Jonah the Reluctant Prophet

 really a wonderful time

already I don't know about you but I

know that my soul has been really fed

and I felt the rich anointing of God's

Spirit and God's presence for the past

two weeks I've been really living in the

Book of Jonah I don't know about you but

sometimes I find that my Bible reading

or my time of reflection my time when

I'm waiting in the Lord is is just

returns again and again again to a a

given place of Scripture and that's what

was happening with me over the last two

weeks because it's a very short book and

because sometimes I was reading it and

sometimes I was listening to it and in

audio as we have the privilege of doing

nowadays on being able to have in our

devotion somebody else's voice reading

the scriptures and we can be driving or

whatever I listened to and read the Book

of Jonah at least 20 times probably more

and just found in it's something that I

felt like God was wanting to speak into

us as a community of people as a as a

body of individuals really needing to

hear something fresh from the Lord but

before I go into that portion of

Scripture which is the primary focus of

what I'm wanting to look at on Wednesday

evening when we were gathered in the e-l

room up in the old building I felt so

strongly that the Lord was speaking

about that portion of scripture in

Jeremiah and the potter's house that I

felt like well how am I supposed to

process this you know I've got this

focus on Jonah

and yet I feel prompted as well about

this other portion of Scripture and so

I'm going to begin even though our focus

is on the story of Jonah I want for us

to look at what Jeremiah experienced

here because God was speaking to him and

it says in chapter 18 and we were going

to be reading verses 1 through 10 this

is the word that came to Jeremiah from

the Lord go down to the potter's house

and there I will give you a message so I

went down to the potter's house and I

saw him working at the wheel but the pot

that he was shaping from the clay was

marred in his hands so the Potter formed

it into another pot shaping it as seemed

best to him then the word of the Lord

came to me he said can I not do with you

Israel as this Potter does declares the

Lord

like the clay in the hand of the Potter

so are you in my hand Israel if at any

time I announce that a nation or a

kingdom is to be uprooted torn down and

destroyed and if that nation I warned

repents of its evil then I will relent

and not inflict on yet the disaster that

I had planned and if at another time I

announce that a nation or a kingdom is

to be built up and planted and if it

does evil in my sight and does not obey

me then I will reconsider the good I had

intended to do for it

what I see this posing and we can

actually look at another another verse

of scripture it's and we don't have this

ready for the rejection but Romans 9

verse 20 the battery is dying Oh

interesting

thank you well we can't do without

batteries can we not in this day and

dive over in Romans chapter 9 verse 20

it says but who are you a human being to

talk back to God shall what is formed

say to the one who formed it why did you

make me like this this is really what I

feel in my heart we need to look at

there is in our society a very very deep

sense of mistrust for how we have been

made or how we have been formed I'm not

going to take this on kind of a normal

trajectory of that thought but I really

I really want for us to begin to examine

in the process of our life wherever we

are are you at peace with how God has

made you Romans 9:20 it talks about this

but who are you human beings to talk

back to God

who are we to say why have you made me

this way why have you called me to do

this thing I want to do that I want to

be something other than what I am and I

will say to you the processes of God are

long whether we like it or not we

are given this thing called lights and

through the process of light and living

God is at work all the time all the way

through even when we feel like nothing's

happening there's a lot happening when

you think nothing's happening some of

what happens is just waiting and how

good are any of us about just waiting

right how many of you like to wait for

the bus

not too many how many of you like to

rush and go through traffic and get to

the airport and and and go through all

of the things that you have to go

through where they kind of strip you

down and make you walk through machines

and and pat you on your behind or

