28 Jun Jonah #2 – We Are Jonah (Jonah 2:1-10)
– Howdy Pastor, Mark Driscoll here and I’m happy to report that we are now giving away the Jonah Sermon Series of Fishy Tale About A Faithful God. We take four weeks and go through one of the most interesting, curious, peculiar, well-known and hotly debated books of the Old Testament, looking at God’s reluctant Prophet. We’re calling it A Fishy Tale About A Faithful God. It’s a four-week study of the book of Jonah, verse by verse, you can find it in audio and video format at markdriscoll.org. If you sign up for the leaders letter, you’ll also receive about a 12,000-word research brief and introduction, for those of you who wanna go deeper into the book of Jonah and for those who are going to be preaching and teaching it as well. As always, just very grateful for your support, a gift of any amount and a prayer of any kind, are always appreciated. You can find everything at markdriscoll.org. Pick up the story last week, we saw that God spoke to His Prophet, Jonah, told him to go to the grave city of Nineveh and to preach against all of their evil. What did Jonah do? He literally turned and he ran for his life, as far away as he possibly could get from the presence and the Word of God. Now, we could look at Jonah and we can judge him and say, that wasn’t very obedient. He grew up in a believing home and they took him to weekly meetings like this and he studied the Bible and we’re all supposed to obey the Lord or we could actually sympathize and empathize with Jonah. And the truth is, if God told us to do the same thing that he told Jonah to do, I don’t think any of us would behave any differently. Let me give the cultural equivalent. Nineveh, this ancient city, how many of you remember where I told you it’s located presently? Where is it at? Iraq, Mosul, Iraq is basically where Nineveh is today. So, what we’re talking about is, He’s saying, all by yourself, go preach against the great, great, great, great, great grandfather’s of ISIS and the Taliban. So, imagine God shows up to you today, says, hey, here’s what I need you to do. Put on your Make America Great ball cap, book a flight, go to Baghdad, or Mosul, Iraq, take with you two things, a big Jesus flag and an old school boombox. I want a particular soundtrack. Oh, let’s say, Toby Keith, maybe Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, Kanye West and Jay Z, Made in America, throw in there a little Rockin’ In The Free World, by my man Neil and while you’re at, throw in a little Twisted Sister. We’re not gonna take it anymore. And as soon as you convene this large meeting with the Taliban and ISIS, I want you to fly the Jesus flag, hit play on the boombox and tell him it’s time to become Christians and give him an altar call. How many of you, true or false, would run as far and as fast as you possibly could? That’s exactly what he did. He was geographically told to go to Nineveh, he went the opposite direction. This was like God telling you go to Texas and instead you run to San Diego and you jump on a boat and you’re sailing as far and as fast as you possibly can. That’s the story of Jonah. Now he’s on the ship with a couple of nice spiritual, decent, kind, pagan, religious, spiritual guys and a storm comes and it is a violent storm that threatens to destroy their life and to sink their ship. And these guys, in an effort to spare Jonah’s life, they’re literally rowing against the storm, against the will of God. Jonah is absolutely, I believe, seasick. So, he’s down in the hull of the ship, just passed out, tired, sick, overwhelmed and they get so distressed, these sailors do, that they decide it’s time to start throwing their cargo off of the ship. You know you’re in trouble when you’re burning your business to the ground, okay? This is like a company just throwing away all of their inventory. They are crushing their business before this storm crushes their life. They finally go down and they wake up Jonah, what have you done? How do we fix this? And he says, basically, this is all my fault, God’s angry at me. I’m a Prophet, I’m running away from Him. And he says, here’s what you need to do, take me, literally throw me into the sea, toss me into the will of God and I will satisfy the wrath of God in my own body. And so they’re reticent to do so, but eventually they have no choice. They throw Jonah into this raging sea of God’s wrath. And we read in Jonah 1:17 “And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah and Jonah was in the belly of the fish, three days and three nights.” So, what we see is, Jonah’s running from God and God is pursuing him. This is the great theme of the Bible, that sin is where we run from God and grace is God running for us. This is even what we’re trying to depict in our illustration of the sermon, that here is Jonah running from the Lord and there is the fish right on his tail. Well, that was funny. Now, that being said, don’t pay too much attention to the fish. So many people, they think of Jonah, all they think of is the fish. All the fishes, is an ancient Hebrew form of Uber. It’s just the means by which God is going to transport Jonah to another location and his ultimate destination. So, today we pick up the story in Jonah chapter two verses one through seven, if you’ve got a Bible go there and the first thing that we will read is this, and that is about painful prayers, on dark days. “And so then Jonah prayed to the Lord,” so this is the context, he’s gonna have a meeting with the Lord. He’s gonna talk to the Lord, he’s gonna pray to the Lord. He’s been running from the Lord, now he’s turning to the Lord. Did you know that when the Bible uses this big word, repentance, what it means is, that we’re literally running from the Lord and repentance is a turn, where we turn to the Lord. That’s what’s happening here with Jonah, he’s turning around to meet with God. And some of you would think, I have run so far from God. Let me tell you a little secret, you didn’t make any distance progress. If you turn around, Jesus is right there. You’re like, I ran so fast. I’m faster. I ran so far, I caught you. God pursues us, as he pursues Jonah. Jonah’s been running as hard and as fast and as far as he can from God. As soon as he stops and turns around, there’s the Lord. Just like a parent who dearly loves a child that has gone wayward, when the child turns toward the parent, the parent is right there to meet, to greet, to love, to serve, to welcome, to reconcile. