- Sermon Notes
Fleeing from Grace
Intro: A gracious handshake.
Often times, we readily desire to be the recipients of grace, but when others seek it, there is a waiting process. A process whereby we assess the situation and another person’s worthiness to receive grace. We understand that freely we have been given to, and we should freely give, however, when faced with extending grace to those who in our minds are “unworthy,” many run.
God uses His people to display grace to reveal mercy. This He displays by the grace and mercy He pours out on His people. He also reveals it by pouring out grace and mercy to those who are not yet His people.
In Jonah chapter 1, God calls Jonah the prophet to head to a wicked an evil city called Nineveh in order to preach against it. This is a tall order for many reasons and instead of heading to Nineveh, Jonah flees in the opposite direction. The Lord wanted to use Jonah, and as Jonah runs away, the Lord takes the lead in His purpose for both Jonah, and the city of Nineveh.
Read Jonah 1:1-16
Nineveh was the capitol of Assyria. The Assyrians are known to this day as some of the cruelest people in world history. Nineveh was an incredible city, it included 1,200 towers that were two-hundred feet high, with a wall 100 feet high surrounding it. The 100-foot wall was deep enough that three chariots could drive alongside one another on top of it.
Human skin decorated the 100-foot wall of Nineveh and was also used to make furniture. Remains from conquered leaders would be passed around and distributed as souvenirs. The pathway leading to their city included pyramids of human skulls. Foes would be severely tortured and were often flayed or dismembered while alive.
This call would, no doubt, be intimidating for anyone. What we understand from scripture, however, is that Jonah was not afraid to go to Nineveh because of their cruelty. Rather, he wanted to avoid going to Nineveh because he did not want to see them receive God’s mercy. Jonah was aware that God is merciful, but he wanted to see them blasted, rather than blessed by grace.
What Jonah would learn in the process was not only God’s heart towards the evil city of Nineveh, but also, His heart towards His people when they run.
I. Our God is Gracious Towards All
- Jonah knew that the people in this great city did not deserve grace or mercy.
- It was an evil and horrible place, he wanted nothing to do with seeing this city blessed.
- Part of understanding the heart of the Lord towards us, is a great awareness of His gracious heart towards all.
Matthew 5:7, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
- The Lord found us and brought us out of darkness. Out of places most would rather not be reminded of.
- This being the case, when we see the lives others are living, we have to understand that God is bringing them from a similar place to where we once
- The grace God gives is what He gives freely, it is unmerited.
Illus. In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus told a parable of a landowner who hired laborers to work in his vineyard. Some he hired early in the morning, others he hired the third hour, then more the sixth, ninth and eleventh hours. They all made the same wage.
- The parable was about salvation, not monetary earnings. It was about grace, the heart of man and our generous Lord.
- All are in need of Jesus, it is important that we know God’s graciousness towards us, and refrain from resentment when grace is given to another.
- Jonah placed patriotism above evangelism when asked to minister to a people he had grown up hating.
- We can easily put restrictions on where God would lead us, “I would go there, or do this, or pursue it, if God called me there…But He wouldn’t call me there.”
- The Lord is gracious and compassionate to all.
A. No matter where they have run
- Jonah ended up running away from the Lord. After being directed to go to Nineveh, Jonah ran in the opposite direction.
- It appears that his goal was to head as far away as he possibly could.
- Jonah went down to Joppa, and it just so happens that he was able to find a ship heading to Tarshish.
- When the Lord calls you to something, don’t be surprised if there are ships you can jump on that are headed in the opposite direction.
- He found just the right ship at just the right time, paid the fare, and there was even a nice place for him to sleep down below deck. Essentially,
he was attempting to resign as prophet.
Romans 11:29, For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
- This means when God gives a spiritual gift, a calling, a ministry; He doesn’t change His mind. Running away will bring difficulties, but the call,
the gifts remain as established from the Lord.
- When God calls you somewhere, there will be opportunities to go the opposite direction. It may even look like the easiest journey.
