Running With God
”Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.” vs. 3
Start with discussion of this week’s events and the difficulty of the things happening in our society.
-Boston Marathon and the bombings and eventual apprehension of the bombers
-Explosion in Texas at the Fertilizer plant
-Killings in Richmond, CA
Spend time in prayer
Read Passage – Jonah 3
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. 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.
Dealing With Failure
We are continuing our 4 part series on the book of Jonah. God called Jonah to go preach to Nineveh, he refused, ran the other way, ended up in the belly of a fish, and repented of his disobedience and the fish spit him up and that’s where we pick up our story today. Verses1-2:
“Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” vss. 1-2
Last week I mentioned a concept that I want to expand a bit upon this week. It’s about the character of God and the idea that God is a God of second chances. Failure does not need to be permanent. More importantly it is important to understand how we can deal with failure and how God views failure. Let me just state that how we view failure and how God views failure can be radically different. Let’s face it, we do fail at times in our lives. Some people seem to deal with it better than others but we can safely assume that at given points in our life we experience failure. We (I know I am) can be very hard on ourselves and very unforgiving when it comes to our failures. Sometimes I can chalk up my failures to learning experiences but many times I can be very hard on myself; I mean really get down on myself. I would venture to say that many of us are that way. What about God? I believe he is a God of second chances. This story is a story of second chances.
In our story, to this point, we have focused on Jonah. Jonah failed and now we see God giving him a second chance. But let’s not forget the focus of this book in the Bible; we focus on Jonah but God wants to reach the people of Nineveh. See, they need a second chance as well. They at one time believed and they had fallen away from him. There are actually parallel stories going on here; Jonah and the Ninevites. God is giving the Ninevites a second chance too. God’s character is to forgive us and to give us a second chance to try again. That is good news.
A Big City And A Big Task
In his second chance, Jonah accepts Gods call to go to Nineveh and preach. This is a big city and a big task. Verse 3:
“Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.” vs. 3
Jonah finally arrives at Nineveh and he finds a city of somewhere between 200,000-500,00 people going about their business; living their lives. Nineveh was the flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire. As he looks around, he sees temples, shrines and statues, businesses, bartering in the marketplace, etc. The Ninevites were polytheistic at this point, they believed in many gods. They had a god for just about everything; sea gods, moon gods, rain gods, sex gods, etc. They were serious about their worship and religion too. However, they became slaves to their gods. If there was no rain, they assumed the gods were angry. If there were no crops, the gods were angry. If they couldn’t get pregnant, the gods were angry. You get the idea. Of course, there was no rhyme or reason for the reactions of their gods, for a simple reason, the gods had no power but they believed they did. They were slaves to trying to please and appease these gods. Amazingly, God loved these wicked Assyrians even though they worshiped other gods.
Enter Jonah. We don’t know how long it took him to get there but think about his appearance and countenance at this point. He could possibly look really hideous. He was in the stomach of a fish for 3 days. He could be really pale and ghostly looking. He probably went without food and might have looked a little gaunt. He probably didn’t sleep much in that time and was somewhat tired. And he could have smelled in a really bad way. This could be one scary looking dude.
So he comes into Nineveh with a message from God. We read that it took three days to go through it. Three days of walking? Not likely. Archeologists have uncovered enough of Nineveh to surmise that it was about 8 miles around the outside of the city. Not really a full days walk because 8 miles would only take two to three hours. My guess is that what this verse is telling us is that for Jonah to go through each neighborhood and for everyone to hear the message that God has for them, it would take three full days of work to make this happen. He had to get to each neighborhood and area of the city and proclaim this message. It’s not like today where they could use cell phones, the internet and Facebook to get this message out. It was word of mouth and individual contact. It was speaking on the street corners, temples, and open courts.
We cannot forget that the purpose for us having this book is that God is calling the Ninevites to himself and how he used Jonah to do that. I think from both the Ninevites and from Jonah we learn what the recovery process looks like in getting our lives right with God. There are important steps we go through in recovery.
First, and it seems so obvious, but it is so important, is the realization that we have failed or fallen short. Jonah’s message to the Ninevites is a very simple one, verse 4:
“Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” vs. 4
Jonah is bringing to the attention of the Ninevites that they have wronged God and that he is ready to act on their disobedience. Did they not realize they were sinning? Didn’t they realize they had turned from God? Maybe not. Now they do. Many times we can go about doing things without realizing that we are in the wrong. But…when it comes to our attention, are we willing to look closely at ourselves and admit we are in the wrong?
Ex. The other day I had to confront someone on something that they were doing that was effecting other people. It was a touchy subject. When I told them, they became defensive and blamed others. Three days later they called and said I was right and they just didn’t want to admit it when I talked to them. That problem could not be addressed unless they were willing to come to the realization that it was happening.