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord, his God, from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the Lord out of my distress and He answered me out of the belly of Sheol,” that is the grave and death, this echoes and sounds like the Psalms, “and you heard my voice. For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas and the flood surrounded me and all your waves and your billows passed over me,” the story continues. “Then I said, I am driven away from your sight, yet I shall again look upon Your Holy Temple,” that’s the presence of God. “The waters closed in over me to take my life, the deep surrounded me, weeds were wrapped around my head, at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever.” He’s sensing impending doom and death, “yet you brought up my life from the pit, oh Lord, my God.” And then this statement, “When my life was fading away, I remembered the Lord. And my prayer came to You, into Your Holy Temple.” We’ll deal with Jonah’s prayer, but firstly, I need to take an issue and address it so we could set it aside and proceed forward. How many of you have had this question? How did the guy live in the fish? Have you thought that? Have you wondered that? Having never been in a fish, I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ll give you three options, okay? Number one, apparently, perhaps, maybe, I don’t know, there’s a fish, that if you get in, you can survive. That’s possible, I guess. Number two, maybe God miraculously, supernaturally sustained his life. Maybe he was in the fish but God sustained his life. The third option is, he died and then was brought back to life. Now, those who would argue this position and it is a minority position, it is not the majority position, it’s a position that we discussed over dinner, as a family and it really divided us. Most of us are like, that’s not possible. It’s like the Crips and the Bloods, it really became a situation at our dinner table. And so, we had this discussion and we as a family, had fun and discussed it and you’re welcome to have fun and to discuss it, we don’t divide over it. It’s not a closed-ended but it’s an open-ended issue. But those who would make this minority position, would say Jesus declares, in Matthew chapter 12, that, as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days, three nights, so He, the Son of Man, will be in the earth three days and three nights. Jesus died and came forth. Maybe Jonah died and came forth and they would say, perhaps Jonah didn’t live at all. He died and then was brought back to life, as Jesus died and was brought back to life. I don’t know exactly what happened, but one way or another, he was one who was at least facing death, if he was not, in fact, tasting death and then he was brought forth in newness of life and he was delivered to continue in the life that God had for him. Now, that being said, let’s ponder for a moment. what it’s really like. Grace and I were just worshiping and we were talking and she said, “Grown up in church. I heard this story all the time. Everybody says, well, Jonah was in the belly of the fish.” I said, “But when you really think about it, that’s kind of a big deal.” Amen? So, think about it for a moment. How would you like to be in a fish for three days? Be honest, all my germaphobes, raise your hand. Raise your hand, raise your hand. We’re not gonna make you touch anybody, but just raise your hand. I can tell who you are. There’s no one sitting on either side of you, you’re like, I’m the germaphobe. Okay, you might purel people, right? You purel people, you don’t like germs. How many of you would not touch a fish? I’m not touching that? You’re in the fish, you’re freaking out, amen? How many of you are afraid of the dark? Especially when you’re in a place you don’t know, don’t feel safe, it’s really dark? He’s in a fish, utter, total darkness. How many of you, you’re a little claustrophobic? How many of you’re claustrophobic? You don’t like being held down? You don’t like being in closed spaces, you get very anxious? It says that he’s wrapped in what feels like seaweed and roots of trees. He can’t see what’s going on, but, he is rendered essentially immobile. How many of you would be freaking out? I would be. How many of you, can’t swim very well? He’s a Hebrew guy, he lives in the middle of a desert, like we do. I don’t know if he had a pool, 3000 years ago, but he probably wasn’t a great swimmer and now he’s in the fish. How many of you, your greatest fear is drowning? For a lot of people, that’s their greatest fear. Jonah is probably thinking to himself, okay, step one, get out of the fish. How in the world, I can’t even move? I don’t know where the front of the fish is, the back of the fish is, I can’t see anything. It really smells, I feel sick, I feel like I’m dying. Okay, I gotta get out of the fish. If I get out of the fish, then I gotta figure out where the surface is and I need to swim to the surface. And if I do swim to the surface, I’m all alone in the middle of the sea. So, best case scenario, I drown. Worst case scenario, I drown. This is a hopeless situation. Utterly, completely, totally beyond his control. He cannot save himself. He has no control over the fish, he has no control over his circumstances and as a result, he finds himself on a dark day, praying a painful prayer. How many of you have had a day like that or a season of days like that? How many of you, that explains the present condition of your life, overwhelmed? Things beyond your