Joseph the husband of Mary” in (v. 16), but now we learn that Mary had been engaged to Joseph. So Matthew took his readers back in time. Joseph and Mary had not had sexual relations, but Joseph had learned that his fiancĂ©e was pregnant. Betrothal was a formal Jewish agreement initiated by a father seeking a wife for his son and accepted by another father who desired the marriage of his daughter. Betrothal was as legally binding as marriage itself for the Jews. Fidelity was required during the betrothal period as it was in marriage, because during this period the couple were regarded as husband and wife. This is why sexual relations and living together under one roof were not permitted until after the marriage ceremony. Therefore, Joseph could be referred to as Mary’s husband, but Matthew emphasized Mary’s pregnancy occurred before she and Joseph had sexual relations or before they came together. This would be shocking for the family because unfaithfulness during the betrothal period constituted adultery. Betrothal could be broken only by legal divorce. Yet, we discover that Joseph was a godly man. He did not want to disgrace Mary publicly. He wanted to help Mary avoid public humiliation. According to Jewish law, a husband who discovered his bride was not a virgin on their wedding night could bring an accusation against her (Deut. 22:13-21). If the bride were not a virgin, she could be stoned to death! So, because he cared deeply for Mary in spite of what appeared to be unfaithfulness on her part, Joseph decided to quietly divorce Mary, in the sense of an out-of-court settlement. But God had other plans for Mary, for her baby, and for Joseph. God used a disturbing situation as part of His ultimate plan for all mankind!

EXAMPLE: God can take a situation that seems hopeless and make it into a wonderful thing. We never know what God can do with a life that is totally devoted to Him no matter what the circumstance. Dennis J. De Haan wrote in the devotional Our Daily Bread: “Grant Murphy of Seattle was the active type, a man who ran at full throttle. Idling and coasting were not in his nature. "One might even call him hyperactive," recalled a dear friend.
Then multiple sclerosis began to slow Grant down. First he needed crutches to get around. Then he was limited to sitting in a chair. Finally he was confined to a bed.

Near the end, he was hardly strong enough to talk. His friend recalls, however, that "he expressed only joy and thankfulness with a constant anticipation of being in the Lord's presence." Not long before he died, Grant whispered Romans 15:13 to a friend. He repeated the words "in believing," then added, "I can't do anything now."

It's when we can't do anything that God does everything. And herein lies a profound paradox of the Christian's experience. Faith is simultaneously an exercise of our will and the impartation of divine strength. And from that marvelous mixture spring joy and peace and an abundance of hope.

Are you in a totally helpless situation? Strength gone? All options exhausted? If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, God will strengthen you to keep on believing. As you trust Him, He'll give you not only joy and peace, but also hope when all hope is gone.” Mary and Joseph were both caught in a disturbing situation that God could use. Are you?

Just when life sends us a bunch of lemons, it takes more than a lot of sugar to make lemonade. It takes some kind of direction for our lives. Within the story of the birth of Jesus we discover…

II. A Divine Direction (Matthew 1:20-23)

1. Following God means being willing to trust Him with the outcome! Before Joseph could follow through on his decision to divorce Mary, an angel appeared to him. God was in control of the situation and in fact the angel explained that Mary’s pregnancy was the result of the action of the Holy Spirit, not her unfaithfulness. This had to be a divine appointment for Joseph! Why? He had to understand why God would work in this way in both Joseph’s and Mary’s lives. Although the virgin conception of Jesus is a clear teaching of Scripture, it remains an ultimate divine mystery. We do not understand fully how it could happen, but we can accept God’s miraculous work. The angel announced that Mary’s Child should be named Jesus (Greek). This name means “the Lord saves” (literally, Yahweh saves) and is the same as the Hebrew name Joshua. Jesus’ name communicates His entire mission in life. He came to save us from our sins. Jesus’ conception and birth would fulfill Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah, the Anointed One to come. Matthew quoted Isaiah 7:14. The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to understand Isaiah’s prophecy as messianic—about the birth of Jesus. Matthew recognized that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled supremely and completely in Jesus. Isaiah’s prophecy included a reference to the Messiah as Immanuel, which means “God is with us.” Jesus’ mission involved demonstrating God’s special presence in human history. Jesus became human in every way like us but was without sin (Heb. 4:15). He is both fully God and fully man. God gave Joseph divine direction during a difficult time about his relationship to Mary and her unborn Son!

