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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Jonah Part 2: Jonah Meet Your Fish
Text:Jonah 1:5b-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Grace
 
Added:2022-07-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Psalm 139

Text: Jonah 1:5b-17

 

JONAH, MEET YOUR FISH

  1. God’s Unmistakable Message

  2. God’s Unrepentant Prophet

  3. God’s Infuriating Grace

 

  1. Psalm 96: 1, 2, 3, 5

  2. Psalm 19:1-3

  3. Psalm 139: 1, 5

  4. Hymn 54: 1, 2, 8

  5. Psalm 36: 2, 3

  6. Hymn 83: 1-2

 

Words to Listen For: sweat, tremble, nationality, volcano, pre-Christian

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. How are rattlesnakes like fish?

  2. Note all the “but Jonahs” and the “but Gods”

  3. What was Jonah’s opportunity to preach?

  4. Is Jesus like Jonah?  Why is this important?

  5. Where is the grace shown?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved Congregation of Jesus Christ,

Have you ever been in a conversation where it feels like you’re going nowhere?  You try as hard as you can, but people just don’t understand.  You can’t get your point across.

Now, maybe the challenge there is one of language.  Maybe the person you’re speaking to doesn’t understand English very well, or can’t make out your accent.  Or maybe you don’t speak English very well, and you’re using the wrong words.

Or maybe your message is rejected because you’re too old or too young.  Maybe you’re a man and have been told, no uterus, no opinion.  This is what’s known as MISANDRY.  A hatred of men, simply because they’re men.  Or, maybe you’re a woman and you encounter a misogynist.  Someone who hates women because they’re women.  And so you aren’t heard.

I think, for whatever reason out there…understandable or ridiculous…all of us have, at one time or another, been ignored.

And sometimes, the same thing happens to God.  No matter what God says, or how He calls out to us, we ignore Him.  We know what He wants us to do, He’s made it very clear in His Word, but we refuse to listen.  And, for some of us, God changes His tactic.

If you don’t listen to the Bible as you’re reading it, maybe God will send a preacher on the pulpit with a word just for you.  If you ignore the preaching, maybe God will send an elder into your home to challenge you.  Or, sometimes, something more dramatic.

I heard a story once, I don’t know if it’s historically true or not, but it makes a very true point in a memorable way.

There once was a farmer, with 3 sons - Jim, John, and Sam.  And this family of 4 wanted nothing at all to do with God.  They lived in a small town with only one church.  They knew everyone, everyone knew them, and for years, people would share their faith with the farmer and his sons, but there never seemed to be any headway.  They just had no time at all for church or for God.  They even refused to let the pastor in the house.

One day, the youngest son, Sam, got bit by a rattlesnake.  The doctor was called in to treat Sam, and the Pastor stopped by to see if he could pray with the family.  He was welcomed in, and when he knelt down to pray, he prayed a very interesting prayer.

He said, “O Wise and Righteous Father, we thank you that in your wisdom, you sent this rattlesnake to bite Sam.  He’s never been inside the church, never prayed, never even acknowledged your existence.  But now, we trust that this experience will be a valuable lesson for him, and will lead to genuine repentance and true faith.”

And then the pastor took it a step further.  “And now, O Father, we ask that in your love and wisdom, you will send another rattlesnake to bit John, and another to bite Jim, and a big one to bite their dad.  It seems that our efforts over the years could not do what this rattlesnake has done in just a few moments.

And so, we conclude that the only thing that will do this family any good…is a rattlesnake.  We therefore pray, O Lord, that you would send us bigger and better rattlesnakes.”

Sometimes this is how it works with us.  We don’t always listen.  God is not always heard by us, because sometimes what He says is very inconvenient.  Sometimes what He says isn’t pleasant or easy.  But the best things are almost all difficult things.  Sometimes the easy thing IS the right thing, but so often, there is a little sweat, or even blood required to do what is right.

And this is because God loves us too much to give us an easy life.  I’ll say that again.  God loves us too much to give us an easy life.  But it also doesn’t always have to be quite so hard as we make it.

