Jonah took a deep breath.
This was it. He was out of the fish. He was on dry land. He had marched for miles across the middle east in order to get to Nineveh.
This wouldn’t be easy. The city had close to a million people living in it. It took 3 days to walk through – if you didn’t stop and tell people God’s Word all along the way. But Jonah didn’t have a lot of time.Jonah had 40 more days. 40 more days and Nineveh will be destroyed.
It was a strange message. A message from the LORD to a people who didn’t believe in the LORD.
Jonah didn’t think this would work. But…he didn’t really feel like being inside a giant Nemo again, so:
“40 More Days! 40 More Days and Nineveh will be destroyed. 40 more days for you to repent and turn to the Lord.”
And Jonah sweated. And Jonah shouted. And looked like one of those street preachers that you see downtown from about 2 blocks away and cross to the other side of the street just to avoid them. And Jonah finished going throughout the city. And Jonah finished. And Jonah left the city. And Jonah thought “There’s no way that worked.”
…The people started talking:
Did you see that strange fellow? He was talking about God.
I know it seemed weird, but I know he’s right. We haven’t been doing right.
I feel terrible. I don’t want to be destroyed. Maybe…the God, this Lord will have mercy.
v.5 The Ninevites believed God.
And they began to fast. Each one refusing to eat food, because suddenly it didn’t seem that important.
And they put on sackcloth. A harsh, itchy, scratchy substances that was extremely uncomfortable. It represented on the outside the discomfort they felt on the inside.
And they prayed. LORD we’ve sinned. LORD, I didn’t know. LORD, I was wrong. LORD, please don’t. LORD, have mercy.
And they all did it. From the greatest to the least. From the rich merchant that owned a chain of restaurants, to one of his dishwashers who worked for food scraps. From the elderly scholar who needed a cane to get to the sackcloth store – to the young preschooler who needed his mom’s help in getting it on. From the lifelong Ninevites who prayed in the language of Nineveh, to the foreigner who prayed using completely different words.
Even the King! The King himself who was in charge of the whole city and who never felt threatened by his people – felt threatened by God. He was convicted. He repented. He traded in his royal robes for sackcloth. He refused to eat the pork roast he was going to have for breakfast. He stopped making people kneel before him and instructed all to kneel before God.
They thought: “Who knows? Maybe God will have mercy…”
And God? He did.
v.10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he threatened.
This is an amazing chapter. It kind of changes the story of Jonah. It isn’t so much about him. Literary analysis shows us that it’s more about God. God saved Jonah in the fish and he saved the people of Nineveh with Jonah’s words. God was merciful. God loved the city of Nineveh and didn’t want to see it destroyed.
But Nineveh isn’t the only city God loves.
Today we want to dig into that chapter in order to compare Raleigh with Nineveh. Our goal is to see that (1) Raleigh is in dire need of saving just as much as Nineveh was and (2) we want to learn who it is that God has sent to bring that message of salvation to Raleigh. Before we study God’s Word, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The New Nineveh
A) Same Sin.
Go back with me to Jonah 1:2. God gives the reason for his anger against Nineveh. He says, “Its wickedness has come up before me.”
What was so wicked? This is a picture of Dagon. Dagon looks like a fish. He’s not a Transformer or a TMNT. He’s a false god. A stone statue that people prayed and worshipped.
And they didn’t do it in the most pleasant way.
How did they do it? By having group sex! Together. In the temple. In front of their statue of a god.
Why they did do it? For money! More and more money. They thought Dagon would bless them with money – even if they had to gouge the poor and steal from the rich.
Wicked, right? That seems like a good word to describe Nineveh.
But is it a good word to describe Raleigh?
I like Raleigh. The people are fairly pleasant. People hold doors as I enter Starbucks. I get high fives from people at the dog park. My neighbors sit out on their porch and greet me – any time of the day!
I think Raleigh is pleasant. But I’m sinful. My opinion is skewed.
Understand this: You and I see people as sinful and think, “Well, we’re just imperfect. We’re still pretty good.” But God looks at Raleigh and sees people. People who sin. Sin that he hates. Sin he calls wicked.