control, causing you great distress and difficulty? How many of you, it’s someone you know, it’s someone you love, someone you care for and that’s their present experience? And that’s the situation that they find themselves in? Emotionally, we need to connect with Jonah and the difficult place that he finds himself in. And I’ll tell you a little story. This is a special chair to me. This chair belonged to my wife, Grace’s uncle, John. He was like a grandpa to her and it was at his house. And I stayed at his house the night before we were married. Tomorrow’s actually our 24th wedding anniversary, so, Happy Anniversary sweetheart. So, I stayed with uncle John the night before we were married and I sat in this chair and I met with the Lord and I prayed and I asked Him to give us a good marriage and a good life together. And then uncle John passed away and he gave us a lot of his furniture and we were college broke. There’s two kinds of broke, broke married and college-broke married. So we were college-broke married and he was kind enough to give us some furniture and then he passed away and we got some more of his furniture and we got this chair. And when we started our first ministry of Bible teaching, we didn’t have many people, they met in our living room and so rather than having a pulpit, I just sat here and taught in the chair. And I’ve kept this chair over the years and I’ve met with the Lord a lot sitting in this chair. It’s a pretty important chair to me, it sits up in my office. And a couple years ago, we had a storm in our life. For me, it wasn’t as bad as Jonah, but for me, it kind of felt a little bit like that. And I could still remember one day, being in my office and I was going to read my Bible and as I went to pick up my Bible, my hand was trembling. How many of you have ever been in a season where there’s so much stress, you’re like, physically I’m not doing okay? So, usually, I’d get up every morning, I’d tap the red S on my chest and go conquer something and this day was different. I was like, man, I have the shakes. And I went to read my Bible and I couldn’t read it. And sometimes when you reach a certain age, kids, it’s just finding the right distance. But for me, no distance was working, I couldn’t see. And I thought, well, okay, this is odd. I waited a few days, I still couldn’t see. I went to the eye doctor and I said, “I can’t see.” And he said, “Well, everything’s fine. Are you perhaps under any stress?” “Yes, sir. I am under a lot of stress.” He said, “You’re under so much stress that your sight is gone.” I sat in my chair, day after day, in my office. And I just said, okay, I can’t read and I like to read, I read a lot I can’t even read my Bible, ’cause I can’t see. I can’t do anything ’cause it’s out of my control, so, I’m just gonna sit here and meet with the Lord. And I spent quite a few hours, over the course of quite a few days, just sitting in this chair, meeting with the Lord, talking to the Lord, listening to the Lord, praying to the Lord. I’m glad it wasn’t a fish. So, I appreciate the chair a lot. But there are times when God has us in such a position, that there’s nothing we can do, we just need to be with him. And sometimes, we want God to fix the problem and God just wants to be present with us. It’s better to have God’s presence, in the middle of crisis, than to not have God’s presence in a resolution to the crisis, because what we need more than resolution, is we need God’s presence and what Jonah is experiencing here, is God’s presence. He stopped running and then started meeting with the Lord. And so, again, imagine you’re in his place, just for a second, just close your eyes. Everybody just for a moment, close your eyes. Imagine it is pitch black, utter and total darkness for three days. That you are immobile, you can cannot move. You are utterly alone, you don’t know what day or time it is, you’re straining to breathe, you feel like you’re dying. And in your heart of hearts, you wonder if perhaps you have died and you’re sitting in some eternal place of punishment. You can open your eyes. What do you what do you do? What Jonah does, is he prays. And I’ll tell you prayer, is one of the most misunderstood things in the life of a Christian. When I was brand new Christian, I thought prayer is where you give God His job description. I worked as a concierge, in a bellhop, as a new Christian to make money during the summer at a Marriott Hotel. And my view of God was kind of like, He was the bellhop in the concierge. People would walk up to the desk, they told me to do something and I’d go do it for them and I kind of thought prayer was like that. I would go tell God what to do and then He would go do that. And what I found was, He wasn’t very good at that. He’s just a terrible concierge. And over the years, I have learned that prayer is not something that God needs, it’s something that we need. And prayer doesn’t change God, ’cause He doesn’t need to change. Prayer is what God uses to change us because we need to change. And Jonah here, prays to the Lord and it doesn’t change the Lord, but it changes Jonah to become more like the Lord. And I wrote down some things from Jonah’s prayer, six, in fact. Number one, it’s distance closing. How many of you, when you’re hurting, on your dark day, you’re suffering, you’re in crisis, or in pain, or you’re trying to love and serve someone who is, it feels like God has abandoned you, forsaken you and that God is very, very, very far away? Jonah felt that way, in fact, he was running from the presence of the Lord. He was trying to get away from the Lord. Isn’t it interesting, we all try to get away from the Lord until we need the Lord and then we want the Lord to hurry up and close the gap. Prayer is where we emotionally, spiritually close the gap. We close the distance and we recognize and remember God’s presence. Number two, it’s verbal processing. What oftentimes happens, is when there’s an experience in our life, we don’t have language to articulate it. We