If Jonah had listened to the word of the LORD telling him to go to Nineveh…it wouldn’t have been easy…but it also wouldn’t have been nearly this hard.

If the storm worked to bring Jonah to repentance, no fish would have been necessary.  But, as we will hear, Jonah persisted.

And so did God.  Jonah persisted in rebellion, God persisted in grace.

If not a message…if not a storm…then a fish it is.  God is prepared to go all the way to bring us back to Him.

So this morning, listen as God says, in love and in grace:

 

JONAH, MEET YOUR FISH.  We will see:

  1. God’s Unmistakable Message

  2. God’s Unrepentant Prophet

  3. God’s Infuriating Grace

 

God’s Unmistakable Message

Last time we were introduced to Jonah.  We were introduced to a story that many of us know.  A story that ranks among the “Big 5 Bible Stories for Kids.”  Moses in the Basket, David and Goliath, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, the Fiery Furnace, and Jonah and the Big Fish.

But sometimes familiarity with a story can cause us to miss some very important parts of the story.  Because, if I would ask one of the children to explain Jonah to me…it would probably go like this:

  • Jonah ran from God

  • God humbled Jonah with a whale

  • Jonah preached

  • Nineveh repented

A child might say that, or even an adult.  These are, after all, the 4 basic parts of the story, but it’s so much more than just that.

Let’s begin at what might seem like a strange place to start.  Chapter 1:5b

But Jonah

See, here’s another “but Jonah.”  We heard this morning that, where “but God” is the gospel - very good news - “but Jonah” is bad news.  “But Jonah” is rebellion.

But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.

Remember, there was a storm brewing at this time.  And this was no ordinary storm.  We read this morning in verse 4 - But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.  Then the mariners were afraid and each cried out to his god.

These mariners, these sailors, were experienced sailors.  They knew how to sail.  This was no ordinary storm, and they knew it.  This is shown more later when they choose to cast lots to figure out the divine origin of the storm.

But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.

Now, there are preachers who take this in two different ways.  There are those who say that Jonah was perfectly at peace.

He was sleeping in the boat because finally he felt he had escaped from God.  He felt that he had outrun God.  He had trust…not that God WAS THERE - that trust that made Jesus sleep in a boat in a storm - but the trust that God WASN’T THERE anymore.  He could finally breathe a sigh of relief.  He could finally sleep.

And that’s possible…the REASON for Jonah’s sleeping isn’t there in the text.

But it is more likely that Jonah is sleeping because he is exhausted.  Exhausted in every sense of the word.  He was trying to outrun God.  He was so angry, so frustrated with the message that he wanted to shut down.  But he knew he couldn’t stay, and so he went to Joppa and found a ship.  And finally he could just pass out.  From exhaustion, from spiritual and emotional turmoil.  He didn’t want to deal with what was happening, so he decided to sleep.

But the captain came to him.  Verse 6 - What do you mean, you sleeper?  Arise!  Call out to your god!  Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.

This was one of the worst ways to be woken up.  Imagine it.  You’re exhausted.  DEAD TIRED, emotionally, physically…and then a stranger comes up to you and shakes you awake, rebuking you and telling you that, in a few minutes, you might be DEAD.  This is pretty rough.   But for Jonah…it gets worse.  What was worse than the situation…were the words themselves.

Arise! Call out!

These were the VERY WORDS THAT GOD HAD SPOKEN TO JONAH!  These were the very words that Jonah was running from.  And now?  To find them in the mouth of a pagan sea captain?  This must have made Jonah tremble with fear.

“Arise!  Call out!”  No!  Anything but that!!

There’s a storm that’s no ordinary storm…maybe this is God.

And then, to hear God’s words again?

I haven’t escaped at all!

And maybe the words of Psalm 139 came back to Jonah.  He was a proud Israelite, he would have been deeply involved in the study of the scriptures, memorizing them and singing them.

     Where can I from your Spirit flee?

     Where will you not be near to me?

These words of David that were written to COMFORT, did nothing but TERRIFY Jonah in his current state.

     I’m such a fool, I can’t be free!

     No escape from the God of the storm!

     No peace inside of me!