whatever you know and then you say okay

you can go through and then you you're

at the gate and you wait you know we

don't want to wait we're not happy about

some of these processes that God gives

to us but we have to trust him we have

to trust him we're going to talk today

about Jonah the reluctant prophet and as

a backdrop to this story I want to just

talk for one minute about when this word

came to Jonah and I'm not going to read

it all right now but it says and the

word of the Lord came to Jonah go to the

great city of Nineveh and preach against

it because it's wickedness has come up

before me now to get a little

perspective on this I want us to think

about the city of Nineveh now

what would be perhaps III don't want to

take you there today I want us to go

back to to 2014 Isis has taken over

almost all of Syria and most of the

western portion of Iraq and one of the

cities that is really an absolutely

dominated area is the city called Mosul

and Mosul if you know they literally

were destroying every vestige of

Christianity everything that was there

that that represented anything of

Judaism or anything other than their

particular brand of their Islamic belief

I mean you have it you can look it up

you can see the buildings that were all

torn down if anybody works was to go in

there you know what would life be like

for them imagine if God called you in

2014 to go into Mosul and be a witness

for him and tell them to repent from

what they're doing now we have a slide

here and we're going to show the city of

Mosul and if you look up here it's

exactly the same place as Nineveh

exactly the same place Nineveh was on

the east side of the river most of Mosul

is on the west side of the Tigris River

but you get the perspective here this

huge city and just as it was in 2014 and

you can put the slide down just as it

was at that point and that time when

Jonah was getting ready to go in he was

having to go into a horrible place

we're people tortured and killed or

there were armies that absolutely

dissembled people and this is what Jonah

was being called to go into and it

wouldn't be an inappropriate kind of

parallel to be able to speak of ancient

Nineveh as going into Mosul four years

ago now I'm gonna read this first

portion of it and the word the lord came

to jonah son of amat i go to the great

city of Nineveh and preach against it

because it's wickedness has come up

before me but Jonah ran away from the

Lord and he headed for Tarsus he went

down to Joppa and he found a ship that

was bound for a port and after paying

the fare he went abroad and he sailed

for Tarshish to flee from the Lord then

the Lord sent a great wind on the sea

and such but such a violent storm arose

that the ship threatened to break up all

the sailors were afraid each cried out

to his own god and they threw the cargo

into the sea to lighten the ship but

Jonah had gone below deck and he lay

down and he fell into a deep sleep and

the captain went to him and he said how

can you sleep get up and call on your

God maybe he will take notice of us so

that we will not perish then the sailors

said to each other

come let us cast lots to find out who's

responsible for this calamity they cast

lots and the lot fell on Jonah so they

asked him tell us who's responsible for

making all this trouble for us what kind

of work do you do

where do you come from what is your

country from what are your people he

answered I am a Hebrew and I worship the

Lord the God of heaven

who made the sea and the dry land this

terrified them and they asked what have

you done they knew he was running from

the Lord because he had already told

them so the sea was getting rougher and

rougher so they asked him what should we

do to you to make the sea calm down for

us Nick Mia throw me into the sea he

replied and it will be calm

I know that it is my fault that this

great storm has come upon you and then

in the seventeenth verse so it says now

the Lord provided a huge fish and it

swallowed Jonah and Jonah was in the

belly of the fish three days and three

nights and from inside that belly of the

fish we see Jonah begins to cry out in

his own repentance in his own sense of

sorrow in his own sense of despair

clinging to life itself and then he gets

thrown up onto dry land in verse 10 of

that chapter two it says and the Lord

come out of the fish and he vomited him

up onto dry land and then in chapter 3

it says 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 Jonah obeyed the word