don’t know how to explain it. How many of you are feelers and you feel it first? And you don’t have words to explain and articulate what you’re experiencing? Prayer is where we process this with the Lord. It keeps us from gossiping, it keeps us from saying things that we later would regret and it allows us to talk with God, so here’s what I’m experiencing, here’s what I’m feeling, here’s what I’m thinking. This is Jonah praying and his prayer really echoes and sounds a lot like the Psalms, which are all prayers of intimate times that people met with the Lord. And what happens is, we verbally process what we’re experiencing with the Lord. We start to understand and have categories and then we can start to share and explain it to others and invite them in, I believe that’s part of what Jonah is doing here. We live in a culture where your wins are public and your losses are private, where your pleasures are public and your pains are private. We share your best day on social media and your worst day, you keep to yourself. So, most of us just try and present an absolute illusion of who we are. Here’s me on all my glorious, great days, here’s my parade of selfies of all my victories and conquests and joys. And then when we’re struggling, when we’re suffering, when we’re hurting, when we’re bewildered, we isolate. We don’t share that with anyone. As a result, we can get very depressed and discouraged and despondent. What Jonah does here, is he tells us, one of the darkest days, if not the darkest days of his whole life and in so doing, he invites us in. And it’s a good model for us, that we want to close the gap between us and God, we wanna verbally process with the Lord. And once we have, we wanna articulate it to others, to encourage them, to help them, to love them, to serve them, but also to invite them to journey with us as friends and that’s what Jonah’s doing. The only way we know what happened and what he said, is ’cause he told us, it was just him and the Lord. And so, there’s no way we would have an account of this event, unless Jonah was the one to reveal it to us. Here’s what I want you to know about the Trinity Church, this is just our second Sunday service. We love you, we’re glad to have you. It is my heartfelt prayer to the Lord that our church would be a safe place. And it’s my heartfelt prayer that I would be a safe person and that this would be a place that when you’re struggling and you’re hurting and you’re suffering, that we don’t point the finger at you, we don’t judge you, we don’t condemn you, that we point you to the Lord and we walk with you in love. Furthermore, even if you’ve gotten yourself into the mess, as he did, we want to enter into it with you and love you and walk with you and serve you and be a safe place for you. And I think as a younger man and a newer pastor, I was not very compassionate or empathetic, at least toward men. Women and children, pretty high empathy and compassion. Men, not so much. Jonah’s a man here who deserves a lot of empathy and compassion. He’s in a very difficult place and he invites us to enter in. And so we aspire, for this church and I aspire for its leadership, to be a healthy, loving, empathetic, compassionate, safe place. And so, even if you’ve gotten yourself into trouble, we wanna walk with you and get you through it. And that’s what the Lord does. Jonah here is praying to the Lord. And I need you to see that it helps to shift his burden. He’s in a circumstance that he has no control over. Some of you are like that. I’ve talked to some of you, the child is sick, the miscarriage is happening, the divorce has been filed, the boss says you’re fired, it’s out of your hands and control. And there are certain burdens that we bury, that we bear rather and we carry and prayer’s where we transfer the burden to the Lord. Jonah here is basically saying, Lord, I can’t do anything, this is in your hands. And just because it’s out of your hands, doesn’t mean it’s out of God’s hands. In fact, prayer is where we transfer the burden from what’s in our hands and we put it in the Lord’s hands and we say, you have to carry this, I can’t. When I was in a very difficult season, one of the pastors in my life, I met with him, he said, “How’s your prayer life?” I said, “I think it’s going pretty good.” He said, “How is your stress level?” I said, “I am more anxious and stressed than I have been in my whole life.” He said, “Then you’re not praying, you’re just complaining to God.” He said, “Prayer transitions from complaining to God, to actual prayer, when the burden is transferred. Until you’ve transferred the burden to the Lord, you’re not praying to the Lord, you’re just complaining to the Lord.” I was like, “Well, then, my complaining life is going very well, but my prayer life is not going very well.” What it also does for Jonah, is it changes his heart. He says, My Lord, and he refers to the Lord in a personal, affectionate term. It’s a hard change. His heart is warming back up toward the Lord after a season of hard-heartedness and rebellion. It transitions to soul surrendering, where he talks about, I remember the Lord and the Lord remembers me and then it really becomes the course-altering moment in his whole life. You may not be able to fix it, you may not be able to change it, you may not be able to conquer it, you may not be able to journey around it. But through prayer, with God’s presence, you can get through it, okay? That’s what the Psalmist says, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Sometimes you gotta go through it. But he talks about the Lord’s presence being with him. The thing that you fear the most, is not the thing that you should fear the most. The thing that you should fear the most, is living without the presence of God in your life. Because if God is present with you, He can get you through it. But if God is not present with you, everything has the potential of crushing you. Jonah here, turns and he meets with the Lord and he remembers the presence