sermon delivered October 14, 1995

by Pastor Don Gettys of McDonald Road SDA Church, McDonald, TN

Running AHEAD of God

Why do we have a chapter 4? There is no need for it. Jonah has been rescued from the Storm, saved from the whale, and all Nineveh has been converted! Jonah, the most successful evangelist in the history of the world. I would have been tempted to leave this chapter out. So why have chapter 4? Because there is still a big problem here. The problem is Jonah. God had more trouble with his backsliding prophet than he had with a whole city full of pagan sinners.

JONAH 4:1 BUT Jonah was EXCEEDINGLY displeased and angry! Not just a little bit upset. Greatly disturbed. Mad enough to die. Anger is a great diagnostic tool. It's eruption is the signal that something is wrong. When you see anger you are onto something very important. Jonah is boiling because the whole city turned to God. Jonah was a bit overwhelmed by God's Grace. Jonah had left holy ground. The Holy Spirit had poured out quantum Jigavolts of creative gospel energy on Nineveh. More than at Pentecost. Jonah had no awareness that his profession had gone to the top. He saw things from such a small human viewpoint.

On snowy days in Hartford City, Indiana, I took our small two wheel garden tractor and cleared our drive and paths. Our neighbor, Mr. ELLIOTT, walked to work a quarter of a mile along our property. I would also plow a path for him. One day that spring I was out in the yard and I saw Mr. Elliott coming toward me, yelling at me. I hid behind a bush. But not before he saw me. He kept coming and I stayed behind the small shelter. I could not understand what he was shouting. I was afraid. Finally as he got closer I saw he had a box of candy for me. He appreciated my acts of kindness. I had been a little 12 year old Jonah. Not seeing things in the proper perspective. Like Jonah- no idea of God's love.

JONAH 4:2-3 He Prays. The last time he prayed was probably in the belly of the fish. He had not prayed for 40 days & 40 nights. His spiritual gas tank was running on fumes. Anger took over. Anger will destroy us quicker than a worm can eat through a gourd. Anger = 6X in this chapter.

Can you see what Jonah's problem was? I read a book on Jonah and it said that Jonah's real problem was that he did not really Know God. I disagree. It's very clear that Jonah DID know God, and very well. Jonah says: I knew all along you would do this. I knew you were gracious and forgiving and merciful. I knew you were slow to anger and exceedingly kind. I KNEW IT! I knew that if I went to Nineveh and they did repent that you would not destroy them. You would forgive them! That is what you always do. That is why I headed for Tarshish. Jonah is Bitter. God's purposes far exceeded anything Jonah could imagine. God called him to Nineveh to give him an experience in AMAZING GRACE.

Verse 2 -- Two words tell the story. "I KNEW". His prayer begins with this phrase. What a contrast to Paul who said, I Know. I am not ashamed because I know in whom I have believed--II Tim 1:12. Jonah was spiritually dead. Jonah puts the blame on God. Be careful when you blame God!

JONAH 4:3-- Jonah says, just let me die. Poor Jonah. He is exhausted. Physically drained. Spiritually bankrupt. And we would agree that Jonah has been through the Mill. He was overwrought, overworked, overwhelmed by it all. When we get that way we want to quit. To resign. To give up. Jonah says: If I can't get my way then I don't want to live.

He wished he were dead. As far as I know no one has ever died by wishing. We die of cancer and heart attacks but not wishing. Like the gastric juices of the whale, a deep resentment was eating at Jonah. He resented the fact that God forgave and blessed these heathens. Jonah was occupied with self. Selfishness shrinks the soul.

It was a catastrophe to lose his shade. Jonah had become a small man. When you focus on self you shrink. Staring up to admire your halo creates a pain in your neck. Only When you focus on God can you grow.

Depression often comes after some great moment in life. ELIJAH's depression also came right after a great victory on Mount Carmel with the defeat of 450 prophets of BAAL. Elijah ran off and sat down under the shade of a BROOM tree and prayed that he might also die. Both ELIJAH and Jonah were men who had been greatly used by God.

JONAH 4:4 Notice how kindly God treats Jonah. You have heard of the patience of JOB, but look at the Patience of God. Do you do well to be angry? God could have said You are wrong to be angry. God did not condone or condemn Jonah.

God says: "I saved Nineveh because I am in the saving business. I used you to help save the whole city. I am very happy that they repented." If there is Joy in heaven over one sinner that repents, imagine the goings-on among the angels when 120,000 repented! Yet Jonah is pouting. He is ANGRY! The word anger means "TO BURN". Nineveh was not burning, but Jonah was. Fuming. A grumpy Christian.

JONAH 4:5 Jonah went out...(of the city). If ever there is a time the evangelist needs to stay it is right after a revival. 120,000 had repented. They needed guidance. Jonah left them. They were like sheep without a shepherd.