of the Lord and went to Nineveh now

Nineveh was a very large city and it

took three days to go through it Jonah

began by going a day's journey into the

city proclaiming 40 more days and

Nineveh will be overthrown and the

Ninevites believed God a fast was

proclaimed and all of them from the

greatest to the least put on sackcloth

verse 10 when God saw that they did and

how they turned from their evil ways he

relented and did not bring on them the

destruction that had been threatened now

I want for us to look at what's

happening here we have another slide

that I'd like to show and this shows

Jonah is over here in Israel and he gets

the call of God to go over to Nineveh

but instead he books passage for where

Tarshish that might show at all Nineveh

this way

where is Jonah GUI he as far as he could

get I mean as far in the other direction

I mean in that then that part of the

world then this is probably all he knew

about geography and this was as far away

from the call of God on his life as he

could get and that's the direction that

he headed out in well this is not

abnormal for our humanity and I want us

to understand you know it's it's easy

for us to sit piously in our comfortable

seats and judge another man in this case

Jonah and say you know he wasn't

obedient to God he went exactly the

opposite direction but I'm gonna ask

this very plainly haven't you gone in

the opposite direction yeah I mean if we

went to each person and you asked almost

every individual in this room at some

point some part of your journey when God

asks you to do something you just went

the other way you went the opposite way

isn't that what happened with Adam and

Eve given one command do not eat of the

fruit of this tree you could have

off the fruit of every other tree in

this wonderful garden so what do they do

they get the fruit of that tree you know

this is just our we call it's in nature

it is just the human reaction you see

Moses being told of God speak to the

rock and he strikes it and anger and and

so he is not able to go into the

Promised Land that he had been have been

promised to and and and we can look on

and we look at Jacob and we can look at

David and Bathsheba and we can look at

Samson and Delilah and and you can look

at even great Abraham and here he is

lying about his wife saying she's my

sister implying that this King could

have her and so we look and we see the

human nature is to run from the call of

God on our lives

all of these people ended up in their

own pits we've ended up in our own pits

sometimes a pit of our choosing

sometimes a pit of deception that we've

fallen into but every person finds

themselves like Jonah running but aren't

you glad that God pursues us I am so

glad that God doesn't just let us go and

he sent this great fish and so the pit

that Jonah fell into Jacob fell into an

actual pit his brother's cast him into

the pit because he was so arrogant they

couldn't stand the man

Jonah is in his own pit the pit is the

belly of the great fish I wonder what

your pit is I've seen mine I don't want

to go back there

this story begins with talking about

this great city and how that God looks

at this city the city that came up

before him it says go to the great city

of Nineveh and preach against it because

it's wickedness has come before me

do any of us understand what happens in

God's mind when somehow cultures cities

nations or persons step beyond that

point of almost like no return and then

judgment comes it's really a thing

genuinely to be feared in a holy way

that we do not go beyond the measure of

grace that God is willing to grant to us

and he's always willing to if we're

willing to repent but like Pharaoh in

Egypt he hardened his heart he hardened

his heart he hardened his heart God sent

another miracle showed a way of escape

and he relented but then he hardened his

heart again and he hardened his heart

again after all of those plagues he

hardened his heart what we have to be

really attuned to and really careful of

is that and it happens on an individual

basis but God also deals with nations

and he need any deals with cities as we

see with Nineveh there are times when

things get so bad that the the most

gracious thing that God can do is God

sends judgment what we do with that

judgment is ultimately something that we

have to measure we have to examine we

have to pray about

but God cares you know God cares about

everything and I'm gonna just go back

here a little bit and in the scripture

and I'm gonna read about Jonah chapter 4

where it says but did Jonah

all of this the fact that Nineveh

repented and turned and that God forgave

him and held back but to jonah it says

this seemed very wrong and he became

angry he prayed to the Lord isn't this

what I said Lord when I was still at

home and that is what I tried to

forestall by fleeing to Tarsus I knew

that you are gracious and compassionate

God slow to anger and abounding in love

and God who relents from sending

calamity now Lord take away my life for

it's better for me that I die but the

Lord replied is it right for you to be

angry is it right for you to be angry

what is our natural response in these

things if God told you to go and tell

somebody that they were going to be

destroyed because evil had come up to

that such a such a height that it was

almost like going to beyond the pale

and God was going to send judgment and

UN declare that and then nothing

happened because they repented you can

understand a little bit of his reaction

you can understand a little bit of his

sentiments that's going on there but we

see here that God had a different view

and in the latter part of this chapter

four it says but the Lord said you've

been concerned and I got to back up just

a little bit and develop the story there

because I I'm not going to read all of

it but we see that there was this plant

that grew up in chapter 4 and it covered