of the Lord. And so the question is, who is this Lord that he meets with? And this is really crucial. Well, we know that it’s the Lord Jesus. And what’s amazing, for those of you who are new Christians or non-Christians, Jesus is different than every other religious concept of God. Every other religious concept of God, in one form or fashion, says that God lives up there, far, far, far away, where there’s no suffering, where there’s no poverty, where there’s no injustice, where there’s no death, where there’s no want, lack, need or crisis. And God doesn’t come down here and get involved with us and God doesn’t suffer like us and God doesn’t know what it’s like to be us and God doesn’t go through what we go through, because He’s separated and He’s not with us. Well, Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. That Jesus is the God who comes down, He humbles himself, He understands pain, He understands poverty, He understands suffering, He understands strife He understands abandonment, He understands abuse, He understands betrayal. And here’s what Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with us in our weaknesses, but one, who in every respect, has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then, with confidence, draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and grace and defined,” what’s the word, “help in the time of need.” Help in the time, of need. What he’s saying is, you can’t look at Jesus and say, “You don’t understand.” Jesus says, “I understand.” “You don’t know how hard it is.” Jesus says, “I understand how hard it is.” “But you don’t understand what they’ve done to me.” Jesus says, “Oh, I know what it’s like to have some people betray you.” Jesus had a moment where He was wrestling with the will of God, not just in a fish but in the garden of Gethsemane. As Jonah wrestled to find himself in the will of God, so Jesus wrestled to find Himself in the will of God. And the Bible records, that Jesus was so stressed and distressed, that He was literally sweating like drops of blood. Medical doctors will tell you, that this is reserved for those who have the most overwhelming, exhausting, excruciating torment. And Jesus knew that He was going to face the wrath of God by going to the cross to atone for our sin. And He wrestled with the Father for the Father’s will and it comes to this point of surrender, not My will, but Your will be done. Now, when Jonah prays to the Lord, he doesn’t know all of this because the Lord Jesus had not yet come. We live in this privileged position in human history, where we know the rest of the story. And we know that the Lord with whom Jonah met and the Lord to whom Jonah prayed, was the Lord Jesus, a God who has been here, a God who has suffered, a God, who not only saw Himself thrown into the sea for three days, but saw Himself thrown into the grave for three days. A God who didn’t suffer as Jonah did for his own sin, but suffered for our sins as an innocent victim. And when we’re struggling, when we’re hurting, when we’re weeping, when we’re crying, when we’re failing, when we’re dying, we do not have a God who is unable to sympathize and empathize. He gives us mercy and grace and help in the time of need. Jesus is better than all false gods because the false gods are not there to help when you need them most and Jesus is. And in this meeting with the Lord Jesus, the story changes, Jonah’s life changes and everything changes. And then Jonah transitions from idolatry, to worship. Here’s how the story continues in Jonah two, eight through nine, “Those who pay regard to vain,” what’s the word, “idols, forsake their hope of steadfast love or God’s grace or mercy, but, I,” you’ve gotta make a decision at some point in your life, whether or not you’re going to worship God. Your parents made a decision for your family, but ultimately, you need to make a decision for yourself. And Jonah, at this point, he is a believer. This is what’s curious. Some of you grew up in religious households, maybe you had Christian parents, maybe you’re even a believer, but you’re rebellious, you’re hard-hearted, self-righteous, disobedient. Here’s a guy for you. ‘Cause what we tend to think is, that people in the church are the good people, the people outside of the church are the bad people. Here’s the worst guy and he’s the Prophet with a book of the Bible named after him. So, all the categories explode, amen? “Those who pay regard to vain idols, forsake the hope of steadfast love, but I,” here’s what he says, “I’m gonna make a decision today, with the voice of thanksgiving.” How many of you in Jonah’s circumstances, wouldn’t be singing songs of thanksgiving? What oftentimes happens is, we say, “Lord, deliver me and then I will thank You.” And God is saying, “Thank Me and maybe then I’ll deliver you.” We don’t worship God after He has delivered us, we worship Him in faith, that He will deliver us. Worship begins before deliverance occurs and then it continues after deliverance occurs. Otherwise, it doesn’t involve any faith. “I will sacrifice to You and what I have vowed, I will pay.” Here’s what Jonah is saying. Jonah has this revelatory moment in God’s presence in prayer, talking to the Lord and he comes to this understanding. Here he is, just literally confined and trapped and he understands, you know what, there’s really only two kinds of people in the world, idolaters and worshipers. Now, we look down and we see race, class, national, socio-economic status, income level, whatever the case may be. God looks down at human history and He sees two kinds of people, idolaters and worshipers. So, let me explain this, when He talks about idols. God, the God of the Bible, is Trinitarian, one God, three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. It’s one of the reasons we call this the Trinity Church. God is a worshiping God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they love one another, they serve one another, they encourage one another, they glorify one