EXAMPLE: David H. Roper writes that “The gorse bush is a shrub that was imported from Europe and now grows wild in the Pacific Northwest. It has dense, dark green shoots, and in springtime it provides a dazzling display of fragrant, vibrant yellow flowers. But it's best known by hikers and fishermen for its vicious spines.

Remarkably, the flowers grow right out of the thorns.

Missionary and artist Lilias Trotter wrote, ‘The whole year round the thorn has been hardening and sharpening. Spring comes—the thorn does not drop off, it does not soften. There it is as uncompromising as ever, but half-way up appear two brown fuzzy balls, mere specks at first, that break at last—straight out of last year's thorn—into a blaze of golden glory.’”

So it is with our lives in Christ. “Just when our situation seems hopeless and hardest to bear, tiny signs of life appear that will soon burst into bloom. Take the toughest issue, the most difficult place. There, God in His grace can cause His beauty to be seen in you.” Just as God gave Joseph and Mary direction during a difficult time of their lives, so He can with you as well. The thorns of life may be tough now, but the blossoms of spring will appear. God wants to give you divine direction as well. Are you willing?

While every birth is special, especially to the parents. Some rank a little bit better than others in that the outcome produces something so grand as to almost be inexplicable. Within the story of the birth of Jesus we discover…

III. A Blessed Birth! (Matthew 1:24-25)

1. Jesus was and is more than a little baby born in a manger! Joseph obediently did exactly as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He did not divorce Mary; instead he took his wife home and loved her. We can only imagine what some of the local people must have thought about this couple, but they evidently did not care. They knew God had other plans for them and their baby. Matthew stated that Mary and Joseph did not have sexual relations until Jesus was born. The Gospel writers sometimes mention other members of the family. Mark 6:3, for example, refers to four brothers and some sisters. Mark 3:31 records that Mary and Jesus’ brothers came to see Him. We also know that his brothers James and Jude wrote two of the books of our Bible. Joseph followed the Lord’s guidance in marrying Mary, she gave birth to Jesus, the Savior of the world. It is interesting to note that Matthew did not report any resistance on Joseph’s part to the role that God had chosen for him. He too was content evidently to be God’s servant in this part of his life. At this Christmas season we should be open to God’s guidance in our lives. Christmas is such a busy season for most of us that we may not be sensitive to God’s message to us through a Sunday School lesson, through a musical program at church, through a drama, or through a chat with a friend. God probably will not send you or me a message via an angel or a dream, but He does give us direction for our lives in many other ways. What hinders you today in following what God has planned? Mary and Joseph were willing to follow God’s plan for their lives. In the blessed birth of Jesus we find eternal significance for our lives. Have you?

EXAMPLE: There seems to be a lot of “Secret Saints” for the Lord. Those who hide their faith and never allow it to be seen by others around them. This is different from those who could actually be persecuted for their faith. They have to consider the outcome of their outward actions. Should our service for the Lord always be out in the open for all to see? Or should it sometimes be kept secret to assure its success? This may seem like an irrelevant question to believers who enjoy religious freedom. But it's the kind of dilemma more and more people are facing as opposition to Christianity grows in our world today. Yet we find in the lives of those who were willing to openly follow their faith wherever and however it lead them, were always ultimately blessed because of doing so. Mary and Joseph could have suffered greatly for their decision to follow God instead of their fear of persecution. Jesus was and is more than a little baby born in a manger. He grew to be the Savior of the world. Within the story of the birth of Jesus we discover a blessed birth because of the willingness of a couple to follow their faith wherever it lead. Are you willing to?

Conclusion:

A disturbing situation, a divine direction, and a blessed birth.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Taking Seriously God’s Message – Jonah 2:10-3:10

Taking Seriously God’s Message – Jonah 2:10-3:10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 9, 2007 AM

Imagine you are leaving your motel room late one afternoon. You’re hungry and are meeting friends for supper. You notice a small child swimming in the motel pool. The child begins to yell for help, and you realize that the child is drowning. What would you do? If you know how to swim, you might jump into the water and try to save the child. You might extend a pole or some other object to the child who is struggling. In any case, you would do all you could to help. Emergency situations, such as a child drowning, usually evoke action. How many of us as Christians, however, feel a sense of urgency to help those who are sinking in sin?