Jonah and he found refuge under it from

the heat

because was very hot and he was happy

about the plant then the next day the

Lord it says the Lord caused a

caterpillar a worm to go and eat at the

plant and kill the plant and Jonah was

very very angry about this and so what

I'm the point at the point that I'm I

want for us to get about this is that we

look at the little things we look at the

tiny things we look at the circumstances

about a plant and the Lord said to Jonah

he said you have been concerned about

this plant though you did not end it or

make it grow

it sprang up overnight it died overnight

and you and should I not be concerned

for the great city of Nineveh in which

there are more than a hundred and twenty

thousand people who cannot tell their

right hand from their left and most of

the commentaries on this say that means

they were children they were little

children a hundred and twenty thousand

people who didn't know their left or the

right hands and also many animals so God

God sees the big picture but here's

Jonah in the midst of this situation and

what is he looking at he is looking at

himself he is looking at his comfort he

is looking at a plant that's giving him

shade and when the plant that's giving

him shade is no longer there he is mad

at God now I I mean that kind of puts it

into perspective again are we going to

judge this man Jonah no this is about

this is about more than that it's really

about us it's about how we look at

things you know God he has it all

he has the whole of mankind he has all

of creation he has all of the cosmos

from the greatest thing of that we

understand the universe all the way down

to the quarks and gluons that make up

the subatomic structure that we know of

now and there's more that we don't know

yet and he understands it all and he

keeps it in perspective and he's

ordering things rightly okay what are we

supposed to do in the midst of it we

need to be able to say yes to the Lord

in whatever he is calling now pastor

Roberto said something last week that is

very important for us to hear and so I

am going to just quietly attempt to

restate it very very briefly he talked

about how we are becoming a people of

war that we have to be prepared for

battle and it was kind of a warning to

get your heart into a resilient place

because you can't necessarily take pity

on absolutely everybody and everything

when you are going into war when you are

going into battle now I am believing I

believe that the Lord is very clear that

he is taking this church and he is

taking all of us as both individuals us

as a church how we fit into the body of

Christ in the city of Boston and the

region of the United States he is

reshaping and reforming us just the same

as Jeremiah going down to the potter's

house and said Lord you're giving me a

lesson here you're giving me a message

and what is the message the mess

is that God reforms things he reforms

things for his purpose and he's

reforming things right now I don't know

what it means but I do know this that

we're not to be afraid of it I know that

were not to be afraid of it

and one of the things that he is

reforming us into is making us into a

people who can do battle now does that

mean that you stopped caring for

individuals no no it doesn't you have to

have you have to have this capacity as

God has this capacity to have the care

and the love and the affirmation for

individuals but yet have this larger

scale and this bigger vision this

greater understanding of what's going on

we're in the midst of a very very

difficult time to be able to navigate

and the navigation of this time is very

very important we are going to have to

be men and women that are strong

resilient powerful we are going to have

to understand that there are kingdoms

that are going to come crashing down and

I'm not sure what that all means I don't

have to be sure and neither do you you

have to stay close to God and you have

to listen to what he's telling you to do

and you have to be obedient to do that

but obedience is very important in this

season we have this announcement that

was made just moments before about

evangelism and you know what there there

is somehow in the minds of some people

the idea that well if you're going to be

evangelistic and you're going to be

doing that then you're going to be in

people's faces and and confronting them

about sin and and different things you

know what there may be times when that's

necessary and we have to be okay about

that but we never

ever want to lose sight of god's heart

of compassion for everything his heart

and his compassion is there but it's

also a time where we are going to have

to be really really strong I I had the

opportunity of spending some time with

the gentleman one of the gentlemen who's

going to be speaking there James Sedaris

and you know a James was asking the Lord

Lord I believe that you're wanting to

win souls and and he prayed about it and

he thought that he heard a number and

then he or he thought of a number and he

and he put it before the Lord and the

Lord said no ask for more and so he

prayed again and and and he had a number

and he and he put it out there and and

he said ask for more and and it it began

to grow in in his heart almost like

something to be overwhelming and because

I might tell it wrong and I don't want

to do that I'll let him tell you the

whole story but in essence what he came

to is he came to believe Lord I want to

believe you for a billion souls over the

next 20 years to come into the kingdom

and I was in a conversation just a week

ago with somebody over in in Colorado

Springs a friend of mine and and he said

you know when we talked about this he

said well maybe that's too small

God wants every he's not willing that

any should perish but that all should

come to repentance now what does that do

to you in a certain sense what it does