To be honest – there are plenty of things in Raleigh – Plenty of things in our own hearts that we might even call wicked:
Racist hate blogs.
Worship of self on social media.
Business with extracurricular and no time for God.
Worship of nature and outside and no time for God.
But it’s not what they were doing at the time of Nineveh!
True. Our sins are different. (We’ve got 21st century sins.) But they’re the same. (They are detestable to God).
It’s kind of like all the different kinds of Doritos. Have you seen them? They make Cool Ranch and Nacho Cheese. There’s Cooler Ranch and Nacho Cheesier. There’s Taco flavor, Blue Cheese Flavored, Sweet and Spicy flavored, even Pizza flavored! There are different Dorito types, but the same result: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a tummy ache.
It’s the same thing with sin. There are different sin types – Old Testament Ninevite sin and 21st century Raleighian sin – it’s sin. Still. It’s sin. In God’s eyes, it's the same awful sin. Sin that God will remove.
Through total Annihilation.
I’m not just being doomsday-ish. Look at Jesus’ own words about the last day. He says "Those who have done wrong will go away to eternal punishment.”
He means business.
B) Same Need of Mercy.
The Ninevites were in trouble. They had done wrong. The LORD himself was breathing down their necks. They had no other choice than to wave the white flag, to confess their sins, and plead for God’s mercy.
And? God did. V. 10 God did not bring on them the destruction he threatened – Mercy.
They didn’t try to make it better. They didn’t try to pay God off. They simply grew sorrowful. They pleaded with God. They put on sackcloth and fasted sure. Mostly because they were super sorry! They didn’t think: “If I stop eating, that’ll make up for my sins. Or if I put on uncomfortable clothing, God will forgive me for messing with my neighbor’s wife.” No!
They thought: “I’ve sinned. I can’t get away from God’s judgment. O Lord. Be merciful.”
They were right. God’s mercy saved them.
We need the same thing. People of Raleigh -- we need the mercy of our Lord.
Romans 9:16 says it this way, “It does not depend on man’s desire or effort.” Meaning you aren’t going to escape God’s wrath from trying your best. It doesn’t come from doing better than others. It doesn’t come from being a "generally good person.” Nope. It doesn’t come from fasting. It doesn’t come from praying. It doesn’t come from wearing sackcloth. It doesn’t come from having been a Christian or having been a part of church.
…It depends on God’s mercy.
And God had mercy! He came down out of heaven. He became a human being. He lived perfectly when you could not. He died innocently in your place. He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of your sins.
He has had mercy on you. It’s what we need. It’s what all of Raleigh needs.
And remember: It didn’t matter who you were in Nineveh – from the greatest to the least – you needed God’s mercy. Whether you were Jewish or Ninevite, rich or poor, king or 1st grader. You needed God’s mercy.
And when they turned their hearts to God, it still didn’t matter who they were. They all received it! It wasn’t just the king. It wasn’t just the king’s court. It wasn’t just the people with lots of money.
They all received God’s mercy.
The same is true for you. Turn to the Lord; he will have mercy.
It doesn’t matter who you are.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the boss or jobless.
It doesn’t matter if you have a Doctor’s degree or no degree.
It doesn’t’ matter if you’re in good health or very sick.
It doesn’t matter if you have lots of followers on Instagram or if you don’t know what Instagram is.
It doesn’t matter if you are 7 foot 1 or 5 foot 2.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman. White or black. Asian or Latino.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve done something that even you are having a hard time forgiving yourself for.
God has had mercy. Jesus died for you.
By faith in Jesus, God will have mercy. God will forgive you.
And when others in Raleigh hear this message and turn to him – God will have mercy on them too!
It’s why we need to tell them. It’s why you need to tell them.
C) Same Command.
Maybe you’re thinking. Hold it! “I’m not a Jonah.” I don’t have a directive from God. If I did, sure. But thank goodness I didn’t.
Take a look at what Jesus said to his disciples – his followers – his men and women who believed in him and followed his teachings: "Go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Are you a believer? He’s talking to you.