SAT DOWN to wait. On the eastern side of Nineveh was hill country. Have you ever thought how much of our religion involves sitting? We sit in Sabbath School. Sit In Church. Sit in Committees. Sit in Boards. Sit in the pew. Much of what happens in today's churches is little more than sitting!

Why did he sit there? From a vantage point up there on a sand dune Jonah could see the whole Tigris River valley. He figured it would not take long for the hated heathens of Nineveh to backslide. Give them a day or two and they would go right back to their idols. And if they did God would destroy them. The royal fire would fall. He would have a ring side seat. He knew God never changes. They would revert to sinning and God would ZAP them!

Day after day he waited and may have even hoped for them to sin. He listened for the evil music once more. He hated the Assyrians. It was hot out there in the meager shade of his crude homemade shelter. Jonah was out of his GOURD!

JONAH 4:6 God "Prepared" a VINE. (a miracle plant!) God sent the vine to comfort his wayward prophet. Jonah was EXCEEDINGLY glad! Happy at last. You can tell a lot about a man by noticing what makes him happy. We are happy when folks are baptized and join the church, but we are exceedingly thrilled at some gadget that meets our personal needs. We are the same as Jonah. His great concern was for Jonah and not the new saints of Nineveh. Jonah looked to the vine instead of God. How many of us look at our BLESSINGS instead of the heavenly BLESSOR.

Several times a day he would go down to the Tigris River and fill a pot with water for his vine. It's shade was wonderful. His skin was still tender from the whale. He became attached to his shade provider.

It is strange that humans get so attached to certain things. A DOG, a CAT, A PET, a PLANT. I like to visit. Often when I come to the home of a person who lives alone I will hear them talk to their pets. Sometimes they even talk to their plants with me there. One lady said to her fern: "You are so pretty today! You sweet thing! The pastor is here to see U!"

Jonah is alone. Hundreds of miles from his friends. He gets attached to the vine. It makes him happy. "Little vine I have brought you a drink today."

One day a father was out walking with his little girl and as they came to a corner they stopped. There on the other side of some bushes and out of sight they could hear the voice of a woman talking. The man had never heard such sweet talk in all his life. He thought he was hearing a romance in the process. Just then the lady appeared from behind the bushes. She was carrying a small dog. She had been telling that dog how she loved it.

I don't know if she was married or not, but if she was I'll bet her husband was not hearing sweet talk like that. She constantly caressed the dog. Probably many men wish they could lead a dog's life like that. Sometimes we talk sweeter to our pets than to our own children. Jonah loved his vine.

What is your vine? It is what you TRUST in and find JOY in.

JONAH 4:7 GOD "PREPARED" A WORM. The worm was a blessing. It was sent for Jonah's eternal good. Jonah needed the worm. The Vine had come between Jonah and God. The worm was just as miraculous as the Whale. God sent both. Worms don't normally live up on top of hot sand dunes. But he was there! The worm loved the vine. Often God has to remove our vines when they come between us and Jesus. The next time a "problem" comes your way, look at the return address on it. It just could be from God.

God often has to send a worm to help us sense true values. Do we delight more in our vine than in Jesus and Eternity? The next time God sends a Worm to our worldly vines He may be trying to bring us back to Jesus. We may have gotten off the path to life and not even know it. The worm was God's alarm clock to wake Jonah up.

The vine withered. The plastic of this old world that we love will let us down some day. Whether it is money or things, or health they will be gone. Only Jesus will remain.

JONAH 4:8 GOD "PREPARED" A WIND. A scorching east wind blasted down on his bald head. The sun blazed on his skin. Again he wanted to die.

JONAH 4:9 Jonah was ANGRY again, enough to die! God is saying, Jonah, the vine is nothing. Maybe God is saying to you, Friend, your pet is nothing. All this time you are spending on the pursuit of the trivial is nothing. God said to Jonah that the people of Nineveh are worth more by a billion times than the vine. Jonah you are concentrating on the plastic and tinsel of life. Jonah, I love the Ninevites.

Jonah did not love them. Should we love those to whom we are called? If I am called to be a minister or a missionary, should it be a prerequisite that I love the people to whom I am going to go? NO! I have never accepted a call to a church because I loved the people there. I didn't even know them. I came here because I felt that God called me here. It is after you arrive and become involved with the people that you begin to love them. You have become like a family to me. I have stood at your bedside in the hospital, I've been at the graveside when death came to your family. I have been there at your weddings, your baptisms, at the births of your children. I love you.

Jonah did not love the Ninevites because all he had done was preach at them. Not until you mingle with people and take an interest in them do you begin to love them. I cannot find anywhere that God asked Jonah to go because Jonah loved the Ninevites. God said; I want you to go because I LOVE THEM. Help people because God loves them.

How does this story end? Jonah wrote this book. I think we could well say that he left that dead vine and went down to the new converts in Nineveh. He became their pastor. He got to know them. I think that he began to love them. The final chapter of your life has not been written. Your destiny depends on what you do with Jesus Christ today.

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