But the storm that was mean to humble Jonah, the storm that was meant to show that God wasn’t going to give up on His prophet, even when WE WOULD HAVE…because at heart, we are graceless instead of gracious…this storm only hardened Jonah in his rebellion.

Verse 7 - And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.”  So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.

Now, when we hear “casting lots” we may think of the 11 Apostles casting lots to replace Judas.  We think that this is a good and spiritual thing to do.

But in this case, with these sailors, at this time, casting lots was a pagan way of trying to conclude a matter.  It may have been like drawing the short straw, or throwing dice, or putting your name on a rock or a coin…it’s unclear, but it was a pagan ritual for these men.

And yet, and yet, even in this pagan ritual, God spoke.  He spoke directly to Jonah and was ignored.  He shouted out the storm and Jonah hardened his heart.  And so He spoke again.  Through this pagan ritual.

The lot fell on Jonah.  Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us.  What is your occupation?  And where do you come from?  What is your country?”

And how does Jonah answer?  How he answers tells us a lot about his character.

And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew”

He probably said it with a bit of pride in his voice, straightening his tie, if he was wearing one.  Jonah, you see, was a racist.  And I know that this is a word that is used far too easily today, everyone you don’t like is literally a racist.  But Jonah didn’t believe that God’s grace belonged to anyone except for Israel.  We will continue to see that later in the series.

GOD ONLY LOVES ISRAELITES!  No Jonah!  Just…no.

Jonah, you see, Jonah didn’t run just because it would be hard to preach to the Ninevites.  He ran because he didn’t want the result that was sure to come.  But let’s not get too much ahead of ourselves.

I am a Hebrew!

What about you?  How would you answer this question?  Who are you?  What are you all about?  Tell me about yourself?

The order in which you answer tells so much about who you are.

So what would you say?  Would you introduce yourself with your career?  Your nationality?  Your position within the family - I am a father, I am a mother - or even with the church that you belong to?

I am Canadian Reformed!

You see, there’s only one right answer to this question, and Jonah didn’t give it.

I AM A CHRISTIAN!  I AM A BELIEVER!  A CHILD OF GOD!

I AM SOMEONE GOD HAS SHOWN GRACE TO!

I AM THE RECIPIENT OF MERCY AND LOVE!

But no.  “I am a Hebrew!”

And then…

I fear the LORD, the God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.

Do you though?  Do you Jonah?  You aren’t AFRAID of the Yahweh, or you would do what He told you to do, in fear of the punishment if you don’t.

You don’t have that reverent worshipful fear of the Lord, or you would do what He told you to do, in love and humility.

The sailors pick up on this too.

If you serve the LORD, the one true God, the creator, the God of both the SEA THAT WE ARE ON RIGHT NOW, and the land…WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

“What is this that you have done!”  For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD because he had told them.

Jonah…level with us here…you confess to believe in a God who is in control of everything, a God who is everywhere…and you’re running from him?  IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!

Again, God speaks.  No rattlesnakes yet…but God continues to speak to Jonah, in these various ways.

Through a storm, through the captain, now through the crew.  Each and every one of them telling Jonah - you’re doing the wrong thing man!  Please stop!  Repent!  Call out to your God!  Change your foolish behaviour.

But does Jonah listen?  No.  He continues to stubbornly rebel, and he refuses to repent.  Our second point.

Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?”

Here is a brilliant opportunity for Jonah to preach about grace.

Because what the sailors are asking is an age-old question.  The age-old question asked by all religions except for Christianity.

What can I do to be right with God?

But Christianity says, “that’s the wrong question!”  And Judaism, before Christ came, also knew about grace.  Grace is not unique to the New Testament.

Those who worship the true God, Old Testament, New Testament, or now…we know that’s the wrong question to ask.

What can I do to be right with God?

NO! What has GOD DONE to make us right with Him?

The pagan sailors ask like pagans, and we can’t blame them for this.

But Jonah…he answers like a pagan, and we CAN blame HIM for this.

Instead of using this opportunity to humble himself, to say “YOU don’t need to do anything.  I just need to repent.  I can’t earn favor with God…that’s not how YAHWEH works.  He’s always there, beside me, I need to humble myself and ask for forgiveness.”

