God's Relentless Mercy - The Story of Jonah2
On Sunday, we heard from Jesse Phillips to kick start our summer series, “Age of Heroes: Classic Bible Stories and What They Really Mean.” He took us through the story of Jonah, beginning by explaining to us what Jonah ISN’T about. Often we hear children’s ministry versions of classic Bible heroes and the supposed lessons that God wants to teach us about them. Jonah is no different, and so he read us a typical Sunday school story meant to convey how “God wanted to teach Jonah a lesson” by sending a whale swallow him. Moral of the story? Obey God or he will punish you.
Is that what Jonah is about? Far from it. God didn’t want to teach Jonah a lesson…he wanted to lavish his grace and mercy on him, and on the people of Nineveh. So his first point explained how laced throughout the book of Jonah is God’s mercy towards Jonah. Moral of the real story? Even through Jonah’s disobedience God never stopped pursuing him. What an amazing truth!
But it was Jesse’s second point that really hit home for me. You see, Jesse explained, not only did God relentlessly pursue Jonah with His mercy, but He also pursued Ninevah with that very same mercy. To make this really vivid, he explained the historical and cultural context in which Nineveh was placed at that time, and how it was a crumbling Assyrian city towards the end of their empire. Assyria was a hated enemy of the Jews, and mercilessly slaughtered and continually harassed the Israelites. No wonder Jonah didn’t want to go there. And no wonder why Jonah reacted in anger when the people actually repented when they heard the warnings of the prophet.
And so Jesse camped out in Jonah 4, highlighting God’s response to Jonah. He explained how the book didn’t end with everyone living happily ever after. It ended with an embittered prophet and a merciful God who mercifully hammered home to Jonah the reality that God’s mercy extends even to His enemies.
And weren’t we all his enemies? Just like the people of Nineveh, we didn’t worship God as we should, and we chased after foreign gods and life’s empty pleasures. But God’s mercy pursued us. God’s heart of compassion and love was stirred when he saw the decadent situation we were in. And just like he sent Jonah to Nineveh, God sent exactly what we needed at exactly the right time. In spite of our hatred of him, God chased us down and showered us with his mercy. In the car ride home my husband and I heard a Plumb song entitled “Don’t Deserve You” come on the radio, and it held new meaning for me. I ran from him, and He came after me. God’s stalwart persistence to love his enemies (including me!) and save those who call on the name of his Son is certainly undeserved, and is cosmically outlandish. What other God does that?!!
Jesse ended the message by asking a piercing and convicting question: Who is your Nineveh? Who is one person you can’t bear to think of calling on the name of the Lord to be saved? Who do you NOT want to be in heaven? Like Jonah, who is one whom you would be indignant and angry if God chose to save them? A family member who deserted you? A friend who hurt and sinned against you? A bitter and nasty coworker? A boss who makes your life miserable? If we answer that there is in fact someone like that in our life, what would the story of Jonah tell us? It tells us that God pities them and longs to show them compassion, just like He does for us…and maybe we’re the ones who are supposed to tell them this very good news…
Your heart is gold and how am I the one
That you've chosen to love
I still can't believe that you're right next to me
After all that I've done
I don't deserve your love
But you give it to me anyway
Can't get enough
You're everything I need
And when I walk away
You take off running and come right after me
It's what you do
And I don't deserve you
Click HERE to listen to the sermon
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