another, they bless one another, they care for one another and they have for all eternity and they will for all eternity. Some religions teach that God made us because God was lonely. God is not lonely, God doesn’t need us, God is fine. God then made us, the Bible teaches, in His image and likeness. I’m gonna drill down here a little bit, it’s gonna be a little complicated, but hang with me. God made us male and female in His image and likeness, to worship Him, to worship Him. And what happens when sin enters the world, we remain worshipers, but the object of our worship changes. We stop worshiping the creator, we start worshiping the created. And by worshiping, what I mean is, who or what is the center of your life preeminent, that which is most important, central and essential? It determines who you are and how you live and what you do. And idolatry is usually a good thing, in a bad place. So, it’s taking a good thing and putting it in God’s place. So, for me, I was thinking about it, I love my wife, so I can make her an idol. The center of my life, more important than God. I love my kids, all five of them, three boys, two girls, each one is a blessing. I love them so much that they could become for me, an idol, the center of my life. I love you here at the Trinity Church and I do and you could become and ministry could become, and church could become and religious work could become, an idol. Oftentimes, it’s a good thing in a bad place that becomes an idol. So, let me say this and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the God of the Bible does not exist to give you your idols. If your idol is wealth, Jesus doesn’t exist to make you rich. If your idol is health, Jesus doesn’t exist to guarantee that you’re healthy. If relationship is your idol, Jesus doesn’t have to give you a fiance. If a baby is your idol, we like babies, they’re cute. I’ll hold, kiss and pray for years, will for babies, amen? But if Jesus doesn’t give you a baby, you should still be a Christian. And we don’t use Jesus to get our idols, because Jesus is not the means to some other ends, He is the end. And that our relationships and our wealth and our life and our breath and our family, should all be for the worship of Jesus, that He’s at the center. And idolatry is what happens when we worship someone or something other than Jesus. So, here the problem with Jonah is, he’s a worshiper, but he’s an idolater. A couple of the things that he worships, number one, his own race. He’s got some racial prejudice. I don’t wanna give the story away, but in chapter four, when God saves a whole bunch of really bad people, called the Ninevites, here’s what Jonah says, “This is why I refused to go. I knew you were gonna love them.” Wow, how many of you have those people? Do you have a category of those people? You’re like, I don’t like those people, I’m glad that God made hell, so those people could have a place to be together forever and we’ll go to our place and they can have their place and our place is for our people and their place is for those people? And Jonah’s really angry. You took those people and You put them in our place, this is not how we do this. I don’t like those people. He’s got prejudice. Furthermore, I believe one of the idols that he is clinging to, is comfort. How many of you like comfort? We could tell, you’re in flip flops, shorts, some of you wore your pajamas, welcome, okay? Comfort is not a bad thing. But, when comfort becomes the center of your life, when comfort becomes the thing that you treasure most in your life, then God is not the center of your life. And part of what Jonah is saying is, I wanna be in Israel, not Nineveh. I want everybody to praise me as a Prophet. I don’t wanna go over there and tell them to repent. I wanna be with people like me. I don’t wanna be with people who hate me, I don’t wanna be inconvenienced. I don’t like the time, the travel, the money, the pain, the inconvenience and the risk. No, thank you, I have my comfortable life. I believe in you, I said the prayer, I’m gonna die and go to heaven. In the meantime, don’t hassle me. Jonah here is in the fish, realizing, there’s some idols in my life. How do you get out of your idolatry? Well, you worship God with the voice of thanksgiving. That’s your words, singing, praying, praising, proclaiming. I will sacrifice, that’s your works, living a life of service unto the Lord. And what I vowed, I will pay, that’s your wallet, here’s the three aspects you worship, your words, your works and your wallet. And the wallet is always the last thing to be converted, right? It’s always the last thing. And if I told you right now, “Give all to Jesus,” you’d say, “All, what, sin, okay? All money, no.” See, we don’t mind giving, it’s just that we don’t like to give our best, we like to give our worst. God wants your best and your worst. And what Jonah’s realizing here, the way out of his idolatry, is worshiping. With my words, I need to praise, sing, pray to, proclaim the Lord. With my deeds, I need to serve and make sacrifices for the Lord and with my wallet, I need to give generously the things that I vowed that I would pay to the Lord. There are two commandments, Jonah was familiar with them, that preceded the other eight commandments, there are 10 commandments in all. The first two commandments are these, there’s one God. The second commandment is, you’re only supposed to worship that God. If you do those two things, you will not violate the other eight commandments. You won’t commit adultery, by worshiping sex, you won’t steal, by worshiping money, you won’t lie by, worshiping your reputation, you won’t murder, by worshiping victory and conquest. The way that we stay from idolatry, is we worship, because the truth is, everyone is only always and everywhere worshiping. It’s why the alcoholic, worships alcohol, the gambling addict, worships gambling, the workaholic worships their job. The drug addict worships drugs, right? We all worship someone or something. We’re all