INSTEAD OF SAYING THIS, Jonah answers like a pagan.  Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.

What’s going to work?  Human sacrifice!

Whether a virgin into a volcano, or a prophet into the ocean, let’s EARN FAVOR WITH GOD THIS WAY.

And here, we must be very careful, for it can be so easy to compare Jonah to Jesus Christ.  SO EASY.  Jonah was willing to die for the sailors, He was thrown in the sea, where he was for 3 days and three nights.  Jonah basically died, and was raised to life again after 3 days.  He saved the sailors, and Christ saved us.

He died on the cross, three days later He rose again from the dead.  And Jesus speaks of Himself and Jonah in similar ways.  The sign of Jonah!

But.  Despite this, JONAH IS NOT A TYPE OF CHRIST HERE.  He’s not!  Don’t believe ministers who tell you that.

Because here’s the difference.  Here’s the very important distinction between the two.  It was JONAH’S SIN that caused all of this.  It was JONAH’S rebellion that caused the storm.  Jonah wasn’t dying for the sins of the sailors, he was dying for his OWN SIN.  He was dying as yet another way to escape from God.  It wasn’t enough to just say no.  It wasn’t enough to flee to Joppa, or to take a ship to Tarshish.  MAYBE…JUST MAYBE…in DEATH Jonah could escape from God.

But Jonah…study up on Psalm 139…

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

Even if I make my bed in Sheol, in the grave, in the underworld…YOU ARE THERE!

There was no confession of sin, no regret, no repentance in the heart of Jonah.

HOW CAN THIS BE?? - we ask.  How can this be?

But turn it around on yourself first, before you pick on Jonah.  How easy is it for us to break out of bad habit, out of a rut in which we find ourselves?

We’ve been this way for as long as we remember.  We’ve COMMITTED.  We’ve SACRIFICED.  To change now?  It’s unthinkable!

Whether it is something sinful like pornography or alcoholism, or just a bad habit like biting our nails…we’re in a rut.  We’re stuck.  It’s EASIER to just harden ourselves and continue on this way than to do all the hard work of changing.

Jonah had committed himself.  “There’s no going back now!” he thought.  “This is my path, and I have to walk it, no matter where it will lead.”

But Jonah, that’s just not true!!

This would be true for those who don’t know God, for those who don’t know grace.

Without grace…Jonah would be right.  It would be impossible to change.  It’s the law of sowing and reaping.  Jonah ran from God, he rebelled against God, and he did it fully knowing what he was doing.  This wasn’t just a mistake.  And when you intentionally rebel against God, when you intentionally sin…you are sowing seeds of destruction.  The wages of sin is death, and Jonah thought that the bill collector had finally come.

Pick me up and hurl me into the sea.

Jonah knew that he deserved death…and it seems that Jonah wanted death.

But even in his lackluster and wrong description of God, even in his morose suicidal suggestion…we see a TINY HINT of God in Jonah’s heart.  You heard last time that I struggled with showing grace to the sailors.  WHY DID GOD DO IT?  JUST LET THEM DIE!

And here, I’m sorry to say, Jonah has me beat.  Even though Jonah refuses to talk about God and talk about grace…what he does say…what he does show with his words, is a concern about the sailors.

It’s my fault….you’re innocent, don’t die for me.  Let me die for you.

Jonah had met the pagans that he had heard about, that he had preconceived notions about, and he saw that they were people just like him.  They were scared, they didn’t want to die.  They believed Jonah when he mentioned Yahweh and called Him creator.

Maybe…just maybe…they aren’t so bad.  It’s too late for me, but maybe not for you.

Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down FOR YOU, for I know that is because of me that this great tempest has come upon YOU.

And so they do.  After trying to row to dry land, really digging their oars into the ocean, they give in, and after they pray, they throw Jonah overboard.

And at that moment, there are two instances of grace.  Infuriating grace for us, amazing grace from God.  Our final point.

The sailors prayed.  You might have thought I had missed an opportunity here to talk about that, but don’t worry.  I’ve got you covered.