Many times we don’t want to admit our wrongs. That is hard to do and it is hard for us to admit our shortcomings. Also, many of us like to keep things in. We are stubborn and our pride gets in the way. In fact, we have a lot of pride. But acknowledging our shortcomings can be really freeing. Listen to Davis’s words from Psalm 32:5:
“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” Psalm 32:5
Recovery begins with the realization that we have done something wrong.
Warning: Our unwillingness to admit our wrongs has a detrimental effect on us. When we know, and don’t admit it, keep it in, we can think we are hiding it, we can think we are fooling others, but inside we know it and it does affect us. It comes out. It comes out in our appearance, out attitude, our countenance, etc.
Ex. What is your response to a stressful situation? Eating, drinking, smoking, anger, etc. which result in physical things like obesity, dependency, violence
The second step is repentence. We saw Jonah’s repentance, now we see Nineveh’s, verse 5:
“The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” vs. 5
Last week I gave a description of repentance as “turning and going the other way.” It’s doing a 180. But the recovery process with God is a little more. It’s also admitting that God’s ways are right and true, that it’s not God that is wrong but it is us. This is a tough thing for us to do. It doesn’t come easily to us and we are not taught this in our world today.
The world’s philosophy today is that you define what is right and wrong. You have the right to decide what is right and wrong. I decided to have some fun with this and look on line. I went to ask.com and typed in “how to decide right and wrong?” There was a place where they said “best answer.” This is what it said…
“Right and wrong is a human perception only & it’s a very relative conclusion. Something that’s right to one may be wrong to another. In society, it’s generally the popular opinion that decides what is right or wrong. But how do we decide what’s the popular opinion ? We can’t certainly go to the masses questioning what’s right. In fact we don’t need to ! Any person being brought up in a social atmosphere can make good use of their 5 senses to anticipate which is right to do & which is not. It’s basically a hit & trial process.”
I would like to think that this is abnormal but I think it is more normal today than at any other time in history. Part of repenting is admitting God is right and that we don’t have all the answers. 2 Peter 3:9 says:
“He (God) is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
God loves you, he wants the best for you and…he is patient, very patient. That is confirmed over and over again in the Bible. Repenting is trusting God’s ways are the right ways. It’s turning to God and saying I trust your ways, even when they don’t match up with mine.
And the final step is what I called reaction (Okay I had to make it 3 R’s) In verse 8 the Ninevite king says:
“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.” vs. 8
Reaction is admitting we have failed, adjusting our thought process to be in line with God’s (repentance) and then acting on it. James 2:17 says:
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17
Reacting is the willingness to act on what you know. More than that, it’s matching our intentions with our actions. We can have good intentions but it’s putting it into practice.
Notice how far the Ninevites were willing to go; they not only covered themselves in sackcloth and sat in ashes, the king and all, but they did that with the animals too. That is taking it to a higher level. Ever tried to cover an animal in sackcloth and have it sit in ashes, or stop eating? I mean that is all animals do is eat.
Real repentance is the action of walking the other way. I can have the intention of walking th other way but it doesn’t come to fulfillment until I actually do it.
Ex. When I don’t have the money to buy something and I turn and walk the other way.
Now here is the bottom line; that the recovery process leads to repair. Setting things right and getting back on line and in a healthy place. Our chapter ends in verse 10 with:
“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.” vs. 10
God wants to forgive, he wants to repair and he wants to heal. God is in the repair business. He is a God of second chances. He gave a second chance to Jonah and now he is giving the Ninevites a second chance as well.
1929 Rose Bowl
On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played University of California in the Rose Bowl. In that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California. Somehow, he became confused and started running 65 yards in the wrong direction. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, outdistanced him and downed him just before he scored for the opposing team. When California attempted to punt, Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety which was the ultimate margin of victory.
That strange play came in the first half, and everyone who was watching the game was asking the same question: “What will Coach Nibbs Price do with Roy Riegels in the second half?” The men filed off the field and went into the dressing room. They sat down on the benches and on the floor, all but Riegels. He put his blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, put his face in his hands, and cried like a baby. If you have played football, you know that a coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during half time. That day Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels. Then the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time. Coach Price looked at the team and said simply, “Men the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He did not budge. the coach looked back and called to him again; still he didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.” Then Roy Riegels looked up and his cheeks were wet with a strong man’s tears. “Coach,” he said, “I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined the University of California, I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.” Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegel’s shoulder and said to him: “Roy, get up and go on back; the game is only half over.” And Roy Riegels went back, and those Tech men will tell you that they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half. Haddon W. Robinson, Christian Medical Society Journal
God is a God of second chances. He hasn’t given up on you. You might have failed but your failure doesn’t need to be permanent. He will and he does forgive you and is willing to call on you again.