24 February 2007

Test #2--Disobedience (Jonah)

I used to work with kids at a day care. There are two things about kids that can be so frustrating. When you tell them not to do something and a half hour later they’re doing it again. Sometimes it’s simply because they have the attention span of a box of hammers. But then there are the times you tell them to do something and they do the exact opposite. If anybody has kids you know what I'm saying. “Logan, will you please clean up your room?” “Brad, will you please take out the trash?” No matter how good our kids are most of the time, there are times when they don’t do what they're supposed to do. Like a lot of adults. The thing is, they don’t think they’ll get caught. Just like a lot of adults. However, when we don’t do something that GOD tells us to do, the consequences go a lot farther that being sent to our room.

Last time, we saw how GOD puts us through trials to see if we will obey and trust Him. We saw how Gideon simply obeyed GOD, and GOD used him to defeat an invading army of over 135,000 men with a small band of 300. Now, we’re going to talk about the kind of trial GOD puts us through when we are DISOBEDIENT. Turn if you will to the first chapter in the book of Jonah. If you ask most people what they know about Jonah, most people can tell you he was in the belly of a whale for three days. And that the VeggieTales made a movie about him. But what a lot of those same people don’t know is how he got there. Was he just out for a swim, and along came Moby Dick and swallowed him up? Maybe he was fishing and his canoe overturned? Not quite. The reason Jonah was sitting in the belly of the whale was because he disobeyed a direct order from GOD, and tried to run away.

Look at verses 1-2.
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.”

Jonah was a prophet, so he knew what GOD’s voice sounded like. And here he had a direct command from GOD to go to Nineveh. Nineveh was at the time the capital city of Assyria. Their wickedness had become overwhelming, but GOD actually wanted them to change their ways and worship Him! 2nd Peter 3:9--The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. And that extreme patience is seen here. For some reason, He chose this city, and said “I want these people to be an example to the rest of the world about what true repentance really is. And Jonah, I want you to tell them.”

Now, look at verse 3
But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

He was trying to run from GOD!! Just like our kids. “If I shove everything under my bed mom and dad will think I’ve cleaned my room.” Now, we had a history lesson a few weeks ago. Today we’re gonna have a geography lesson. Tarshish, the city where this ship was headed, was a city in Spain at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea. Let me put it into a local perspective. GOD told Jonah to go from Knoxville and head up to Johnson City. But instead of going to JC, he headed for California. Thinking GOD couldn’t find him!! Psalm 139:7-10—Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. Not only was he running from GOD, but he was doing it by hooking up with a ship full of ungodly men. That’s why, in verse 4, the trial begins.

Verse 4.
"But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up."

No one can run from GOD!! Because he knows where we are, what we’re doing, who we’re with.
So, GOD’s watching all this take place. He sees Jonah run, he sees him pay his way and get on a ship, trying to get as far away from GOD as he can. And you know, every time we disobey Him, and do what we’re not supposed to, or don’t do what we are supposed to, and we think there is some way we can trick GOD into thinking we didn’t mean to do it, He knows what’s in our hearts. Hebrews 4:13—And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. We can't go into something, knowing in our hearts that it’s wrong, and come out on the other side and try to tell GOD, “Well, I didn’t mean it, it was an accident. Guess I learned my lesson [wink wink nudge nudge]” Because when we start down that road, He will send a storm our way. Notice in verse 5, where is our runaway prophet?

Verse 5
"Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep."

When GOD puts us through a trial for our disobedience, it often affects the people around us. But we are so busy convincing ourselves that “it’s all good”, we don’t see what’s happening. We’re comfortable in our own sin, that we’re not concerned with how it is affecting the people around us. We get caught up in alcohol, we don’t see how it’s making us treat our family. We get caught up in pornography, we put on blinders so we don’t see how it is eating our spouse up inside. We just close our eyes, “IN THE LOWEST PARTS OF THE SHIP”, far away from trouble. Then when all else fails, those around us try to convince us to go to GOD and reconcile the situation.

Verse 6.
"So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.”"

We all know what happened on 9-11. Then for about a week after that, you couldn’t buy your way into a church. Everybody was praying!! Have you looked around lately?? The other men on the ship don’t even know his name. The captain calls him “Sleeper.” He pleads, “Hurry!! Pray to your God maybe He’ll hear you!!” But looking at what happens next, I don’t think he did. Because you see, when we realize the damage our sin has caused, there is a guilt one feels about talking to GOD. A sense of “He probably hates me.” So what do these men do?