The sailors prayed.  This is amazing.  Verse 14 - O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.

This prayer is interesting in two ways, beloved.

First of all, that the sailors prayed to the LORD, calling out to the one true God, calling Him by His covenant name - YAHWEH.  They prayed.  The first instance of prayer to Yahweh in Jonah is from pagan sailors.  They pray before Jonah prays.  We will look at Jonah’s prayer next time, in chapter 2, but it is the sailors who pray first.

And secondly, they refer to Jonah as “innocent blood.”  This is interesting.  Because Jonah told them his sin.  It seems that they don’t really understand.  They don’t understand that running from Yahweh and rebelling against Him is sinful.

So the sailors pray, and they pray in ignorance.

But the grace doesn’t end there at the prayer.  For it IS GRACE that prompted these sailors to pray.  They didn’t learn prayer from Jonah, that’s for sure.

But the grace continues.

So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.

It worked.  This foolish pagan human sacrifice idea worked.  God spoke through the pagan casting of lots, and now He showed grace through the pagan human sacrifice.  God got what He wanted - Jonah.  The pagan sailors would have just been collateral damage if they died.

God got what He wanted.

And yet…what God wanted was more than Jonah.  God wanted the hearts of the sailors too.  Even through Jonah’s very poor description of God, even though his actions did not match his words…the pagan sailors…well…we have to stop calling them that I think.

The sailors were never PAGAN…it seems that, instead, they were PRE-CHRISTIAN.

Verse 16 - Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

We don’t get to see their heart, and definitively say that they were saved…MAYBE they added Yahweh to their list of other gods.  But they feared the LORD exceedingly.  Not in the sense of terror - the storm was over now.  But fear in the sense of reverence and respect.  Fear in the sense of proper worship.  They offered a sacrifice, they made vows.

The sailors, from what we read, were shown grace, and SAVING GRACE at that.

And then Jonah.

The prophet that we would have abandoned long ago…Jonah met his fish.  Jonah met his rattlesnake.

Verse 17 - And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah.

AND THE LORD could be equally translated - BUT THE LORD.

Another BUT GOD.

Jonah tried to escape again, BUT GOD wasn’t done with him yet.

I find myself so frustrated with Jonah.  Just one chapter, and he wracks up so much debt with God.  Nothing that God does or says seems to humble him and call him to repentance.  Until the fish.

The fish, like the rattlesnake for Sam, caused a change in Jonah.  A change that we will see next time.

To give a sneak peak preview, Jonah 2 starts with the words - THEN Jonah prayed.

THEN JONAH PRAYED.

Finally.  It worked.

God refused to give up on Jonah.  He appointed a great fish.

     There was the great city that God called Jonah to.

          Then there was the great storm that God called through to Jonah.

               And then, finally, there was the great fish that took Jonah up.

And this fish is not only a RESULT of grace…it is the perfect picture of grace itself.

I’ve heard it this way.

Grace is like we’re drowning, right?  Drowning in a sea of sin.  And Christ comes alongside us in a boat and reaches out His hand to us.  Here!  Grab my hand and you’ll be saved!  That’s grace, right?

WRONG.

We aren’t just in the process of drowning…we are DROWNED.  We are DEAD IN SIN.  Sinking down to the bottom of the ocean.  And our Lord, Jesus Christ…he doesn’t remain in the boat and simply reach out a hand.  He dives into that ocean with us.  He swims to the bottom of the ocean, and takes us in His arms and brings us to the shore.

Just as Jonah was swallowed up by the ocean, so too are we swallowed up by grace.  There’s nothing we did to deserve it, we didn’t earn it, we didn’t even choose it.  BUT GOD shows us grace upon grace.  Mercy upon mercy.

We were dead, we were enemies of God…and then He appointed Jesus Christ to swallow us up.  To wrap us in His arms and breathe new life into us.  He appointed Jesus Christ to keep us safe and secure and close to Him.  He appointed Jesus Christ to save us.

Jonah isn’t Jesus.

The Fish is Jesus.

 

Jonah, meet your fish.

Christian, meet your Saviour.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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