very, very passionate. We all give our life to someone or something. And the way that we get away from our idols, is we start worshiping the Lord and that’s exactly what happens here for Jonah. So, let me say this, though I’ve taught this before and some people misunderstood, so let me say this clearly, don’t make idol hunting your idol, okay? The great theologian, John Calvin, said that the human heart is an idol factory. I would agree with that, the human heart is such an idol factory, that we can make idol hunting our idol. What do you live for? I live to find my idols and to see my idols and to see your idols and to help you see your idols and help me see your idols and help you see my idols and we spend all of our time looking into each other’s lives and picking at one another and where’s your idol? And where’s your idol? And where’s your idol? And here’s my idol and we don’t fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and idol hunting becomes our idolatry. And that’s what happens in religious communities. Here’s why it’s important. There is sin that we see and then under that, are sometimes idols that we don’t see. How many of you have tried to pull weeds in your yard? True or false, you need to get the roots to really make a difference. I was a little boy, my mom or dad, can’t remember which one, they said, Marquis, go out and pull the weeds. We had a lot of weeds. We were that poor family, that couldn’t afford to water the grass. And for some reason, the only thing that grew was weeds. All the grass would die and the weeds would just come forth. And so, I went out there and I looked at all the weeds and I thought, man, that is a lot of weeds and I don’t want to work that hard. So, what I decided was, I’ll get the weed whacker and I’ll just whack all the weeds. This will take just a few minutes and then I’m done, I get my summer day back. True or false, the weed whacker did not permanently and eternally removed the weeds. All it did was scatter them and gave me more weeds. Because in a weed, unless you pull the root you can’t see, you will never solve the problem that you do see, sin is like that. We see the sin, not the idle. The idle is the root system under the sin. And a lot of people are always trying to change their behavior, but all they’re doing is just literally weed-whacking the weeds in their life and spreading them. The only way to really cause deep change, is to pull the root and the root is the idolatry, that’s what Jonah’s getting at. How do you worship God? I had a conversation some years ago with one of the godliest man that I’ve ever met. I have the utmost regard and respect for this man, loves Jesus, knows his Bible, his wife is always smiling, they’re cute as can be, they’ve been together forever. I could still see his face. He looks like the old guy in Up. He literally looks like that guy. And I was a newer pastor some years ago and had the honor of sitting down with him and I was studying this issue of idolatry and sin and worship. I said, “Can I ask you a question? He said, “Yeah.” We were sitting down and I look him in the eye, I was like, “How do you stay away from idolatry and sin?” And he looked at me like a beagle that heard a whistle. He was like, “Huh?” Like it was the weird question, like he’d never heard this. I said, “No, no, how do you stay away from idolatry and sin?” He looked at me said, “I don’t know.” I was like, well you’re like the godliest man I’ve ever met. If you don’t know, I need help. I’m in a situation. He said, “You know, I don’t really think about idolatry and worship. I just spent a lot of time with Jesus.” I was like, “Well, that’s the answer.” That’s the answer. If you love Jesus, you pray to Jesus, you sing to Jesus, you talk to Jesus, you study the Bible about Jesus, you make your decisions in relationship with Jesus, you take your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your hurts, your wants, your lacks, your needs, your victories and your defeats to Jesus, probably don’t have a lot of time and energy for idolatry. The goal is not to stop being an idolater, the goal is to start being a worshiper. And the goal is not to make idol hunting your idol, but to have Jesus be your Lord and Jonah comes to this revelation. Now, we again, are in a privileged position of human history, we’re on the backside of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but this is the moment that he comes to. Idolatry has been the problem and worship is now the solution. Has he been delivered? Yes or no? Has the circumstances changed? No. Is anything different? Yes, Jonah is different. No, he’s not perfect. You can keep reading the book, he’s still a work in progress. But here’s what happens, the story continues. Jonah chapter two, second half of verse nine and verse 10, “Salvation,” salvation, “belongs to the Lord.” It’s what he says. He’s not yet been saved, he’s still in the fish. But he says, God is the Savior and God can save whomever He wants to save. And this is good news ’cause in Jonah chapter one, we saw God saved the sailors. Here in a moment, in Jonah chapter two, you’re gonna see God saved Jonah. Go to chapter three, God’s gonna save a whole bunch of nasty Ninevites. And the point is, God’s a savior. God can save whoever He wants. If God loves you, He loves you. If God seeks you, He seeks you. If God forgives you, He forgives you. If God saves you, He saves you. And Jonah, finally realizes this and says, well, if You just want to save a bunch of people, that’s a good idea ’cause I’m a person who needs to be saved. And I’m not gonna judge who You save or how You save, or why You save, I’m just asking that You would include me in the list of people that you’re planning on saving. There becomes this humility and gratitude and when you know you’re a sinner, and that you’re not your own savior and that you have been pursued by God, loved by God, bought by God, redeemed by God, saved by God, you’re just grateful for who God is and what He does and you’re