Do we live in a nation? He’s talking about Raleigh.
God wants us to go. He wants us to go with his message to the people of North Raleigh. It’s why we exist. “Gather to the Garden.” That means to bring people to the message of Jesus. And when we can’t get them here – to bring the message of Jesus to them!
Which means we’ve got to keep our eyes open.
God wants it to be kind of like Play-Doh. I don’t know about you, but every time I get close to a thing of Play-Doh I feel the urge to open up the container. Get the Play-Doh out and roll a Play-Doh snake. Every time.
God wants us to see this world the same way. Every time we see a someone – anyone – from any background – any culture – any social status – any sin that they are struggling with – God wants us to bring the message of repentance to them. He wants us to share the Savior.
He wants us to. In fact, he wants us to so much that he commanded us.
Go and Make. Baptize and Teach.
D) Same Urgency.
Remember what Jonah was telling the people of Nineveh 40 more Days! 40 More Days! That’s not a lot of time.
Then again, there’s a lot that you could accomplish in 40 days. You could make enough money to pay off your credit card. You could make a list of things to do in Raleigh and do them. You could watch the entire Doctor Who series on Netflix. You could do a lot in 39 days and then on the 40th day, set your Smartphone to go off to the “End of the World as we Know it,” and quick get to church to confess your sins and turn your life around!
40 more days has some urgency – some.
How long do we have? How long do the people of Raleigh have?
Here’s the thing: We don’t know! Jesus said this, “No one knows the day or the hour – not even the Son, even the Father.” That means it’s even hidden from Jesus. God’s own Son.
That means the end could be 40 years from now. It could be 40 days. It could be 40 minutes. We don’t know when the world will end; we don’t know when each other will end.
Hence the urgency.
Don’t wait to tell your husband about the Savior. It could be too late. Don’t wait to invite your neighbor to church; you may miss your chance. Don’t wait to start sharing posts on Facebook; Facebook may be destroyed before your click send!
Life is short. Jesus is eternal. Share Jesus now.
II. What Now?
1) Share it whether you’re greatest or least
This is not just a pastor thing. I can’t do it by myself. I don’t do it by myself. You are a part of this.
YOU are a part of sharing God’s Word.
You are a part of saving Raleigh.
Did I tell you about one of the preschool parents? She stopped in my office a while back and told me this story. She said that she had been on Falls of Neuse. She said that it had been loaded with traffic. She had had a bad work day and was very stressed, so that when the car in front of her cut her off she slammed her fists on the steering wheel and muttered to herself.
And her daughter spoke up from the back, "It’s ok, Mommy. Jesus it taking care of you."
Mom told me that she wanted faith like her daughter.
You’re never too old to share Jesus. You’re never too young. You’re never too rich; too poor; too tall; too short; too sinful; too blameless; too anything.
And neither are the people who you are sharing with:
2) Share It with Greatest and Smallest
All people means all people.
The guy who has a BMW and the guy who has an old minivan held together by Duct tape.
The worker at Starbucks and the worker at Dunkin' Donuts.
The UNC fan. The Duke fan. The State fan.
Your mom. Your child.
Your black friend. Your white friend. Your Asian friend. Your Latino friend. Your Middle Eastern friend. Your enemy!
All people need God’s mercy. Your neighbors need God’s mercy. You have God’s mercy. Share with them God’s mercy.
So what I want you to do today is to think about someone who you can share God’s mercy with. Someone that you want to tell about Jesus. Someone you want to invite to church. Do you have them on your mind? Good. I want you to write their name down on the back of this connection card. What I’m going to do is I’m going to keep that in prayer this week and contact you to encourage in sharing God’s Word.
Because all of this can be intimidating. It was intimidating for Jonah.
But remember: Jonah wasn’t alone. He had a God who had controlled a storm to get Jonah back. A God who found Jonah in the bottom of a boat. A God who sent a giant fish to swallow Jonah alive.
You’ve got that same powerful God. The God who was with Jonah is the same God on the cross is the same God out of the tomb is the same God who is with you.
Share His Message. He’s got your back. Amen.