Illus. The opportunity to become a corporate recruiter.
- Jonah paid the fare and jumped on the ship. Running from the Lord also has a fare associated with it.
Luke 15:11-32, The Lost Son.
- Despite what a person has paid on their journey or what they have squandered, His heart is grace towards those who have turned away. No matter where they have run.
B. No matter how low they go
- It is interesting that in verse 3, we read that Jonah went “down” to Joppa. Then after boarding the ship, he went down further into the bottom of the
- As the ship sets sail to Tarshish, a violent storm was sent. The sailors became afraid and began crying out to their own gods in order to find out
who might be responsible for this storm.
- The captain of the ship then finds Jonah down, below deck, where he had fallen asleep. The captain asks him, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
- Jonah was asleep, depressed, and weighted down. He was in a place many of us have been, hoping he would wake up and everything would be okay.
Illus. Reaching out to a student who fell “asleep.”
- God loved Jonah too much to keep him there, He also loved Nineveh too much.
- The Lord was not going to allow Jonah to remain asleep. He was not going to find someone else.
- Jonah himself had now turned from God and he was going down further and further. His heart was fleeing from grace, but God wanted Jonah to understand his heart of mercy.
James 2:13, For judgement will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement.
- Jonah was placing, a desire to see God’s judgement and wrath poured out, above a desire to see His grace and mercy displayed.
II. He Delights in Mercy
- The Lord could have allowed Jonah to run and hide in Tarshish.
- Can you imagine that: “Okay, head on down to Tarshish Jonah, see what I care.” Rather, the Lord contended for Jonah and redirected him back
toward His calling.
Micah 7:18, Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy. (NIV)
- With the storm raging, the sailors decide to cast lots in order to find out who is responsible for all of this; and the lot fell upon Jonah.
- The sailors then ask him, “Who is responsible for all of this? What do you do for a living? Where are you from? What is your country? From what people are you?" …In other words, who are you and who have you upset?
- Jonah tells them that he is a Hebrew, he worships the Lord. He also tells them he was running from the Lord, which was why he was on their ship.
A. There is a reason for the storm
- When the sailors understood that Jonah was running from the Lord, they were terrified and asked “what have you done?”
- Interestingly, the sailors even ask, “what have you done?” Why would you run? What are you thinking?
- Jonah told the sailors to throw him into the sea and it would calm down.
- Rather than throw him in, the sailors tried to row back to land, but the storm grew even wilder than before.
- The Lord had sent a storm of severity in order to put Jonah back on course.
- This storm was not punishment, rather, it showed the Lords patience and the persistence of His divine placement.
- Had Jonah listened in the middle of the storm, he would have heard the Lord saying, “I am not going to let you go, Jonah.”
- In the middle of this storm, Jonah realizes his error, his wrong and tells the sailors to throw him in. He was running from the Lord and this storm
was the result of his running.
Illus. Not all storms are the result of running (Luke 8:23, Matthew 14:24). Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona was used to demonstrate the viability of closed ecological systems in support of human life in outer space.
- Seeking the Lord, no matter what comes, is the key.
B. Turn toward the Lord
- In order for Jonah to return to God, he had to stop going in the wrong direction.
2 Chronicles 7:14, If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
- Jonah turned toward the Lord. He recognized the error and his responsibility in causing this storm.
- Prior to the sailors throwing Jonah overboard, they prayed to the Lord themselves.
- Once in the sea, Jonah could no longer run, he was thrown completely upon the mercy of God.
- As the sea became calm, these sailors greatly feared the Lord, they offered a sacrifice and made vows to Him.
- It appears that at the sight of Jonah turning back to God, the sailors turned there as well.
If you have found yourself running from the places or people God has directed you to, turn towards Him. Understand that the best solution is to place yourself at His mercy. Trust that the God who was gracious towards Nineveh, is gracious towards those who run.
7 Each man said to his mate, "Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us." So they cast lots and the lot fell
on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, "Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come
from? What is your country? From what people are you?" 9 He said to them, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and
the dry land."