to me is it makes me feel so

insignificant and so inadequate to the

task the mat the matter of it is is it's

God's business and it's God's call it's

nothing to do with us I mean yes we have

to say yes to

he's giving to us to do what he's

putting before us what he's calling us

into but I'm telling you this God wants

millions and millions of people to get

saved and they won't get saved unless we

somehow change our perspective if our

perspective is simply that well the Lord

cares and he's watching over everybody

and well they'll yeah the God will save

the ones he's gonna he's gonna say

that's not how it works folks it doesn't

happen that way the moves of God that

you can look down through history happen

when people begin to own a sense a

burden a sense of care now I'm not

talking about putting anybody under

condemnation I'm not talking about

putting heaviness on anybody that they

cannot bear William Booth who had one of

he he stewarded one of the great moves

of God's Spirit in in the 1870s through

the 1890s the the year 2000 even he said

rather than send people three years to

seminary or Bible College he said I

would rather take a person and hang them

over hell so they could see people in

hell

for one minute and that would do more to

change lives and put a fire in them you

know I mean it's really what do you

believe it comes down to that if you

want to see people saved you have to

believe they have to get saved from

something and you know what I don't

think people in our culture and in our

time want to think that way we I don't

think we want to think that way but that

is how God sees it who taught about Hell

more than anybody it was Jesus literally

oh is this it uncomfortable now Brandon

you have

really done it this is not comfortable

is it gonna make you comfortable knowing

that you could have spoken to somebody

and you could have prayed for and cared

for them and you didn't and they ended

up being lost for eternity out of

fellowship with God you know I know I

know this isn't delicate I'm not being

seemingly kind what is kind what is the

word of God say I mean let's return to

the Word of God people let's return to

the Word of God what is the word of God

teach what does it say it tells us there

is a dividing line it tells us that God

cares about that dividing line it tells

us that if we want to be like him we're

going to own that conviction and God's

gonna have to do something inside of us

God can do that but it's gonna feel

almost like Jonah wanting to run most of

us want to come to church because we

want to feel his presence and because we

want to experience the fellowship and we

need that I need that I want

I love his presence I'm telling you

there is no thing on earth that I

treasure more than to be in the presence

of God with God's people worshiping him

and having that transcendent moment

where the Spirit of God just opens up

the heavens and you just sense him and

you feel him and you experience him

God wants that for everyone God wants

that for our neighbors God wants that

for people who are destitute for people

that are troubled and they are trouble

to your life I mean they're just trouble

you know it's like we're inviting

trouble when will you talk that way

we're looking for problems and and we're

gonna find lots of them because getting

people through the process of coming to

Jesus of getting saved of really getting

turned around getting their life

straightened out moving on in God I mean

it is a journey and it's a mess and it's

troublesome and it's troubling but it's

all good it's the good kind of trouble

so I'm gonna ask us to stand and we're

just going to pray that as God begins to

put in our spirit this passion for souls

you know you can't really do evangelism

effectively without having a love for

the lost and so I'm with you folks this

is not me pontificating from a pulpit

and not feeling the impact of this Jesus

you know we are desperately in need of

your heart for the lost I confess to you

Lord that when I see people with their

hand out on the street

I feel troubled over my hardness of

heart

lord I feel troubled when I see the

people on mass Avenue stumbling but God

that feeling troubled has got to

translate into action it's got to

translate into tangible systemic

effective ways of loving the lost Lord I

pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to

begin to rise in us as a congregate body

we cannot do this in our own flesh we

cannot do this Lord we can't even get a

burden for the Lost

without it coming as an impartation from

you

but lord i simply ask not all of us are

called to go to great cities like

Nineveh and make bold declarations there

but every one of us are called to make

bold declarations to our neighbors to

our friends and father I ask that your

Holy Spirit will begin to give us the

strength that comes from above strength

that comes from you

transforming strength Lord father your

disciples seemed to be so impoverished

after you left and you told them to

tarry and to wait in Jerusalem until

they were endued with power from on high

me and Lord it just takes you doing the

work you imparting your passion

father we think of Jonah angry with God

angry at you Lord angry because a worm

had come and devoured a plant

[Music]

he had compassion on the plant you have

compassion on people you have compassion

on the lost father I ask that you would

lift up our eyes so that we could see

the city with new eyes with different

eyes I ask Lord about this worship

experience that's going to be happening

in Boston on the common on Thursday Lord

you'd show us whether we're to

participate whether we're to be here at

the evangelism class whatever it is just

being obedient to you is what's

important

father there's so many things that you

are going to be doing to raise us up to

transform us we ask Holy Spirit that you

would have complete Liberty to do so in

Jesus name