The Bible clearly teaches that God judges sin, but many in our society ignore this teaching. Some Christians believe it to a point but doubt that God will truly condemn unrepentant sinners for eternity. Other Christians believe it absolutely but still feel no sense of urgency about helping others come to faith in the Savior. God wants, as we discover in the book of Jonah, unbelievers and believers to take seriously His message of judgment either by repenting and receiving Christ and/or by helping others receive Christ. It comes from taking seriously God’s message.

READ: Jonah 2:10-3:10

While Jonah was in the belly of the large fish, he prayed to the Lord for deliverance. The Lord answered his prayer, and the fish vomited Jonah onto dry land. Again the Lord told Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, and this time Jonah took God’s message seriously. Although Jonah apparently was not motivated by genuine concern for the Ninevites, he obeyed the Lord this time and proclaimed God’s judgment on Nineveh. What does it mean therefore to take seriously God’s message?

I. It means actually hearing the Word of God! (Jonah 2:10-3:4)

1. Hearing God’s command is more than just listening, it involves our response! While he was in the belly of the large fish, Jonah prayed to God. Jonah knew he had been disciplined by God for his disobedience and he called out to God for deliverance. The prophet soon realized that “salvation is from the Lord!” (2:9). God answered Jonah’s prayer in an unusual way. God told the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land. Giving Jonah a second chance illustrates God’s patience and forbearance with disobedient people. God reiterates His command for Jonah to “Get up! Go.” (1:2) Believers today need to be reminded of the same command. God has not changed His mind about His people getting up and going. Previously, like we often do, Jonah had resisted God’s command, but this time he got up and went to Nineveh. Just as we should. It was not an easy thing to do. Jonah had to overcome his personal prejudice, physical hardship, and an unwillingness of heart to follow God. Jonah had been reluctant to preach to the Ninevites. God gave Jonah a second chance to share His truth in Nineveh; Jonah obeyed and warned the people of God’s judgment. If we take God’s message seriously, it means hearing the Word of God and responding!

EXAMPLE: Do you know that when my mother called me the first time to supper, she expected me to respond right away? In fact, if I was too slow in my response I often found out that she was willing to let me suffer the consequences of my actions. Surprisingly my mother saw my lackadaisical attitude as one of disrespect for her and her hard work. I now realize she was correct. The same is true for the Christian who is asked by the Lord to do His will but responds in their own timing. Taking God’s message seriously means His people, like Jonah, will actually hear the Word of God and respond to it. Have you ever taken God’s patience for granted, like I did with my mother’s? When has God given you a second chance to obey Him? Maybe this morning He is calling you to respond? If we take seriously God’s message, it means more than just listening…

Everyone needs to hear God’s message of judgment and salvation. During the Christmas season Southern Baptist churches collect an offering for international missions. This Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® helps support missionaries who take God’s message around the world. What have you done this week to help share God’s message of salvation with people of other nationalities? What does it mean therefore to take seriously God’s message? We learn from Jonah that…

II. It means paying attention to what God is telling you! (Jonah 3:5-9)

1. Paying attention to what God is telling you will lead you to a crisis of faith! The Ninevites’ response to Jonah’s message was amazing. They could have rejected this foreigner’s prophecy. They could have argued that their civilization was far superior to the Hebrew culture. In summary, the Ninevites could have dismissed Jonah and his message. Instead, the Ninevites believed in God. They reached a crisis of faith! The Ninevites demonstrated their repentance by two actions. First, they fasted. It is not the same as dieting. Second, the people put on sackcloth, a coarse fabric made of animal hair to show their mourning over their sin! As Jonah preached throughout the city, the response to his preaching was amazing! All classes of people heard his message of divine judgment and repented. They showed their repentance by their actions! Even the King was affected and urged everyone to call out earnestly to God! The result was that because the people repented of their evil ways, God relented from the disaster with which He had threatened them. “Who knows?” the king asks, “God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” He hoped that their repentance would impact God’s decision to bring imminent judgment. Paying attention to God will lead you to a crisis of faith. It means paying attention to what God is trying to tell you!

EXAMPLE: Do you like it when the person you are talking to is not really responding to you at all? You know what I mean. They kind of shake their head in agreement, but the light is not really on. I know I am guilty of this, but aren’t we all? Think about it for a moment. If you had been in Nineveh when Jonah preached, how might you have responded to his message? In what way would you have repented? Being “sorry” for not really listening to God, does not gain any merit. The old adage that “actions speak louder than words,” holds true. The Ninevites had to do more than just listen. They had to take God’s message seriously. They had to pay attention, which lead them to a crisis of faith. How about you? Are you paying attention to God? How important is God’s message to you?

