Providence Church (CREC)
Third Sunday After Epiphany, January 25th, 2009.
Third Official Sermon
Audio for the sermon.
Prayer: Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and the boldness to proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may see the glory of His marvelous works. This is our prayer, O Lord. Amen.
When Queen Esther feared going to the Persian King to intercede for the Jews, her uncle Mordecai said to her: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther, convicted of her task, asked the Jews to hold a fast on her behalf. Then her noble response was: “Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”  As a result, the mercy of God poured on Israel. Israel was delivered, her arch enemy, Haman was hung, Esther was exalted and her people had light and gladness and joy and honor and they shouted and rejoiced.
Now consider another narrative. The narrative of a prophet called Jonah. In chapter 1 Jonah is called by God to arise and go to Nineveh that great city and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.
Nineveh was the great capital of the Assyrian empire. The prophet Nahum describes Nineveh as the “embodiment of evil and cruelty.” Some have referred to it as the “Assyrian war machine,”  because of its atrocities. Instead of seeking the peace and repentance of the city of Nineveh, Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord. Jonah forgot that even if he fled to Sheol, God would also be there.  Anyone with a vague familiarity of the Jonah narrative knows that when Jonah fled he went on a downward journey. First, he went down to Joppa, then down into the tumultuous sea, then into the depths of the fish. Indeed Jonah went to the belly of Sheol only to find out that God was there. And in Jonah chapter 2, he cries a psalm of repentance. Jonah concludes his prayer by declaring that salvation belongs to the Lord. But if salvation belongs to the Lord, then He gives mercy to whom He wills and elects whom He will. Jonah is thinking in nationalistic terms. He believes that the gospel ought to remain with God’s chosen people. Jonah’s problem is a theological problem. Jonah is not thinking as a Biblical Theologian. Jonah is not thinking of the promise of the Abrahamic covenant; Jonah is not thinking about the promise of Genesis 3:15; Jonah is not thinking of God’s plans in redemptive history.
Application: I wonder how often we think in those terms. How often do we think that America is God’s chosen nation and she can do no wrong? The only antidote to this form of unbiblical nationalism is to be a missiological church; a church that is deeply concerned with God’s work among the nations; a church that prays for the persecuted church throughout the world. This is who we are to be!
We come to our text this morning in chapter 3. Jonah has a rare chance to re-consider his mission. The same mission that he had in chapter one is now re-addressed to Jonah. Jonah’s prayer indicates that he has matured. He had a David-like repentance.
“Then the word of the JEHOVAH came to Jonah the second time, saying, rise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”
Jonah now will be restored to his prophetic role if he obeys and calls out against Nineveh. According to verse 3, Jonah arises from his disobedience and goes to Nineveh. He is going to preach to the Ninevites. But he is not going to preach any message from his Jewish sermon collection. According to verse 2, “he is going to preach the message that God tells him.” How crucial this is for the success of Jonah’s mission! Only the authoritative word of the Lord can bring reformation to any land.
This Reformation is to take place in the “exceedingly great city of Nineveh.” Why does the text say that Nineveh is a great city? Is it because it has a great reputation? It may even be great because of its size or significance throughout the known world. All these things are true, but what the text appears to imply is that this city is great because God sees His work of the conversion of Nineveh as great. In other words, this is an exceedingly great city because it will experience an exceedingly great repentance from an exceedingly great God! Continue reading Jonah 3:1-10, Third Sunday of Epiphany: A Light Unto the Gentiles