not discouraged or frustrated by the other person, or people that He loves, because you’re no better than they are and you all deserve hell. And if God wants to save some, yay, God, that’s where He arrives. This isn’t just the theme of Jonah. This is the theme of the whole Bible. One of the greatest theologians in the modern era, he was asked, “How would you summarize the whole Bible?” And his summary was this, “God saves sinners.” God saves sinners. Sinners don’t save themselves and sinners don’t save each other. And the good news is, there is salvation for sinners and God is the sinner’s Savior, salvation belongs to the Lord. And then the Lord spoke to the fish. Hey, we saw the book open, God spoke to the Prophet, did the Prophet obey? No. God speaks to the fish and it vomited Jonah out on dry land. The fish obeys God, not the Prophet. The fish is holier than the Prophet. That’s funny, okay? That’s funny. Now, he vomited Jonah out on dry land. The only thing worse than throwing up, is being thrown up, amen? Jonah gets puked out on the beach. But God saved him, but God saved him. And the question is, who is this Savior, Lord? Who is this Savior, Lord? A few thousand years later, the Lord Jesus is walking the earth and he’s preaching and teaching and healing and casting out demons and evidencing the kingdom of God and Jesus has something to say about Jonah. He says it this way, in Matthew chapter 12, verses 40, through 41. He says, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish,” Jesus says, “so will the Son of Man,” that is He, “be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up with the judgment of this generation and condemn it, for they repented.” We’ll get there next week at the preaching of Jonah, “And behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” What Jesus is saying is, the savior of Jonah was not the fish. The savior of Jonah was not the fish, it was the Lord who sent the fish. And that Lord who is the Savior, Jesus, says, is none other than Jesus Christ. Jesus is saying, the whole story of Jonah, was pointing, foreshadowing, anticipating My coming. So, the Bible is not a bunch of stories, it’s one story. It doesn’t have a bunch of heroes, it has one hero. It is the story of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And Jonah comes along and he says, I’m greater than Jonah. Jonah was a sinner, but Jesus is our Savior. Jonah cried out to the Lord and Jesus comes as that Lord. Jonah spent three days and three nights in a fish for his own sin, and Jesus will spend three days and three nights in the grave for our sin. I wrote a few things down. Jonah ran from the will of God, but Jesus remained in the will of God. Jonah met with God unwillingly, but Jesus met with God continually. Jonah wrestled with God and the fish but Jesus wrestled with God in a garden. Jonah was punished for his sin, but Jesus was punished for our sin. Jonah was in a big fish for three days and nights, but Jesus was in a grave for three days and nights. Jonah wanted his enemies damned, but Jesus came that His enemies might be saved. Jonah wrongly thought that he was better than others, but Jesus alone, really is, better than all others. Jonah prayed to God the Savior, but Jesus came as God and Jonah’s Savior and Jonah came forth from his burial to proclaim God, but Jesus came forth from his burial to prove that He is God. Amen? Lastly, every year, to this day, the Jewish people will assemble in their synagogue and the book of Jonah is read and the people then say, in unison, “We are Jonah.” We are Jonah. So, we’ll say it together on the count of three.
– [All] We are Jonah.
– We are Jonah. God spoke to Jonah and God speaks to us. We ran from God and God ran for us. We didn’t want to be in God’s presence and God wanted to bring His presence to us. We got ourselves into a lot of trouble and God sent his Son as our Savior. God did not give up on Jonah and God doesn’t give up on us. God didn’t condemn Jonah and God doesn’t condemn us. God did not remove His love from Jonah and God does not remove his love from us. God was not finished with Jonah and God is not finished with us. And God had a message for Jonah and God has a message for us. And God had a mission for Jonah and God has a mission for us. I have good news for you the Trinity Church, we are Jonah. And we have a Savior and Lord who meets with us in our depths and our death and our despair. And if we worship Him, He is present with us and He delivers us. So, that’s what we’re gonna do, or at least that’s what I’m gonna do and you’re certainly welcome to join in. I say, we should worship God today, amen? I think that we should sing to Him, I think that we should thank Him, that we should meet with Him, that we should apologize to Him, that we should trust Him and perhaps see Him deliver us to a new life, as he did Jonah. Father God, thank you that I get to teach the Bible here at the Trinity Church. I love the book, I love you. I love these people, I love what I get to do. I thank you, Lord, that the scriptures are all about good news. This is good news. We don’t save ourselves, You save us. We don’t clean ourselves up, You clean us up. We don’t pursue You, You pursue us. We don’t change our life, You change our life. You never leave us, never forsake us, never turn your back on us. Never condemn us, never hate us, never despise us. You pursue us, You love us. You forgive us, You speak to us, You heal us, You change us, You use us. So God, we come now to partake of communion, to remember the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. We come to remember His three days and nights, not just in a fish but in a grave, not for sins that He committed, but for sins that we’ve committed. And Lord God, we thank you, that as Jonah came forth, Jesus came forth and that one day, as Lord God you spoke to the fish, You will speak to grave and that we will come forth out of death into newness of eternal life to sing the praises of Jesus and whose name we pray, amen.