We know that God is indeed merciful and compassionate. God gave Jonah a second chance and He also wanted the Ninevites to repent. People of all classes heard, believed, and repented when they heard Jonah’s message. God wants all people to know Him. Salvation involves faith and repentance—turning to God and turning away from sin. What does it mean therefore to take seriously God’s message?

III. It means experiencing God’s wonderful mercy! (Jonah 3:10)

1. God also listen to us as we speak to Him and He responds in mercy! Notice the direct intimate response of God: “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.” God can see our thoughts and motives as well as our outward actions. The Lord was pleased with the Ninevites’ repentance. True repentance involves more than a temporary feeling of remorse or regret. When I was a child, I was often unhappy that my parents or a teacher caught me doing something wrong. Sometimes, however, I merely regretted that I had been caught or that I would be punished. I did not always experience true repentance. The Ninevites demonstrated their repentance by turning from their evil ways. Because Nineveh repented, God relented. He spared the people. He did not send the disaster (literally the “evil”) He had planned for them. Some Christians seem to think that God is always stern and judgmental in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament God is loving and compassionate. The Book of Jonah reminds us that God’s character is consistent. God always opposes sin but He willingly forgives repentant sinners. When we take God’s message seriously, we experience God’s wonderful mercy!

EXAMPLE: It's that time of year again when people think about God and goodwill more than they do at any other time. It seems that the nearer we get to Christmas, the more we notice that people have a willingness to express an interest in religious things. Both church attendance and church activities increase. Does this heightened religious activity really show that we honor the Lord? The Ninevites were very “religious” people, but they needed to hear a message from God. Like today, Christmas has become so transparent and commercial that the true message is perhaps lost to many who get caught up in all the hype of the season. Perhaps, like the Ninevites, we need to take God’s message seriously, repent of our sinfulness, and experience His wonderful mercy anew.

Conclusion:

What does it therefore mean to take seriously God’s message? It means actually hearing the Word of God! It means paying attention to what God is trying to tell you! It means experiencing God’s wonderful mercy!

Taking Seriously God’s Message – Jonah 2:10-3:10

Taking Seriously God’s Message – Jonah 2:10-3:10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 9, 2007 AM

Imagine you are leaving your motel room late one afternoon. You’re hungry and are meeting friends for supper. You notice a small child swimming in the motel pool. The child begins to yell for help, and you realize that the child is drowning. What would you do? If you know how to swim, you might jump into the water and try to save the child. You might extend a pole or some other object to the child who is struggling. In any case, you would do all you could to help. Emergency situations, such as a child drowning, usually evoke action. How many of us as Christians, however, feel a sense of urgency to help those who are sinking in sin?

The Bible clearly teaches that God judges sin, but many in our society ignore this teaching. Some Christians believe it to a point but doubt that God will truly condemn unrepentant sinners for eternity. Other Christians believe it absolutely but still feel no sense of urgency about helping others come to faith in the Savior. God wants, as we discover in the book of Jonah, unbelievers and believers to take seriously His message of judgment either by repenting and receiving Christ and/or by helping others receive Christ. It comes from taking seriously God’s message.

READ: Jonah 2:10-3:10

While Jonah was in the belly of the large fish, he prayed to the Lord for deliverance. The Lord answered his prayer, and the fish vomited Jonah onto dry land. Again the Lord told Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, and this time Jonah took God’s message seriously. Although Jonah apparently was not motivated by genuine concern for the Ninevites, he obeyed the Lord this time and proclaimed God’s judgment on Nineveh. What does it mean therefore to take seriously God’s message?

I. It means actually hearing the Word of God! (Jonah 2:10-3:4)

1. Hearing God’s command is more than just listening, it involves our response! While he was in the belly of the large fish, Jonah prayed to God. Jonah knew he had been disciplined by God for his disobedience and he called out to God for deliverance. The prophet soon realized that “salvation is from the Lord!” (2:9). God answered Jonah’s prayer in an unusual way. God told the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land. Giving Jonah a second chance illustrates God’s patience and forbearance with disobedient people. God reiterates His command for Jonah to “Get up! Go.” (1:2) Believers today need to be reminded of the same command. God has not changed His mind about His people getting up and going. Previously, like we often do, Jonah had resisted God’s command, but this time he got up and went to Nineveh. Just as we should. It was not an easy thing to do. Jonah had to overcome his personal prejudice, physical hardship, and an unwillingness of heart to follow God. Jonah had been reluctant to preach to the Ninevites. God gave Jonah a second chance to share His truth in Nineveh; Jonah obeyed and warned the people of God’s judgment. If we take God’s message seriously, it means hearing the Word of God and responding!