Verses 7-9.
"And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”"

Casting lots was an old fashioned way of throwing dice. In fact, in the book of Leviticus, it tells us that on a special day called the Day of Atonement, the high priest brought two goats to the door of the tabernacle. Then they cast lots, and the goat which became the “scapegoat”—you’ve probably heard that term, someone who takes the fall when something goes wrong—was sent into the wilderness, to symbolize their sins being “sent away.” Listen to Leviticus 16:9-10—And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord's lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness. We’ll see in a moment how Jonah becomes the “scapegoat” here, and is sent away. Now, when the lot falls on Jonah, the sailors cry out, “what have you done? Why has GOD caused the lot to fall on you?” Think about this: on the deck of a ship in a howling storm, they cast lots and the lot falls on the guilty party. Do you think it was an accident? Then Jonah says, “I am a Hebrew, I fear YHWH, who made the sea and the dry land.” Joppa was a city in Israel, so some of these men have more than likely heard the name YHWH.

Verses 10-11.
"Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous."

It may seem like GOD’s letting us “get away with it” for a little while, then we start testing His patience. And He will make that storm so great there will be no way for us to withstand it, and we will have no choice but to face the music. Jonah realizes this.

Verse 12.
"And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”"

He realized he was the scapegoat that the lot fell upon, and he needed to be sent into the wilderness of the sea.When the people we love finally understand that the storm in our life that is destroying them has come about because of our disobedience, they need to distance themselves from us for a while, so that we can have some “alone time” with GOD. But you know those people won’t let us go. They’ll try to figure out some way to get us out of our situation without having to go through all that repentance stuff.

Verse 13.
"Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them."

“Maybe if you just try harder” “maybe therapy or counseling.” But when we are in a constant state of sin against GOD, and we won't stop, all the self-help books and Oprah shows won't do a bit of good. And these fellows realize this in verses 14-16.

Verses 14-16.
"Therefore they cried out to the LORD and said, “We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.” So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and took vows."

“And the sea ceased from its raging”. The people around us who have been caught up in this storm that our sin has caused, finally say, “Hey, I love ya, but if you’re gonna keep doing that, I can't be around you.” That’s when GOD brings those people out of the storm. And gets us alone with Him.

Verse 17.
"Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."

He had prepared a fish. HAD prepared. This wasn’t some fish that just happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. This was how GOD was going to talk to Jonah one-on-one. He knew when, He knew where. Now, Jonah had realized his mistake. He saw the trouble and grief his sin had caused not only himself, but the other people he had surrounded himself with. And in chapter 2, he prays to GOD. I tried to condense this down, but I just couldn’t figure out what to leave out, so I'm just going to read it all.

Chapter 2, verses 1-9.
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. And he said: “ I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, and He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice. For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; all Your billows and Your waves passed over me. Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy. But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

Then, when we have made that confession of our sin, and we focus on the goodness and the mercy of GOD, and how our very lives are in His hands, that it is He and He alone that rescues us from eternal condemnation, when we finally see that this sin we have been living is just a lie, that we haven’t been living, because it is only when we are following GOD and obeying Him, and living for His purpose that we are really living, that’s when He puts us back on the paths of righteousness.

Chapter 2, verse 10.
So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

So, we’ve realized our mistake. We’ve confessed and been forgiven. We’ve offered our life to the LORD, and have returned to the fold. Do we go through some probationary period where we have to prove to GOD that we’re “good enough”? Watch this: the last verse of chapter 2 says the fish spit him onto dry land.
Chapter 3, verses 1-3
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD… And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

As soon as that fish spit him out, GOD told Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah goes there, and what is the first thing he does, the first day he gets there? Preaches the message that GOD gave to him. There’s only one who wants us to go around feeling ashamed. There’s only one who wants us to think that we have to waste our time throwing a pity party after we come out of some sinful situation. That’s Satan. See, as soon as Jonah was back on dry land, GOD told him, “Now, go do what I told you to do in the first place”. No probation. No waiting period. No “we’ll see how you do for a while, and if I think you’re OK, I'll let you do it”. GOD said, “NOW!!” And Jonah went, and the city repented, even their king.

When our kids mess up and don’t do what they're told, we discipline them. But we don’t say, “well, if you're good for the next few days I'll love you again”. When we discipline our kids, we do it as a type of guidance, because lets face it, we know more about the world than they do. Although to hear some of the kids I work with…….And when we get caught up in some sin, and we’re disobeying GOD, he will make a way so that He can get us alone with Him, and we can confess our sin, and restore that relationship. Because He is our Father, and that’s what fathers do. You see, Jonah didn’t trust GOD. He may have thought that GOD had made some mistake. But there’s an old hymn we sing sometimes:

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
And to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise
And to know, “Thus says the Lord!”

And when the LORD says “thus”, we can choose to disobey, but it’s not a good idea. Because the promises of GOD are always “Yes” and “Amen.”

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