EXAMPLE: Do you know that when my mother called me the first time to supper, she expected me to respond right away? In fact, if I was too slow in my response I often found out that she was willing to let me suffer the consequences of my actions. Surprisingly my mother saw my lackadaisical attitude as one of disrespect for her and her hard work. I now realize she was correct. The same is true for the Christian who is asked by the Lord to do His will but responds in their own timing. Taking God’s message seriously means His people, like Jonah, will actually hear the Word of God and respond to it. Have you ever taken God’s patience for granted, like I did with my mother’s? When has God given you a second chance to obey Him? Maybe this morning He is calling you to respond? If we take seriously God’s message, it means more than just listening…

Everyone needs to hear God’s message of judgment and salvation. During the Christmas season Southern Baptist churches collect an offering for international missions. This Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® helps support missionaries who take God’s message around the world. What have you done this week to help share God’s message of salvation with people of other nationalities? What does it mean therefore to take seriously God’s message? We learn from Jonah that…

II. It means paying attention to what God is telling you! (Jonah 3:5-9)

1. Paying attention to what God is telling you will lead you to a crisis of faith! The Ninevites’ response to Jonah’s message was amazing. They could have rejected this foreigner’s prophecy. They could have argued that their civilization was far superior to the Hebrew culture. In summary, the Ninevites could have dismissed Jonah and his message. Instead, the Ninevites believed in God. They reached a crisis of faith! The Ninevites demonstrated their repentance by two actions. First, they fasted. It is not the same as dieting. Second, the people put on sackcloth, a coarse fabric made of animal hair to show their mourning over their sin! As Jonah preached throughout the city, the response to his preaching was amazing! All classes of people heard his message of divine judgment and repented. They showed their repentance by their actions! Even the King was affected and urged everyone to call out earnestly to God! The result was that because the people repented of their evil ways, God relented from the disaster with which He had threatened them. “Who knows?” the king asks, “God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” He hoped that their repentance would impact God’s decision to bring imminent judgment. Paying attention to God will lead you to a crisis of faith. It means paying attention to what God is trying to tell you!

EXAMPLE: Do you like it when the person you are talking to is not really responding to you at all? You know what I mean. They kind of shake their head in agreement, but the light is not really on. I know I am guilty of this, but aren’t we all? Think about it for a moment. If you had been in Nineveh when Jonah preached, how might you have responded to his message? In what way would you have repented? Being “sorry” for not really listening to God, does not gain any merit. The old adage that “actions speak louder than words,” holds true. The Ninevites had to do more than just listen. They had to take God’s message seriously. They had to pay attention, which lead them to a crisis of faith. How about you? Are you paying attention to God? How important is God’s message to you?

We know that God is indeed merciful and compassionate. God gave Jonah a second chance and He also wanted the Ninevites to repent. People of all classes heard, believed, and repented when they heard Jonah’s message. God wants all people to know Him. Salvation involves faith and repentance—turning to God and turning away from sin. What does it mean therefore to take seriously God’s message?

III. It means experiencing God’s wonderful mercy! (Jonah 3:10)

1. God also listen to us as we speak to Him and He responds in mercy! Notice the direct intimate response of God: “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.” God can see our thoughts and motives as well as our outward actions. The Lord was pleased with the Ninevites’ repentance. True repentance involves more than a temporary feeling of remorse or regret. When I was a child, I was often unhappy that my parents or a teacher caught me doing something wrong. Sometimes, however, I merely regretted that I had been caught or that I would be punished. I did not always experience true repentance. The Ninevites demonstrated their repentance by turning from their evil ways. Because Nineveh repented, God relented. He spared the people. He did not send the disaster (literally the “evil”) He had planned for them. Some Christians seem to think that God is always stern and judgmental in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament God is loving and compassionate. The Book of Jonah reminds us that God’s character is consistent. God always opposes sin but He willingly forgives repentant sinners. When we take God’s message seriously, we experience God’s wonderful mercy!

EXAMPLE: It's that time of year again when people think about God and goodwill more than they do at any other time. It seems that the nearer we get to Christmas, the more we notice that people have a willingness to express an interest in religious things. Both church attendance and church activities increase. Does this heightened religious activity really show that we honor the Lord? The Ninevites were very “religious” people, but they needed to hear a message from God. Like today, Christmas has become so transparent and commercial that the true message is perhaps lost to many who get caught up in all the hype of the season. Perhaps, like the Ninevites, we need to take God’s message seriously, repent of our sinfulness, and experience His wonderful mercy anew.

Conclusion:

What does it therefore mean to take seriously God’s message? It means actually hearing the Word of God! It means paying attention to what God is trying to tell you! It means experiencing God’s wonderful mercy!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Responding to God’s Call – Jonah 1:1-3; 4-12, 17; 2:1-2

Responding to God’s Call – Jonah 1:1-3; 4-12, 17; 2:1-2
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 2, 2007 AM

Have you ever received a sign from God? Has God ever directly given you a message about what He wants you to do? A few years ago billboards in some cities had humorous yet serious messages from God. People often smiled at the idea of God communicating with us through ordinary road signs. Some people today, even some who believe that God exists, reject as absurd the idea that God wants to communicate with human beings, but we will discover that He indeed does!

Christians, in fact, know that God is real and that He communicates with us today. He speaks to us primarily through His written Word, the Bible. We also communicate with Him through prayer, a sermon, or during a quiet time alone with Him. Christians believe that God wants all people to know Him personally and that God wants to communicate through believers the good news about the salvation He has provided in Jesus Christ. Some believers, however, are reluctant to obey God in sharing His truth with people who need to hear it and respond to it. Jonah was one such individual. In these verses we will discover how we are to respond to God’s call.

READ: Jonah 1:1-3; 4-12, 17; 2:1-2

The Book of Jonah is part of the section of the Old Testament called the Minor Prophets. “Minor” referring to the size of the book, not the message they contain. There is nothing “minor” about the events in the Book of Jonah. They occurred in the eighth century B.C. and much of the story took place outside of Israel. We find that the Book of Jonah begins with the Lord’s commanding Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach against its wickedness. Jonah disobeyed God and boarded a ship headed to Tarshish. When responding to God’s call, there is a danger in…

I. Refusing God’s Leadership (Jonah 1:1-3)

1. Responding to God’s call requires our loyalty! The Book of Jonah begins abruptly. We are given very little information about Jonah. He is identified as the son of Amittai. The name Jonah means “dove” and Amittai means “true” or “loyal.” Jonah received the word of the Lord. How he received that message is not described for us. We do not know exactly how the Lord’s word came to Jonah but we do know that God communicated His message clearly to the prophet. The Lord’s message to Jonah begins with two commands. First, the Lord said, “Get up!” The Hebrew indicates a sense of urgency. Second, the Lord commanded, “Go to . . . Nineveh.” Nineveh, the greatest of the capitals of the ancient Assyrian Empire, was located on the bank of the Tigris River in Mesopotamia. And Third, God commanded Jonah to preach against the city! Can you imagine? A pious Hebrew going to a wicked city of people who hated Hebrews anyway to preach repentance! However, rather than heading northeast toward Nineveh, Jonah chose to flee to Tarshish. (Probably a seaport in Spain, about 2,000 miles west of Israel.) Jonah rebelled against God rather than following God’s leadership for his life. Jonah foolishly thought that he could flee from God’s presence. In refusing God’s leadership to witness to a lost city, it calls into question of where Jonah’s loyalty was.

EXAMPLE: We may say we love Jesus, but what excuses do people today use for not following God’s leadership in their lives in witnessing to others? Some might fear rejection by the persons they try to witness to about Jesus. Others might worry that they could not answer another person’s questions about God. Although Jonah is a classic example of someone who resisted God’s leadership, the Bible portrays others who willingly followed the Lord. At this Christmas season, consider the positive example of the young girl Mary. She quickly and openly submitted to her role as God’s servant in giving birth to the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38).

Why did Jonah disobey God? Perhaps he was prejudiced against the Assyrians, who were enemies of Israel. Maybe Jonah worried about his personal safety in the wicked city of Nineveh. Later Jonah stated that he had not wanted to go to Nineveh because he knew God would forgive the Ninevites if they repented (Jonah 4:2). Jonah wanted God to punish Nineveh rather than to forgive the city’s inhabitants! If he preached there, they might escape divine judgment. I find it humorous therefore that instead of the Ninevites facing God’s judgment, Jonah, in refusing to respond to God’s call, ends up…

II. Experiencing God’s Discipline (Jonah 1:4-12,17)

1. Discipline can come in various ways when we refuse to respond to God! Jonah perhaps thought he could get away from God, but God is Lord over all nations and all natural forces, including the wind and the sea. The storm was so violent that the ship seemed ready to fall apart. While the pagans onboard began to pray, Jonah was fast (literally “deep”) asleep! When the captain finds Jonah asleep, he urges him to pray to his God as well! The sailors assume someone is at fault and began to cast lots to discover who. God, I believe, allowed it to fall on Jonah. His disobedience was discovered! He openly confesses that he is a Hebrew running from God! Jonah’s testimony about himself and his God, startled the sailors. They were even more afraid. The storm had intensified, and the sailors’ panic was reaching new heights. Jonah volunteered to be thrown overboard. He is unwilling to go witness to pagan Ninevites, but more than willing to die for pagan sailors! Instead, they to row toward dry land, but the storm prevailed. These pagans then addressed a prayer to Jonah’s God. They acknowledged that He was in charge of the storm. When they put Jonah overboard, however, the storm stopped. Then the sailors “feared the Lord even more” (v. 16) and they worshiped Him. God is not done with rebellious Jonah though. God appointed or “provided” a great fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah began experiencing God’s discipline in refusing to respond to God’s call.

EXAMPLE: When Jonah disobeyed, the Lord disciplined him. God sent a storm to afflict the ship on which Jonah was traveling. Ultimately the prophet was cast overboard and swallowed by a great fish the Lord provided. God still disciplines His people today. Sometimes His discipline comes in the form of allowing us to suffer the consequences of our poor choices that result from the moral order He has established in the world. At other times He intervenes more directly in our lives. The writer of Hebrews noted that God’s discipline is similar to a parent’s discipline of a child (Heb. 12:7-11).

Jonah was in the fish’s belly three days and three nights. Jesus mentioned this time reference in His discussion of the sign of Jonah (Matt. 12:39-40). Our Lord compared Jonah’s time in the belly of the fish to His time “in the heart of the earth.” Jonah, like all disobedient children, needed to be disciplined when he refused to obey God’s call to witness. We find in Jonah’s example that we can either respond to God’s call or we may end up…

III. Submitting to God’s Authority (Jonah 2:1-2)

1. Confession is not just good for the soul, it helps us to respond to God! Jonah has nothing else to “focus” on but his situation! While Jonah was in the fish, he prayed. I cannot imagine what Jonah experienced but I do know about people who have turned to God in a crisis. Some do it out of sincerity, others out of desperation. Had Jonah prayed regularly to God before this time? Probably, otherwise I believe God would not have used him. Notice that Jonah called to God, and He answered. Jonah described his situation as being in the belly of Sheol. Jonah was as good as dead. His situation resulted from His own narrow-minded disobedience. However, God heard Jonah’s prayer and responds by rescuing him. Jonah had tried to run from God, but he experienced God’s discipline. We know from chapter 4 that Jonah continued to lack spiritual maturity. Nevertheless, his prayer in chapter 2 reflects a positive response to divine discipline. The Lord’s discipline led Jonah to turn to the Lord for deliverance and to submit to His will. Submitting to God means being willing to do whatever God asks us to do. God called Jonah to preach to His enemies. God might ask you to perform some other task. Whatever God asks us to do, we need to be ready and willing to respond to His call. It means submitting to God’s authority.

EXAMPLE: David C. McCasland writes that “In his book The Empty Church, historian Thomas C. Reeves says: ‘Christianity in modern America . . . tends to be easy, upbeat, convenient, and compatible. It does not require self-sacrifice, discipline, humility, an otherworldly outlook, a zeal for souls, a fear as well as love of God. There is little guilt and no punishment, and the payoff in heaven is virtually certain. What we now have might best be labeled Consumer Christianity. The cost is low and customer satisfaction seems guaranteed.’” God calls us to trust Him through faith in His Son Jesus and then to follow Him with a life of submission. Jonah needed to learn that in responding to God’s call requires us to submit to God’s authority.


Conclusion:

In responding to God’s call:
1. We are to follow the Lord’s leadership to share His truth with others.
2. We can expect the Lord to discipline us when we rebel against His leadership.
3. We are to respond to God’s discipline with submission, repentance, praise, and obedience.